Of course, there's never ever a good time to develop breast cancer. But perhaps one of the most trying times is during pregnancy and while caring for a still-nursing infant. Going through chemo means you can't breastfeed. Sarah Whitney, a mother of three, learned the pain of this firsthand.
Her bittersweet story started when she was 20 weeks pregnant with her third child. She had discovered a lump in her left breast, which a biopsy confirmed as cancerous. Stage III, to be precise.
Doctors performed a mastectomy soon after and gave her a round of chemotherapy. Then, at 36 weeks, Whitney was induced and gave birth to a boy named Kal El. He was in perfect health.
Cancer, however, had driven a stake through her plans. Before the diagnosis, she'd opted for a water delivery with a midwife, but she'd had to be induced. She'd wanted to breastfeed, but she was forbidden from doing it beyond two weeks, as she was due to start up chemotherapy again.
Because of this, she decided to ask photographer Katie Murray to capture the moment she breastfed in the hospital. Little did she know, however, that these photos would go viral.
The world's response stunned her. “I know why those pictures mean so much to my family. I didn't understand why they meant so much to other people,” she told Northwest Florida Daily News. “I guess it's that universal understanding of what it's like to do what's best for your children, to be around for them.”
As of October 2015, Whitney was still battling breast cancer, and was prescribed to be on medication for the next decade. Yet she's still finding joy in her newborn son.
“It's been a hard ride,” she said. “But it's been really rewarding just knowing that he's here and he's perfect, just seeing him smile and laugh every day.”