A few days after Christmas, Ashley Chesnut received a devastating diagnosis: cancer.

Soon she learned something that deepened her sadness.

Because of chemotherapy treatments, she would have to stop breast-feeding her baby boy, Easton.

But a nurse where Chesnut was being treated heard about the problem and offered to help.

Jaclyn Kenney, who has a baby of her own, donated 1,000 ounces, about 8 gallons, of her own stored breast milk.

Chesnut says the gift not only has helped her baby but provided a big morale boost.

“I thought it was an angel sent from God,’’ the La Vista woman said.

Breast milk is known for providing the right balance of nutrients for babies and boosting their immune systems.

Kenney, a nurse at the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, said it was heartbreaking that Chesnut was facing lymphoma and couldn’t breast-feed. Helping out was an easy decision, Kenney said. She provided Chesnut test results to show that she was healthy and her breast milk was safe.

The donated milk was particularly important because Chesnut’s son has an intolerance to dairy and soy.

Stacia Kennedy, a nurse and lead lactation consultant at the Nebraska Medical Center, said that when a baby has intolerances, it can be challenging to find donated milk that will work.

“That is amazing they found each other,’’ she said.

Kenney’s diet is dairy-free, because her daughter, Halle, also has an intolerance to it.

Her diet does include soy, but her milk has worked just fine for Chesnut’s 5-month-old son. He began drinking it a couple weeks ago.

Kenney said she has an additional three gallons stored in her freezer that she will be happy to donate.

When all the milk is gone, Chesnut said, she’s planning to use formula.

Chesnut, who has a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, faces additional chemo rounds that will run through late April. Her cancer was detected early, she said, and doctors have told her that her long-term outlook is very good.

Chesnut, who also has a 2-year-old daughter with her husband, Tim, said she’s looking forward to watching their children grow up, and will be forever grateful to Kenney for her gift.

michael.oconnor@owh.com, 402-444-1122

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