By: Victoria Gensheimer
Just two years ago, an Ottawa mother was diagnosed with cancer. Megan Larson had given birth to her second son just two months previous to her diagnosis. Her chemotherapy treatment would start just 48 hours after receiving the cancer diagnosis. Because of the medication in her chemo treatment, Larson would not be able to breastfeed.
She turned to her local milksharing community – Human Milk for Human Babies for help. (Also known as HM4HB.) She was able to go to Facebook, findher local HM4HB, and request breastmilk for her baby. These community pages are set up in 53 countries, specifically for mothers who cannot breastfeed for one reason or another. Breastfeeding moms who have a supply of breastmilk post their donations and mothers who need breastmilk for their babies can respond.
Bridgett Burke-Purdy from Belleville, Ontario, a total stranger, responded to Larson’s request for breastmilk. Upon hearing Larson’s story, Burke-Purdy pumped her own milk and began asking other mothers to also pump whatever milk they could and to donate whatever they could to Larson. Once the milk was collected, she drove to Ottawa and brought the milk to her. Her son Mikka was born seven weeks premature. With all the health benefits that breastmilk brings and the fact that it’s easily digestable made it the best option for her son.
Larson, who is a mother of three, is now healthy. Just two years from the very day that Burke-Purdy dropped off the freezer stash to Larson, she was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphona. Bridgett Burke-Purdy is also pregnant with her third child. Larson is now sending her own frozen stash of breastmilk to the woman who had just helped her two years ago.
Neither woman could have ever imagined that their roles would be reversed. Women who have either wetnursed or have shared breastmilk often say there is always a connection after that. I think in this situation, these two women share a connection that most cannot understand. The breastmilk that they have shared has contributed to their babies’ nutrition and health. Through milksharing, they have also shared this experience, which will no doubt connect them for life.