When Dina Lahav was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer, she almost gave up on the idea of breastfeeding her infant son, but then Rambam Health Care Campus stepped in and provided a way.
Dina Lahav (38), resident of a small community in Northern Israel, became pregnant for the second time and was determined to breastfeed her baby. Unfortunately, during her pregnancy, Lahav was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer and realized that breastfeeding might not be possible. However, with the help of others, a different way was found to make sure her newborn was nourished with breast milk.
During her twenty-second week of pregnancy, Lahav, a nurse by profession, felt something unusual in her breast and immediately knew there was a problem. Lahav was scheduled for an urgent biopsy at Rambam Health Care Campus (Rambam HCC), where she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Although the cancer had been detected in its early stages, it had already spread to other parts of her body.
Focused on her recovery, breastfeeding was not high on her physician’s list of priorities. Contemplating her life, Lahav could think of only one thing: how was she going to breastfeed her newborn baby? Would her body be able to produce breast milk? Would the powerful anti-cancer drugs have harmful side-effects on her newborn?
Chemotherapy commenced during the second trimester. Four rounds of mild chemotherapy were administered, with the most aggressive stage of treatment delayed until after she gave birth. With no time to lose and her infant’s wellbeing an additional consideration, Lahav’s delivery was scheduled to be induced shortly before she came to term, so that the more aggressive stage of treatment could begin as soon as possible.
In the past, Lahav has been an active breast-milk donor. Now she was in critical need of breast milk for her own baby. Lahav shares, “I planned to the bring breast milk of friends into the delivery room, but when I checked the issue with the Rambam team, it turned out that their procedures do not allow bringing random breast milk into the hospital, but Rambam found another creative solution.”
Some two-years earlier Magen David Adom (Israel's national emergency medical, disaster, ambulance, and blood bank service) opened the National Mother's Milk Bank which facilitates breast-milk donations. Using their services, however, required an official referral.
Rambam’s newborn nursery team sprang into action and contacted the Milk Bank on Lahav’s behalf. The hospital applied for a breast-milk donation which was approved.
Arrangements were made for the milk delivery to coincide with Lahav’s scheduled induction. Milk was delivered to the hospital and some to Lahav’s home. In fact, the Milk Bank delivered ten liters of breast-milk to the hospital!
After the birth of her son, Lahav was admitted to an isolation ward at Rambam HCC which would protect her immuno-compromised body.
Once she was able to return home, Lahav and members of her community created a social media campaign asking for breast-milk donations – and the donations came in at a steady pace. One donor offered 300 bags of breast-milk and another, promised a six-month supply. The family placed an extra refrigerator in their living room just for storing and keeping the breast-milk fresh. Two of Rambam HCC’s nurses also donated milk. Through the generosity of these donors, Lahav’s son was fed exclusively on breast-milk until he was ten-months old.
Now, two years later, cancer survivor Lahav, faces other challenges. However, she is eager to share her experience to encourage others.
Lahav recalled how breast-feeding her older daughter had created an incredible bond between them and this fueled her determination to breast-feed her son. She shares, “My cancer and resulting inability to breastfeed, was a serious crisis from which I have not yet recovered. My relationship with my son is different and even though I couldn’t breastfeed him, my role as his mother is not diminished.”
An online pre-natal course (in Hebrew) is being offered by Rambam HCC for expecting parents. The course covers important topics such as pain management, the stages of labor and delivery, and caring for your newborn, as well as breastfeeding and lactation. Click here for more information.
This article was based on an original Hebrew article that first appeared in MAKO.