Photographer and mom-of-three Mirelys Jimenez was denied a mammogram due to the fact that she was breastfeeding. Months later, she was given an appoint only to be told that she had a clogged duct when really she had a tumor that was 4.5 cm. It wasn’t until the lump had grown to 10 cm that she was properly diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. Soon after her diagnoses, Jimenez underwent surgery after her son, Alex, (who's now 2-years-old) put weight on her tumor while breastfeeding, causing it to break and bleed due to impact. Now she’s bravely sharing her story with the world by sharing the emotional and powerful photo before being forced to stop breastfeeding her son.
At first, Jimenez underwent a partial mastectomy but she resumed nursing from her right breast. “My left breast produced milk for an additional 2.5-3 weeks. I would leak, have letdowns and was encouraged. There was very little I could do for relief since my breast was still bandaged up and with a drain,” Jimenez told Parents.com. Her goal was to breastfeed for 24 months, but she was forced to stop at 22 months and 16 days in order to begin chemotherapy.
“[Alex] wasn’t ready and neither was I. It was hard on both of us,” Jimenez explained. She went on to describe what she calls the hardest weeks of her life—even worse than chemotherapy or her cancer diagnosis. “I slept in the guest bedroom and my husband would hold [Alex] until he'd fall asleep. I could hear him crying. He would wake up in the middle of the night looking for me so that he could nurse,” she explained.
After enduring so much physical and emotional pain with a long road ahead, Jimenez wanted to capture her breastfeeding experience in a way that she could treasure forever and the results are truly breathtaking, so she did what she does best and turned to photography. Her image has impacted so many; Jimenez never imagined the overwhelming support she would receive and is thankful for all the women she has connected with through her new public platform.
“I would tell [other women in similar circumstances] to take it one day at a time. To enjoy every second they have left nursing their child. Photograph it. Record it. You’ll want something to look back on. In regards, to cancer, stay positive. It’s hard but try to remain positive every day. Hope is the only feeling greater than fear,” said Jimenez.
Although Jimenez says she is doing better every day, she explained to Parents.com that many people don’t understand the harsh lingering side effects that come with 16 rounds of chemotherapy and 33 rounds of radiation therapy. It’s clear that no matter what comes Jimenez way, she is going to continue to inspire us with her strength as she advocates for a cure and champions through each day like the hero she is.