WTF!!!!!! Pick Me Up Real lives: I breastfeed my dad!
She's already lost her mum to cancer, now her dad was ill too. Sonia Ortiz-Allen, 25, hit the internet and found a weird way to help him get better.
Find out more about her shocking story...
I can already imagine the look on your face as you read my story. You've seen the headline and looked at the photographs, and I can just see your nose already wrinkled in disgust.
'Noooo,' you'll gasp. 'Urgh, that's disgusting.' Or perhaps… 'Those two are revolting. To do that to his own daughter, that man must be sick.'
And you're right. My dad is sick, which is why we've been driven to such extreme measures. I'm an only child and growing up I was so close to my dad, Richard Allen, 51, and my mum Maria.
Then, in January 1999, Mum was diagnosed with breast and stomach cancer, and by August that year, she'd died. At the time, I was living 130 miles from their home in Sacramento, California, and after we'd lost Mum, I'd beaten myself up about the fact that I'd not been with her as much as I should have.
If only there's something I could have done, I thought over and over again. With Mum gone, I felt even closer to Dad. In September 2005, he'd been diagnosed with prostate and ladder cancer, but thankfully he'd fought it off and was as active as ever.
Things seemed to be going great for us as a family, even more so when, in February 2009, I discovered my boyfriend Justin Peters, 27, and I were going to have a baby. 'I can't wait to be a grandad,' Dad had said when I told him I was pregnant.
Soon he had some news of his own, but this time it wasn't good. 'The cancer's back,' he told me. He was having chemo and doctors had said he had a 60 per cent chance of surviving for five years. He was only 51.
'I can't lose Dad, too,' I sobbed to Justin. We packed up and moved back to my hometown so I could be around to help Dad. It was a stressful time. I was pregnant, looking after Dad and worried sick, plus Justin was struggling to find work.
To make matters worse, when I was seven months gone, the stress took its toll on our relationship. 'I don't think I'm ready for this,' Justin said. 'I'm leaving. I'm sorry.' To be honest, I was so wrapped up with worrying about Dad, I didn't mind.
I could tell he was deteriorating, but he stayed positive and was with me at Harbour General Hospital when my son was born in November 2009. I named him Ricky, after Dad. As soon as I held him, I started breastfeeding Ricky almost immediately.
I took to it like a duck to water and enjoyed bonding with my son this way. Dad was mad on Ricky too, but I could see how tired the chemotherapy made him. Watching them together gave me a lump in my throat.
Would Dad be around to watch Ricky grow up? Then, in December 2009, when Ricky was just a month old, I saw an article in the newspaper. I'll never forget the headline: CAN BREAST MILK CURE CANCER? I read with amazement how a substance in breast milk known as Hamlet has been shown to kill cancer cells.
It felt like a light bulb was going off in my head. 'That's what I need to do for Dad!' I gasped. It sounded just a little bit weird. But what's better, doing something a bit icky, or your beloved dad dying? I knew what I thought, but convincing Dad would be a different matter altogether. 'There's, er, something I need to discuss with you,' I said, next time he came round. 'Go on,' Dad replied. How the hell could I say this without sounding strange?
I couldn't. 'I want you to drink my breast milk,' I said. 'Have you lost the plot?' he'd spluttered. Even after I explained about the study, he sounded wary. 'I don't know…' he began. 'It's a bit weird.' I cut him off. 'You don't get a say in it,' I told him. 'You're drinking my milk and that's that.'
Dad checked with his doctor, who dismissed it but said it wouldn't do any harm to try. So a few days later, he came round for his first dose. I'd read that 4oz a day was enough, so I poured the right amount of some milk I'd already expressed for Ricky into a cup and passed it to Dad.
'Chin chin,' I smiled, encouragingly. With one swift movement, he knocked it back like a shot of Sambuca. 'It's OK,' Dad said, wiping his mouth. 'It tastes sweet.'
So that was it. We agreed that every afternoon, Dad would come round and get his daily shot of my milk. It got less weird as time went on and we even started experimenting.
We used the milk to make smoothies, omelettes and even cakes. It was all going fine except for one problem. I loved breastfeeding Ricky, but the breast pump I used to express milk for Dad made my nipples horribly sore. I dreaded hooking myself up to it and I felt like a cow in a dairy farm.
One night, about a month after I'd started expressing for Dad, I'd run out of stocks and took one look at the breast pump and shuddered. To me, it had begun to seem like a torture device.
What's more, I was shattered from a day looking after Ricky, so instead of experimenting with breast milk recipes, I collapsed on the settee. Dad turned up as usual, but I could barely get off the settee I was so tired. 'I'm so sorry, I haven't expressed any,' I said. His face fell. We'd both noticed that his health had improved since he'd started drinking the milk.
He was more cheerful and seemed to be coping better with the chemo. 'It's OK,' Dad said.
'I understand.' Here's where it gets weird. I felt so awful letting Dad down. After all, it'd been my idea that he did this and I wanted to see it through. I told Dad how painful I found the breast pump. 'It doesn't mean we have to stop, though,' I said. 'Why don't you suckle from my breast like Ricky does?'
Yes, it would be awkward at first and it was hardly natural like it was with Ricky, but it was the only solution I could think of. 'No way,' Dad gasped. 'I'm not doing that.' 'Grow up,' I said. 'You and me both know it's not sexual. Think of your health, if nothing else.'
We chatted it through for hours and I managed to talk him round. 'Come here then,' I said, pulling down my top to free my right breast. There was an awkward silence as he drank. It felt so different to Ricky. For starters, Dad had a full set of teeth and a beard that tickled. 'Thank you,' he said, wiping his mouth as he pulled away after about 10 minutes. We both felt a bit tongue-tied and he left soon after.
I don't know how I thought I'd feel, but once Dad had gone, I was fine. Now we'd done it once, it would be easier. Dad came round the next day and, just like the first time, I pulled up my top and he sucked away. It's been five months now and it's become normal for us.
The only reason we carry on is because of the improvements it's having on Dad's health. He's had fewer colds and doctors say that his PSA levels have dropped, which means the cancer in his prostate is less aggressive.
He's not cancer-free yet, but I have a good feeling. His doctor isn't convinced it's down to the breast milk, but it's not harming him, so we want to carry on. I'm just glad that, unlike with Mum, there's something I can do to help Dad recover. I'd always planned to feed Ricky until he was around a year old and that's what I'll do.
But I'll continue to breastfeed Dad as long as he needs me to do so. So if you think that's sick, that's your problem. I just want to help my dad stay alive.
Sonia's dad says: 'At first, I thought Sonia was joking and I was living in some weird, incestuous nightmare. I refused, but Sonia told me to grow up. This was life or death
and if I wanted to live, I'd do it. I have no, and have never had, any sexual feelings at all, and when I suckle direct we both agree it's a means to an end and treat it professionally.'
The expert, Martin Ledwick, Head Cancer Information Nurse at Cancer Research UK says : 'It's perfectly understandable that people affected by cancer will want to do all they can to help aid recovery, but there is really no evidence to support drinking breast milk as a way of doing this.'