Imagine you’re a super healthy, vegan diet-eating, marathon-running, 39-year-old woman. You have a great career in the medical field and you’ve got a wonderful family. Not to mention, you have killer style.
Then one day during what was supposed to be a routine doctor’s appointment, you find out you have breast cancer.
Even as a nurse, Hollye Jacobs was shocked. That’s when she started her blog, The Silver Pen, as a way to share about the silver linings she finds through what she calls FBC (we’ll let you fill in the blanks). We were able to catch up with the beautiful Hollye (whose cancer is now in remission) and get her professional tips on how she got through her cancer.
Can you share with us some of the biggest breast cancer myths?
Our society has been taught to really think that breast cancer has familial links. When I was diagnosed I thought “Oh my gosh, I don’t have a single family member who’s been diagnosed, so how is this possible?” I was able to put on my clinical hat and say [it] is a huge myth that you have to have a family history to get cancer. I was one of those people who survived but the reality is that less than 10% of breast cancer patients get it because of familial history.
What’s some good general knowledge to have about breast cancer?
The first is to breathe.
It sounds easy, I know, but after you hear the words “you have cancer,” breathing actually takes a lot of work. Second, though the diagnosis feels like an emergency, it’s actually not. You have the time to understand the meaning and process the emotions of the diagnosis. Third, learn everything you can about your diagnosis treatment options and then become fully engaged in the development and revision of your plan of care. Fourth, build a team of caregivers and advisors, both personal and professional. The reason for this is it truly takes a village to go through any cancer experience. I come from the school of belief that cancer doesn’t just happen to you in isolation, it happens to your family, your friends, and your community. So building a team of caregivers and advisors is really what it takes to get through it.
How did you feel about your body post surgery/chemo?
It was really, really hard. When I looked in the mirror I would see cancer, illness, mutilation, scarring. It was really, really difficult for me. However, I actively chose to think about what I do have, not what I don’t have. I had this perspective and this sort of thinking about silver linings [as an] active thought. It takes a lot of work and that’s what I did. Instead of seeing the scarring and mutilation, I thought actually they’re kind of a nice shape! And they’re perky! And I never have to have a mammogram again! …Every time I do look at them now in the shower or in the mirror they’re a really great reminder for me that life can change on a dime, and to live each and every day as fully as possible.
After you’ve had cancer that philosophy is no longer a cliché.
You have such a wonderful sense of style! Did you find yourself looking at fashion differently after your diagnosis?
I worked for Ralph Lauren for 13 years prior to going into heath care so I grew up with [fashion]; it’s in my blood. Part of my confidence has always come from the way I dress, sort of the outside working with the inside to produce this energy, courage, and fortitude…
So I decided that I was going to go to chemo in an outfit that made me feel good and happy and confident. I think that my philosophy to always put forth an effort to look like that, no matter how I feel, really played out during that period. So every outfit that I wore to chemo and radiation was chosen with care and special meaning to me.
You mentioned that Komen.org was a site you visited right after your diagnosis. What other resources would you recommend?
Dr. Google is probably just about one of the worst places you can possible go because it takes people very quickly into obscure, inaccurate, fearful websites. It’s so overwhelming and so frightening after a diagnosis, and then to go to a place where you don’t know if the information is accurate and you see these statistics that you don’t know are true. I really encourage people to avoid Dr. Google.
Some of my favorite sites are Breastcancer.org [and] the National Cancer Institute. I’m crazy about the Cancer Support Community, which offers those hotlines for people to call in and actually ask for recommendations and suggestions. There are 54 brick and mortar sites around the country so it’s a really great support group. There’s a website called Breastcancerfreebies.com that I’m crazy about. It’s a site started by a journalist who went through breast cancer and she was so frustrated by the expense of everything. There are a lot of great resources nationally that offer services and products for free. It’s really wonderful.
xx, The FabFitFun Team