Finding the Silver Linings

Feb 6, 2017, 11:34 AM by Cancer Center
Hollye Jacobs with Drs Ransohoff and Kass
Three and a half years ago, Santa Barbara resident Hollye Jacobs could not have imagined her life as it is today. The active mother has 55,000 Twitter followers and provides insights and inspiration to tens of thousands of readers of her award winning blog: Her quest to uncover the silver linings in her own life has led her on a journey that includes the March 2014 release of The Silver Lining: A Supportive and Insightful Guide to Breast Cancer by the Atria division of publisher Simon and Schuster.

Last spring, Hollye shared her story with a large group of local supporters at the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara with Sansum Clinic Gala. She used these words to describe how her journey began.

As a healthy, happy, vegan-eating, marathon running, 39 year-old mother…with no family history of breast cancer, being diagnosed with the disease in 2010 ROCKED MY WORLD. In an instant, as a nurse and social worker, I now found myself on the other side of the bed.

At the time of my diagnosis we were new to Santa Barbara, having moved here from Chicago only three months prior. Now, I was thrilled to be living in Santa Barbara, but after having worked at multiple academic healthcare institutions I wondered whether it was possible to get the same world-class care that I knew was readily available in Chicago. So, as a discerning clinician myself, I went into my medical network to get additional opinions and explore other treatment options. My search led me right back home to the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara.

The care at the Cancer Center is delivered cohesively and effectively by every member of the team, including physicians, nurses, social workers, dietitians and complementary therapists with the ultimate goal of meeting the needs of patients and their families. 

Becoming a patient gave me a whole new and unexpected consciousness and sensitivity to the physical and emotional turbulence that patients endure. I realized that I had two choices about how I was going to handle my diagnosis: from a place of fear or a place of optimism.

I chose – and it was indeed a very active choice for me – optimism in the form of finding Silver Linings

In her blog Hollye expertly balances the requisite wit and humor of a mother and wife with the insight of a social worker and medical clinician as she chronicles her diagnosis at Sansum Clinic and her care at the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara. Her writing is peppered with pet names and precious family moments as she colors her world with life’s silver linings which often include forays into style and photos of the sun rising over Butterfly Beach or the sweeping vistas that inspire her as she hikes along San Ysidro Trail.

My #1 coping mechanism was being able to find Silver Linings throughout my cancer experience. When you have cancer, Silver Linings come in small and in big packages, from watching a hummingbird outside my window (because I was too sick to stand) to being cancer-free after enduring the longest and most difficult year of my life. Even though Silver Linings don’t take away the pain, nausea and even constipation that can come with cancer treatment, Silver Linings provide the balance and perspective to help get you through the darkest days.

As for what inspired her to write a book, Hollye says:

The Silver Lining is the book that I wish that I had and that my family and friends had when I was going through my treatment and recovery. I wanted a book that was practical, relatable, honest, and credible. The Silver Lining is that book. It is an informative, therapeutic and supportive resource that demystifies the experience of breast cancer through words and photography. This book, written with my dear friend and award-winning photographer Elizabeth Messina is a lifeline, guide and source of hope for all impacted by breast cancer.

Much of her work is focused on helping families cope with a cancer diagnosis. Hollye volunteers at the Cancer Center in a program called “Helping Children Cope when a Parent has Cancer.” She describes the importance of these programs:

Including children in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer is imperative. Children deserve to know what is happening in a family. Silence is not golden. Honesty is the best and only way to establish and maintain a bond of trust. Discussing illness candidly and openly, in developmentally appropriate ways, will teach children that parents are trustworthy and that honesty is a family priority.

What children need most in this life is to know what is true and the wisdom and guidance to help make sense of their circumstances. When children are excluded, their imagination has the capacity to create things that are far worse than the reality.

The Silver Lining is that children and families are not alone. The family programs at the Cancer Center provide parents with the tools to be able to talk with and help their children cope with a cancer diagnosis in a family.

Most importantly, Hollye provides encouragement to others to seek out the silver linings in their own life. Grateful readers respond with comments like, “I wish that she had been around when I needed some guidance.” For Hollye, these sentiments are the most meaningful and unexpected silver lining of all.

The Silver Lining

The Silver Lining: A Supportive & Insightful Guide To Breast Cancer
by Hollye Jacobs, RN, MS, MSW
Photographs by Elizabeth Messina

Published by Simon & Schuster, March 2014

Exquisitely illustrated with full-color photographs by Hollye’s close friend, award-winning photographer Elizabeth Messina, The Silver Lining is both Hollye’s memoir and a practical, supportive resource for anyone whose life has been touched by breast cancer.