Her hair gone and one breast removed, the moment Sarah Whitney breastfed her newborn, she was overcome. She sobbed into her hand, as little Kal El calmly had his first feed. It was the moment she’d been waiting for, since being told at 20 weeks pregnant that she had breast cancer. If ever an image captured the strength of a mother’s love – it’s this. Sarah has now opened up about her battle, and the impact this photo has had on mums around the world.
Sarah, from Florida was pregnant with her third child, when she was told she had breast cancer. A time that should have been spent savouring that precious second half of pregnancy instead turned into a haze of chemotherapy and a mastectomy.
Then, on April 21, at 36 weeks she gave birth to Kal El. The 31-year-old was due to start another round of chemo not long after, so Sarah knew she only had a fleeting chance to breastfeed her new son. So as she nursed her boy for the first of what would be only a few times, she allowed images to be taken by photographer Katie Murray. They capture the raw emotion that not only comes for any mother after birth, but for Sarah, it meant a brief moment of normality. And the were shared around the world.
The mum of three told the Northwest Florida Daily News that the impact the photos have had on people across the globe has been overwhelming.
“I know why those pictures mean so much to my family. I didn’t understand why they meant so much to other people. 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,” Sarah says.
Sarah is also mum to six-year-old Pheonix and seven-year-old Corah, and says her life is bitter-sweet. She knows she can’t have any more children. But she’s also supremely grateful for each and every day she has with the three she does have. And for the two weeks she was able to breastfeed her youngest.
“It makes me try to appreciate every moment I have with them,” she says. “I know there’s a risk it could come back. I want to be around for them when they get older and get married and have kids.”
Sarah has been overwhelmed by the support of so many people around the globe, including the donation of breastmilk for Kal El. She keeps in touch with her supporters through the Super Sarah Supporters Facebook page.
OMG Praise the Lord. Look at all this milk for Kal-El I don't have any more space! My deep freezer and both fridge…
Sarah battles with depression, which is exacerbated by the fact that the cancer drug she has to take for the next decade interferes with the antidepressant she’s always been on. But she tries to find the good in the every day.
“It’s been a hard ride. But it’s been really rewarding just knowing that he’s here and he’s perfect, just seeing him smile and laugh every day.”
The youngest member of the Whitney family just turned six months old, congratulations Kal El!
Last month Sarah celebrated a milestone, finishing 34 days of radiation, which took nine weeks. We’re wishing this inspirational mum a happy and healthy future.
(via the Northwest Florida Daily News, black & white images courtesy Katie Murray Photography, others courtesy Super Sarah Supporters)