When Natasha Fogarty first felt a lump in her right breast, it was toward the end of her pregnancy with her son, Milo. She didn’t think much of it, though, because her breasts had changed in so many ways during the course of her pregnancy. As she shares with Babble, her breasts were “lumpy and weird” all over from engorgement, and this particular mass still didn’t stand out to her.
But that all changed when Milo was 4 months old, and Natasha noticed that the lump still hadn’t shrunk. Natasha explains to Babble what happened next, and the crushing day that she was diagnosed with breast cancer:
“I realized that every time I pumped or fed him, the lump never went away. So I went to see my OBGYN and he ordered an ultrasound. I remember the call from the doctor, [saying]: ‘You have cancer.’ I was in shock and shaking. I don’t remember anything she said after that.”
The 29-year-old mother of one reports that she got her cancer diagnosis quite recently, on June 10 of this year, and had a single mastectomy just a few weeks later, on June 27. She still faces 24 round of chemotherapy.
Milo was just shy of 5 months old when Natasha got the diagnosis, and she knew immediately that it meant the end of breastfeeding for her and her son.
Breastfeeding Milo had always been a highlight of her day, she tells Babble, and she mourned the loss of it. To Natasha, it was more than just a way to nourish her baby — it was about the bond that was created in the process.
“For minutes out of the day, he was mine,” she says. “If friends or family were holding him, I could say ‘Oh, sorry, it is time to feed him.’ Mostly, it was our bonding time. The whole world stopped and we got to just enjoy each other. It was a love connection.”
Natasha knew she wanted a way to commemorate their breastfeeding relationship before she had to wean, so she decided to do a photo shoot on the last day she breastfed Milo. She reached out to an old high school friend, who took some gorgeous photos of Milo happily breastfeeding.
Natasha tells Babble that these photos were taken the day before her surgery, in the evening. (The very last time she nursed Milo was in the middle of the night that night; she remembers it as a moment of peace.)
Knowing she’d be losing her hair during her chemo treatments, Natasha decided to dye it pink for the photo shoot for one special reason: “Pink has always been my favorite color and now I have even more reason to love it,” she shares.
Soon after, Natasha decided she wanted to share her pictures with a wider audience, so she posted her pictures and story on Breastfeeding Mama Talk’s Facebook page. As Natasha recalls, “I wanted to share my story to help support breastfeeding moms that we’re having a bad day. Also to create awareness around getting breast cancer at such a young age.”
Indeed, her post is going viral, and for all the right reasons. Since Breastfeeding Mama Talk shared it, it has received of 5K likes, and almost 300 comments, all warm and encouraging.
Some fellow moms commented that reading Natasha’s story put their own breastfeeding struggles in perspective. But most were just cheering this brave mother on:
“Natasha, you are such a strong woman,” wrote one user. “As mommies sometimes it can be hard to understand that we have to take care of ourselves first to be able to take care of our children. Your awesome attitude and mindset in this situation is admirable. Praying for you and your family. God bless you in this battle. You will come out on the other side!”
A few mothers were personally touched by the story, including one mother who had recently gotten a breast cancer diagnosis herself:
“Awe! Natasha!” she wrote. “I just got diagnosed with stage two triple negative breast cancer on June 8. Going through chemo now. Love the pink hair sister!”
As for Natasha, she says that she is doing well, despite the rollercoaster of emotions and medical procedures she’s had to endure for the past month. She tells Babble that she has a really good support system, and her husband has stepped up to the plate, doing much of the baby care as she heals.
She also has an amazing network of moms who are donating breastmilk for Milo. Natasha reveals that so far, Milo has rejected formula, and will only accept breastmilk in his bottle — so she’s grateful to know not just one, but four moms who are all willing to pump and donate for her son.
Natasha certainly has a tough road ahead of her with further treatments coming up, but it sounds like she’s been blessed with a strong support network, and that she’s being showered with love and admiration, both in real life and online. And despite the sadness of having to wean her son, the bond that she established in those first few months with him has remained strong.
What a beautiful and brave mom Natasha is. I hope she only continues to get better, and gets plenty of snuggle time with sweet Milo.