“I Harnessed Optimism—and Let Chemo do the Rest”
When Hollye Jacobs started an online diary to update family and friends about her breast cancer treatment, she never dreamed her daily posts would go viral—or that she’d eventually be doing book signings and television appearances. “To be honest, I started the blog to keep my family and friends updated on what was happening during treatment without having to answer ‘How are you?’ every day,” says thesilverpen.com blogger. “Then it spread like wildfire—I had people from all over the world writing to me.”
With her experience as a nurse and social worker, Hollye’s posts served as both a compassionate memoir and practical guide for others navigating the cancer journey. Her readers were particularly touched by her determination to find everyday blessings in her most challenging moments. “We have two choices about how we handle painful life experiences: from a place of fear or optimism. When I was sick I chose—and it was a very active choice—optimism in the form of silver linings,” says the Santa Barbara, CA, resident. “I harnessed that energy and allowed the treatments to work.”
So as she documented her treatment—a mastectomy, reconstruction, chemotherapy and radiation—on her site, she also revealed her personal sources of inspiration: a hug from her husband; a movie in bed with her daughter. And soon, her blog provided some of her best silver linings, as her “amazing readers” shared their own stories—and urged her to write a book.
The result? A place on the New York Times Best Sellers list and on O, The Oprah Magazine’s “10 titles to pick up now” for The Silver Lining: A Supportive and Insightful Guide to Breast Cancer (Simon & Schuster). Appearances on Good Morning America, the CBS Morning Show and Dr. Phil. And more blog, Twitter and Facebook followers than she ever dreamed of.
“This has been an unexpected and truly wonderful silver lining of my breast cancer experience,” notes Hollye, who is now in remission. “Is there anything better in the world than being able to give back? I don’t think so!” Here, a few of the insights she wants you to take advantage of.
Tap all the experts on your team. “I always say, ‘It takes a village to help you through cancer.’ Engage all the people on your clinical team. Your doctors, nurse practitioners, oncology nurses, social workers, chaplains, volunteers, cancer rehab specialists—anyone who can help you.”
Carry others’ love and support with you. “During treatment, I often wore scarves and a beautiful bracelet from my mother-in-law. Reading books and watching movies that friends gave me made me feel connected to and loved by them.”
Carpe diem. “The philosophy that is guiding my post-breast cancer life is: carpe diem—seize each and every day. This phrase is so not a cliché with me!”
Photo By Elizabeth Messina