Earlier this year, Heidi Loughlin, a 32-year-old mother and police officer from Portishead, Bristol, noticed a rash on her breast while nursing her son, Tait.
After two different doctors mistakenly diagnosed her with mastitis, a third finally had her breast biopsied. She was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of inflammatory breast cancer in September 2015. At the time of her diagnosis, she was pregnant with her third child and faced the painful decision of how to fight for both her life and the life of her daughter.
Although her doctors initially offered her the choice to terminate her pregnancy and start aggressive chemotherapy treatment right away, Loughlin decided upon a less aggressive treatment to give her daughter a better chance at survival.
Throughout her pregnancy and battle with cancer, Loughlin chronicled her journey on her blog, Storm in a Tit Cup. After some time, the less aggressive form of treatment proved unsuccessful. Loughlin realized the horrific choice she was being forced to make, balancing her own very real need for treatment as soon as possible with literal days making a difference for both her own life and her daughter’s development. She wrote:
“So what the hell do you do in this boat? Personally I want to row for shore and hide under a palm tree, burn my bald head and read my kindle while this all blows over. Realistically I’ve got to make a decision that encompasses everyone. … The baby was kept for a reason and that reason hasn’t changed. Our baby is worth the risk.
But I’m scared to my core about a baby born so early. I am also scared that I may not get through this. Mostly I’m scared of doing the wrong thing.
I’m making by far the hardest decision of my life and it would appear Chocolate Mousse will be here first thing on Friday 11th December.”
Loughlin explained to Babble that her two sons played a big role in this decision. Some have criticized her for choosing to deliver her daughter early, but she had to think of not only her daughter and herself, but her sons as well. It was an impossible situation, with no easy or “right” answer.
But despite all that she was going through, Loughlin still found time to help support fundraising efforts for Cots for Tots. Cots for Tots is a charity that raises money for the equipment at Special Care Baby Unit at St Michael’s Hospital in Bristol and the Cots for Tots House, where families with babies in the NICU can stay. Loughlin planned on using the facilities after her own daughter was born, since she would be so premature.
“I’m currently having chemotherapy and will be delivering my third child at 30 weeks to enable me to have potentially life-saving treatment,” Loughlin wrote on the Cots for Tots fundraising page. “My baby will be in neonatal care for the first 3 months of life so Cots for Tots sounds like a perfect fit.”
When her baby was born on Friday, December 11, Loughlin initially celebrated her daughter’s seemingly good health, writing on her blog:
“Keith [Loughlin’s partner] and I are absolutely thrilled to announce the safe arrival of our daughter formally known as chocolate mousse. She was born today via C-section at 12:37. She came out foot first and is breathing on her own. She weighs 2lb 5ozs. She has a Loughlin nose and she has more hair than me!!!”
Tragically, seven days after the family welcomed their third child and first daughter, Loughlin took to her blog once again, to update her readers that her beautiful girl would no longer be with them. Her loss, so great that it’s hard to comprehend, found its way into the world through the form of a poem by the grief-stricken mother.
She posted the poem, titled “Our beautiful girl,” on December 20th, the simplicity of the words, no picture or other embellishment necessary, striking in their pain and beauty.
Our beautiful girl
Yesterday afternoon our hearts broke in two.
For we had to say goodbye to you.
Our love for you is a beautiful haze
Even though you lived for 8 short days
We kissed you, we cuddled you, we tickled your feet,
And I know again one day we’ll meet
Today brought a rainbow, the lightest of hue
And I wondered if it was sent from you?
Our beautiful daughter Ally Louise,
I whisper your name and it drifts on the breeze,
The pain in my body and heart and my soul
Feels it will consume me and leave me un-whole
Your brothers will honour you in all that they do,
We forever have 3 children, not just two,
I will try to heal for you, and my body unfurl
You’ll be always beside me our beautiful girl.
Loughlin told Babble that she is “beyond the words for sadness,” and unable to discuss her loss further. One day she hopes to find the strength to. For now, she, her daughter, and her entire family will be in our thoughts.More On