(Picture: Kennedy News)A mum has proudly shared photos of her breastfeeding the baby who saved her life, to praise her friend who nursed the baby while she went through chemotherapy after being diagnosed with cancer.
Nikki Heying, 33, had given birth to her fourth child Malcolm just six weeks before she was rushed back to hospital with pre-eclampsia.
By chance a scan picked up a mass in the mum-of-four’s chest and she was diagnosed with lymphoma as she held the newborn baby in her arms.
Panicking about her vulnerable little boy breastfeeding while she underwent chemotherapy, Nikki confided in a friend, Bec Nikodem, 37, about fearing he would lose his latch.
Without hesitation, selfless mum-of-eight Bec offered to breastfeed the baby twice a week – all while nursing two of her own children and donating milk to other mums in need.
To avoid her milk drying up, Nikki bravely ‘pumped and dumped’ repeatedly throughout her illness – despite it taxing her body further while she battled through chemotherapy.
After months of cancer treatment, Nikki was finally able to breastfeed her baby herself, and the moment was captured in a series of emotional photos that she has shared to encourage other mums to donate their breast milk.
(Picture: R Husbands Photography/ Kennedy News)Nikki, from Elizabeth Lake, California, said: ‘I was just so incredibly thankful that Bec was willing to breastfeed Malcolm.
‘It was absolutely beautiful – breathtaking. I can’t say enough about that.
‘I’d just had Malcolm when I had to be readmitted into hospital for pre-eclampsia complications. He saved my life.
‘They did a scan of my chest and found a 10cm mass growing around my heart.
‘I’d had no symptoms of lymphoma. There’s a long list and I didn’t have a single one of them.
‘If I hadn’t have had my baby and those complications, they might never have discovered the cancer until it was too late.’
After Nikki was tested and given a biopsy, she was told she had lymphoma.
Nursing her baby as she was told the news, she nervously asked the doctor if she’d be able to continue breastfeeding little Malcolm throughout her treatment.
Nikki said: ‘When the obstetrician came in to see me, I was thinking she’d say ‘go ahead and get ready to leave’.
‘But when she told me they’d found a large mass my stomach dropped – it was the last thing in the universe I was expecting.
‘My husband and I had only been married for four months and between us have four kids together.
(Picture: R Husbands Photography/ Kennedy News)‘There were terrifying thoughts – but then I thought ‘no, I’m going to fight this’.’
After receiving the heartbreaking diagnosis, Nikki was determined to keep up her milk supply until she got the all clear, despite having no idea when that may be.
Nikki underwent six months of chemotherapy, which contained chemicals that transfer into breast milk and are toxic.
Every three hours, she used a pump to collect her milk to ensure she kept producing it – but was reluctantly pouring it down the drain.
Malcolm was still drinking breast milk donated by other women, but by using a bottle, he risked losing his latch.
Nikki said: ‘I switched my mind into a positive line of thinking, then my first question to the doctor was if I’d be able to continue breastfeeding.
‘The cancer was non-operable in that location.
‘So when my oncologist did eventually tell me to stop breastfeeding, I asked him if it’d be possible to pump and dump to keep up my supply.
‘He didn’t recommend it because chemotherapy is so taxing on your body already and there was a good chance I’d dry up anyway – but I would rather try and have it not succeed than not try at all.’
Still anxious about her son’s latch, Nikki felt that milk from a bottle wasn’t enough.
(Picture: Kennedy News)She worried their bond would suffer when she was well again if Malcolm forgot how to feed from her.
Confiding in another new mum, Bec, whose older children went to the same school as hers, Nikki was relieved when Bec offered to feed her baby for her.
Nikki said: ‘Bec and I went through our pregnancies together and we talked all the time. She knew what I was going through.
‘I knew that if I was going to be able to latch my son again he was going to have to remember how to do it. I needed to find someone to do this.
‘She’s nursed other babies, including friends’ babies, and she offered. She was at my house and she asked if I wanted her to try.
‘My son hadn’t latched in five days by this point and I was terrified he’d struggled.
‘She came to my house after she dropped her kids at school in the morning once or twice a week for six months.
‘I thought I would have to look away and that I’d cry, and I did cry, but it was tears of relief.
‘I was just so relieved and happy it was working. There was a chance I’d be able to reach my goal of being able to nurse him again.’
After a grueling end to the year, Nikki was given the all-clear earlier this month.
(Picture: Kennedy News)Nikki and Bec are now hoping that sharing their story will prove that breastfeeding is ‘the most natural thing in the world’ and their gorgeous photoshoot shows that.
Nikki said: ‘I got the phone call from my oncologist and they revealed I’m in remission.
‘Weeks after my last chemo, it was the middle of the night and Malcolm woke up ready to feed.
‘When Malcolm latched again, I cried. There was no hesitation – it’s like he never stopped.
‘Bec and I are as close as ever now and she’s still going to come over.
‘Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world – it’s what we were created to do.
‘The female body is truly incredible. It’s amazing what the female body can do.
‘For example Bec isn’t just nursing her own son, she’s nursing another one of her children, and she nursed mine and would pump what else she could to donate.’
Bec has spoken out to applaud her friend’s bravery and determination.
Bec, from Lancaster, California, said: ‘Nikki and I found out we were pregnant within the same week.
‘When she was diagnosed with cancer we were discussing how important it was to her that Malcolm continued having breast milk.
‘I offered to donate what I could, while feeding my newborn Xander and my other son Harrison.
‘Breastfeeding should be something that friends can do for each other. It should be available for women who are going through something like this.
‘There’s an option at hospital to get donated milk – for premature or sick babies. But you can also get donated milk when you’re out of hospital too.
‘It shouldn’t be taboo to have someone else feed your baby. We used to do it with wet nurses. It wasn’t a big deal.
‘Last week she was finally able to latch Malcolm again. She messaged me around midnight.
‘It was so wonderful and fantastic.
‘Everything we’d hoped for has happened.’
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