In summer 2011, Jennifer Campisano was breastfeeding her six month old baby when she noticed a lump. 


When after a couple of weeks, it refused to go away, she went to the doctor. Her worst fears were confirmed, it was breast cancer. 


"Quinn had been a champion breast-feeder," she told TODAY.  "But after my diagnosis, I weaned him nearly overnight to start high-dose chemotherapy." 


Four months later she underwent a double mastectomy, followed by more radiation. 



"Our focus was on saving my life, not on any hypothetical future children and what amputating my breasts might mean for them," she recalls. 


After successful treatment, Jennifer says that becoming a mother again was not something that she considered- until she fell pregnant. 


"Could my body do this? What if the cancer came back? When every doctor we spoke with gave us the go-ahead and every test came back signalling we could expect a healthy baby girl, we started to get cautiously excited.


"The three of us were thrilled to welcome her to our family on her due date. Here was a miracle baby shining her light into all our broken and cracked places." 



But there was still one stumbling block- how would they feed the baby? A strong believer in breast feeding, Jennifer thought all hope was lost after her mastectomy. 


"Obviously, keeping your baby fed is best, but I wondered if I could do more. Could I give her some of the nutritional and immunity boosts we’d been able to give Quinn, even if it didn't come from me?"


After researching and talking to other mums that had survived cancer, she connected with a couple of milk donors. Through friends and through Facebook groups, Jennifer was able to feed her baby Noelle. 


However, with each donor she was careful to do a full medical and background check before accepting the milk. 


"I was always careful to ask about their health history and medication use. Most women offered more: some said that they didn't drink wine or coffee, or consume any dairy, which can be problematic for some babies’ tummies. I joked that they were more careful about their diets than I am. A couple were also donors to their local milk banks, which require robust screening." 



Not only did Jennifer feel that she was doing what was best for her baby, but she also found that it positively impacted her friendships with fellow mums. 


"My friend Tina, whose son is just a few months older than Noelle, dropped by with freshly expressed milk a number of times. Our friendship deepened. I couldn't thank her enough for giving my daughter what I no longer could." 


Now six months old, Noelle has one breast milk bottle a day and has never been sick a day in her young life. Without the kindness of other mums Jennifer says that she couldn't have done it. 


"This community, this gathering of a village of mums to care for, nourish, and feed my daughter, has inspired me and made me prouder than ever to be a woman.


"When Noelle roots for food now, I feel comforted knowing what a strong network has supported her so that she can be as strong and healthy as possible." 



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