Hollye Jacobs and FinleyAs a healthy, happy, vegan eating, marathon running, 39 year-old mother, nurse and social worker with no family history of breast cancer, being diagnosed with the disease in October of 2010 rocked my world. In response to my diagnosis, I started a blog called TheSilverPen.com where I write about finding Silver Linings during my experience from the perspective of both a patient and a clinician.

When it came to caring for my daughter – who was 4 ¾ at the time of my diagnosis – initially I felt lost and overwhelmed. As much as I wish this experience had only happened to me and that I could have shielded my family from the pain, the reality is that cancer does not happen in isolation. Cancer happens within the ecosystem of family, friends and community.

The Silver Lining was that my clinical experience as a pediatric nurse combined with my masters’ degrees in child development and social work prepared me to help my young daughter through my diagnosis, treatment and recovery.

Informed by my clinical and personal experiences, I firmly believe that including children in the disease trajectory, from the time of diagnosis, though emotionally burdensome and painful, is ultimately the greatest gift that parents can give them.

The Silver Lining is that now that I am in this period that I refer to as After. I am now focused on prevention and giving back. I want my daughter to live in a world in which breast cancer is a distant memory. We talk about things that we can do to contribute to cancer prevention, everything from eating healthily and exercising to contributing to research initiatives, either literally or financially.

Signing up to be a member of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation’s Love/Avon Army of Women is one way that I am giving back. The goal of the Army of Women is to recruit one million women of all ages and ethnicities, including breast cancer survivors and those who have never had breast cancer to participate in groundbreaking research studies aimed at determining the causes of breast cancer – and how to prevent it once and for ALL.

One of the things that I remember so vividly from my work in academic medical centers (where research is happening in virtually every office and the topic of many if not most meetings!) is that the recruitment of participants is very challenging. Most people don’t realize this. The Silver Lining is that The Army of Women is bridging this gap AND challenging the scientific community to expand its current focus to include breast cancer prevention research conducted on healthy women.

Please join me in supporting the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation by inviting five of your friends to learn more about the Army of Women and to sign up today.  And if you can, consider making a donation as well in honor of your mother, your sister, your daughter and the 813 women diagnosed with breast cancer every day.

Motherhood is the most spectacular Silver Lining in the world. Thanks to my daughter, each and every day, I am reminded of the beauty of life and the precious gift that is motherhood. As an Army of Women volunteer, I know that I am helping to create a world in which breast cancer no longer exists.

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2 Responses to Finding the Silver Linings

  1. Deborah Goessling says:

    Thank you for your blog post! I’m a 54-year-old breast cancer survivor. I was diagnosed in September of 2009 with early-stage BC. I had a double mastectomy. (It was prophylactic on one side, but I wanted my healthy breast removed because the cancer on the other side was described as “sneaky” and “hard to detect” — visible only on MRI — a thickening instead of a mass — and I didn’t want to risk missing it if it developed on the other side.) I’m just writing to thank you for your post, because I used to think maybe I wouldn’t have gotten cancer if I had been 1) a vegan (vs. a low-fat-dairy vegetarian “goes vegan” off and on) and 2) a marathoner (vs. someone who only runs a mile or two per day with her dog). I imagined that if I had been a “better” eater and runner, I wouldn’t have gotten this! I need to be reminded that cancer strikes in a mysterious way that’s unfair and not anyone’s fault. I don’t need to beat myself up. However, having said that, I do admire your good health habits. You inspire me to want to do better. Take care.

  2. What a beautiful blog and photo. I too am a breast cancer survivor….I was the child affected. It was 1963 and I was 13 yr old. My mother was ‘having her breast cut off’ the same week I began my period. I was terrified at what ‘ebing a woman’ meant. I was afraid for my mother and for me and for my Dad and sister too. Eight years later – after a long struggle – when I was 21 – my mother died of bone cancer. The experience shaped me. I am now 63 yr old and in the long-after. I am fortunate in that I have regular thermograms and have been told my breast tissue is very healthy. I have concern about my daughters as they never knew my mother and they are both in their thirties. I live in the UK. Without the grit and my determination to open my own heart I would not be alive in the same way. I too am participating in the Army of Women and encourage women here in the UK to register. Mother’s Day in the UK is in March…so with this blog you give me a chance to be ‘home in America’ and think about my mother and us as women. I too am in the Army of Women…a very good idea.

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