In 2015, Bo Smith, from Sugar Land, Texas, found a lump in her breast and was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, a rare and aggressive form of the disease. Not only would Bo likely never be able to have kids, but she also only had a 40 percent chance of surviving for five years.
Just a month before that, Bo’s boyfriend, James Cofer, had proposed to her, and the couple was busily planning their wedding—until the diagnosis stopped their lives in their tracks. “I was devastated. My first words were, ‘My life is over. I will never be a mom,'” Bo says.
“There was nothing that the doctors could target, so they just said, basically, we’re going to put you on a trial, and see if these drugs work, and basically just cross your fingers,” she says. “I think I was just so numb at that point that I couldn’t even cry. I felt like there was nothing else to do except to try and fight it.”
Bo had a single mastectomy as part of her treatment. She was afraid the cancer would spread to her right breast as well, but she opted not to have it removed, hoping beyond hope that she’d still be able to breastfeed her future children.
However, 32-year-old Bo has defied the odds. She didn’t just survive; she did so much more than that. After treatment, which included a single mastectomy, she went on to conceive naturally and give birth to a beautiful baby boy named James Jr. just 3 years after her diagnosis, on August 18, 2018. And she was still able to breastfeed him with her remaining breast.
When James was 10 days old, Bo shared a photo of herself breastfeeding him on Facebook, coupled with this quote: “Never be ashamed of a scar. It simply means you were stronger than whatever tried to hurt you.”
It didn’t take long for the photo to explode on social media, with some viewers saying Bo’s story had brought tears to their eyes. So many people appreciated this strong young woman’s self-love and sacrifice.
“I can’t begin to explain how this feels every day to be able to breastfeed my son, after losing one breast to cancer and being told I may not ever have this sweet boy in my arms,” says Bo. “I am not ashamed of this body. This is what continues to remind me of how lucky I am to be here today.”
Congratulations on the new baby, Bo! Thank you for being so strong and sharing your story with others!
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?