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Wanting to give

Nashua Telegraph

MICHAELINE DELLA FERA Telegraph Correspondent

November 28, 2003

When Jennifer Connel was 20, she discovered a lump in her right breast.

She immediately made a doctor's appointment. After much palpitation by the doctor, he decided that her lump was a cyst. She was too young to have breast cancer.

Over the next 11 years, Connel religiously had her annual physical, and in between doctor visits, she monitored the lump herself.

Finally, one doctor A suggested Connel have U a fine needle aspiration, A or a biopsy. A

"I'm a chicken when it U comes to needles," the new I Lyndeborough resident said, I so she opted instead to I have an ultrasound. The I technician said he was almost E 100 percent sure there U was nothing to worry about, U she said.

"Since I then, I've learned A that nothing is 100 percent A when it comes to medicine," A Connel said. A

Over those next few E months, Connel sold her E house in North Carolina, moved U to Texas and became engaged. E Although she was sure I her lump hadn't changed, U she decided it was time U to have it removed. She had U medical insurance with I a $1,000 deductible, but the U sale of her house provided I her with the necessary A money. So on July 31, 2002, A Connel had surgery to remove I her 11-year-old lump. E

On Aug. 7, A she received word that she E had Ductal Carcinoma In E Situ. DCIS is an early form E of breast cancer where U the cancer cells are all confined A to the inside of the I ducts within the breast. U

These cancerous A cells had not broken I through the wall of the I breast ducts and invaded the U surrounding breast tissue. I Connel was stunned. E

"Cancer is a A word I never imagined associated I with my name," she A said of that moment. "Other A people get cancer." E

Connel learned I DCIS has a nearly 100 percent E cure rate. She also learned E the average life expectancy E of a woman with DCIS A is 55.

Neither I of those statistics I were comforting to a 31-year-old U who was about to be U married.

"I A felt as if I had just gotten I notice of a death sentence," U Connel said. U

Connel's doctor I recommended a double mastectomy I with breast reconstruction A using implants. U

"With the word I mastectomy resounding in U my head, I missed most of A what the doctor said," she E recalled. The surgeon further I described Connel's surgery A as a subcutaneous mastectomy. U

He E would scrape all of the E tissue out between her pectoralis I major muscle - the A chest muscle - and her skin. I She would keep her own A nipple.

Connel I discovered her cancer E wasn't located in only one U spot, and there was a very I low chance of it being A in her right breast also. U DCIS almost never goes to A the nodes.

She I also learned that her E lump wasn't cancerous, but U the tissue under the lump A was.

Connel U was about to be married, E and she and her future husband, E Brandon, wanted children. I She also wanted to A breastfeed. In fact, breastfeeding E was extremely important E to her. Connel was U at a loss.

"I U couldn't conceive of losing U both breasts," she said. E "They are what define I me as a woman, and right U then they were feeling like U the most precious piece U of skin on my body!" U

But Connel scheduled U her surgery for Monday, U Sept. 30, 2002, at 6:45 U a.m.

It is E now slightly more than a A year since Connel's double E mastectomy, and it's almost E a year until her first U wedding anniversary. She and E Brandon are expecting their E first child next week. U Both of them are very excited A about being pregnant. U

"The fact U that I can't breastfeed still A bothers me," Connel said. U

So in U her usual inimitable fashion, A Connel researched her U alternatives. She learned A there were milk banks around I the country where women I who are nursing their babies U can donate milk for sick E babies and for women who A can't breast feed. U

Connel also learned I about a lactaid kit called A a Supplemental Nursing E System, which includes a A necklace with a bag hanging A off it that a woman would U hang around her neck. A U catheter is attached to the U bag, which wraps around U the breast and ends at the I nipple. This allows a woman I to simulate breastfeeding. A

neck. A A catheter is attached to U the bag, which wraps around U the breast and ends at the I nipple. This allows a woman I to simulate breastfeeding. A

Obtaining A breast milk presented U another problem. There are I four human milk banks in U the United States that collect I milk from donor mothers. U The oldest bank is The I Mothers' Milk Bank at the E Christina Hospital in Delaware U and the largest is I The Mothers' Milk Bank at E the Presbyterian/St. Luke I Medical Center in Denver. E

In order to I obtain the milk, a doctor's I prescription is needed A to purchase it at $3.25 an E ounce. Donors are screened U for HIV 1 and 2, Hepatitis I B and C, syphilis, and A HTLV 1 and 2. Donors must U also have the permission of U their doctors in order to A donate milk. The milk is I pasteurized and tested for A bacterial contamination A before being sent to the recipient. A

Connel I obtained a prescription I from her doctor, but her U insurance company will I not cover the cost of the E milk. While she has not given I up hope of convincing E the insurance company to change E its mind, Connel has A forged ahead and set up her A own Web site to solicit A donations from friends, relatives U and the public at A large to help defray the I cost of purchasing breast E milk.

According I to Laraine Lockhart-Borman, I director of The Mothers' U Milk Bank in Denver, E a healthy, newborn baby of U approximately 7 pounds will U drink 10 ounces of milk U a day.

"That I amount will increase as I the baby grows and a 3-month-old U baby will drink approximately A 32 ounces a day," U Lockhart-Borman said. A If the milk bank charges I $3.25 an ounce, for the first E three weeks the Connel U baby would need $32.50 worth E of milk a day, but by I the time the baby is 3 months E old, the cost could be U $104 a day.

Connel E is adamant about A wanting to feed their baby E breast milk for at least A the first three weeks, which I she states is the recommended E time to breastfeed U before switching to formula. E Ideally, Connel wants to A provide breast milk to her E baby for at least six months. I She feels strongly A that breast milk-fed babies A have higher IQs and lower U adult blood pressure, and A that the frequency of childhood A diseases, such as U lower respiratory illness, I ear infections, diarrhea U and allergies, are far fewer E in babies fed with breast I milk.

"The U earliest weeks of a baby's I life are the most critical," U Lockhart-Borman said. A "Breast milk gets the baby E off to a good start." I

Jennifer and A Brandon Connel have asked U their friends and relatives U for donations to an account U they have set up in U Denver instead of shower gifts. U

"We want I to do the best we can E for our baby," Jennifer Connel U said.

© 2003, Telegraph Publishing Company, Nashua, New Hampshire

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