Eloise Hopkins wrote a letter that helped her to process some difficult emotions:
There are no notes to refer to of that time. The emotions so raw and powerful they couldn’t bear analysis. Could be barely lived through.
I found the lump in my breast whilst feeding you, sat cuddled up close on my bed. Investigations followed with me curious to know the cause. A blocked milk duct was my guess but the consultant soon disabused me of that notion. “We found something. It’s cancer.”
My tears at diagnosis were not for mortality but for the loss. Our loss. Desperate phone calls to experts for advice followed. Hurriedly rushing to every door, every opportunity explored. The answer emerged clearer and clearer. The feeding must stop. The milk must stop. And it must stop quickly.
The knowledge took hold. I looked it full in the face and howled with desperate defiance. Mothers’ milk. My milk. For my last child, not yet ready for food. Neither of us ready to part in this way.
Rushed through weaning in a matter of weeks instead of the gentle months I had planned. Unable to stop crying as I contemplated what must be done. I began to hold you close and softly sing your birth song to replace a feed.
Each feed had to be cut out, one by one. It was to be replaced with formula milk. Such a hassle to prepare and store and seemed preposterous when my milk, so much better for you, was ready and available. I felt angry and impotent. This was not my choice. I worried that you would become dehydrated, not be getting enough essential minerals and vitamins if you didn’t start drinking more. I never had to worry about this before. I felt angry again. I took the formula out with us to a cafe, planning to feed you at lunch. I spotted a chair, it seemed so perfect and comfortable for feeding. I defied the regime and fed you myself.
I remember the last night of feeding you. Our last feed. Cuddled in close as Dad read to your big sister. But I didn’t quite manage it. I fed you again the following morning, a snatched feed at the breakfast table that left us both in tears.
But, my daughter, this is all for me, to process the grief of that time and my mothering emotions. You, my child, my last born, are resilient. After the confusion, a new way of doing things emerged from the sadness. You are growing and thriving, full of exuberance and joy.
Love is more, much more, than milk.
And it surrounded you powerfully, surrounds you still.
All my love,
About Eloise: “I was diagnosed with breast cancer a year ago at the age of 32. I’ve been through two lots of surgery to remove the lump and lymph nodes, followed by 6 months of chemotherapy (hellish) and 6 weeks of radiotherapy. I have just started to take Tamoxifen which the oncologist has recommended I take for the next 5 years. Nothing is certain as we all know but as it stands, the oncologist has given me a 50/50 chance of being alive in 10 years. The hope is that the Tamoxifen will swing things in my favour.
I find writing tremendously helpful. The most painful part of all of this was having to stop breast feeding but writing this letter felt really good.”