A mother has told how she owes her life to her son who refused to feed from her breast as a baby – alerting her to a cancerous tumour.
Joanne Carr, 37, had breastfed son Dougie McInerney since he was born without any problem.
But 14 months on, his habits suddenly changed and he refused to feed from her right side. Yet he would feed as normal from the left breast.
‘He just wasn’t interested any more and he refused to feed on my right breast,’ she said.
‘He fed on the other one fine. I thought I might have a blocked duct or something. It was very strange.’
Concerned, Carr, from Liverpool, decided to check her breast for lumps or signs of any other problems.
She found a pea-sized lump on her breast and swiftly booked an appointment to visit her GP. After being prescribed a course of antibiotics, she was told to come back if it didn’t go away.
But the single mother-of-two ended up going back to her GP, who referred her to specialists at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital.
She had scans and a cell biopsy and, four days later, was told she had an aggressive form of the disease known as invasive ductal cancer.
It is a common type of breast cancer which spreads to the milk ducts.
Carr, a nurse, said: ‘I was at the hospital on my own. They took me into a room and told me I had cancer. They said it was aggressive but treatable.
‘I sat there and cried when I told my family. I started to think about what would happen to my children. I didn’t want them to be alone.
‘I was worried they would have to grow up without a mum.’
Carr, who also has a daughter Isla, aged 11, had eight rounds of chemotherapy until March last year and lost all of her hair.
But the lump shrank and surgeons removed residual cancer cells in March 2018. She was given the all-clear in April last year and has been in remission for about a year.
Carr says that, when she was told she was cancer-free for the first time, she burst into tears.
Medics have not speculated on why Dougie, who is now aged five, stopped feeding from the cancerous breast.
But his mother said that – as the 2cm lump was very close to her nipple – her son may have felt it pressing against his mouth when he was feeding, causing him discomfort.
She said: ‘I owe my life to him. It was a complete miracle. If I didn’t have Dougie, then I might never have found the lump. He saved my life, without a doubt. He’s a little angel.
‘The doctor said it’s very strange what Dougie did. He must have known somehow. He was looking out for me.
‘I know I wouldn’t have checked if it wasn’t for him. It’s remarkable when you think about it.’
Carr, who is now retraining to specialise in chemotherapy, added: ‘I still think about how lucky I am to this day. My attitude now is to just live life to the full. I owe my life to Dougie and he means the world to me.’
She has not been able to return to work yet as she still suffers with joint pains resulting from her chemotherapy. But she hopes to start university next year for further studies in nursing.