Finding Silver Linings when Facing a Breast Cancer Diagnosis

By Hollye JacobsVoices From The FieldLeave a Comment

Jacobs blog 4-25-16

At Medline, breast cancer awareness is a commitment that is close to our hearts. To date, we have donated $1.7M to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. These donations have helped 670,000 women get access to screening, diagnostic and clinical procedures, including free mammograms. A portion of the donation also goes directly toward breast cancer research.

But our commitment goes even deeper. We’re committed to the caregivers, friends and patients who are the face of breast cancer awareness in our communities.

On April 4, nurse, author and breast cancer survivor Hollye Jacobs shared her inspiring story at Medline’s 11th Annual Breast Cancer Awareness Breakfast. During this breakfast, held in conjunction with AORN’s Surgical Conference & Expo in Anaheim, Calif., Hollye shared her story with over 800 nurses from 45 states who gathered that morning in solidarity of those who battle this disease. Continue reading below for some of Hollye’s story and the beautiful lessons that came out of her battle.


In October 2010, I learned firsthand how life changes in the blink of an eye. My peaceful life was interrupted when I felt a stabbing pain in my right breast and within days was diagnosed with breast cancer.

As a healthy, happy, vegan eating, marathon-running 39 year-old-mother with absolutely no family history of breast cancer, this diagnosis shattered my world.

In an instant, as a nurse and social worker, I now found myself on the opposite side of the bed. Becoming a patient gave me a whole new and unexpected conscious sensitivity to the physical and emotional aspects of being a patient, from becoming a human pincushion to contending with the common feelings of sadness, fear and anxiety.

After my diagnosis, I felt lost and overwhelmed. I went through a period of internal struggle, and had no idea which way to turn or how to proceed. In the face of those feelings, I gave myself a Moonstruck “snap out of it” moment and reminded myself that as a clinician-turned-patient, there was probably no one more qualified to handle my situation.

So, I put my professional hat on and asked myself, “How would I handle this situation if I were counseling a patient?” And, more personally, “What would I say to a newly diagnosed friend?”

  • First: Breathe. Sounds easy, I know, but after you hear the words, “You have cancer,” breathing takes a whole lot of work.
  • Second: Though the diagnosis feels like an emergency, it’s not. You have time to understand the meaning and process the emotions of your diagnosis.
  • Third: Learn everything you can about your diagnosis and treatment options. Become fully engaged in the development (and revision) of your plan of care.
  • Fourth: Build a team of caregivers and advisors, both personal (friends) as well as professional (healthcare providers). You know that phrase, “It takes a village”? Well, it definitely takes a village to get through breast cancer, or any kind of cancer, for that matter.

I realized that I had two choices about how I was going to handle my diagnosis: with fear or optimism. I chose— and it was indeed a very active choice for me— optimism in the form of Silver Linings.

I have always been a half-full kind of girl. When I was diagnosed, my first thought was, “This could have been so much worse. My form of cancer is treatable.” It was at this moment—literally from the time of my diagnosis—that I became conscious of the need for optimism and began looking for (and finding!) Silver Linings.

Here’s the thing about Silver Linings: They don’t take away the physical and emotional pain that can come with a cancer diagnosis, but they do provide balance and perspective. Pain and sadness are important and valuable feelings that need to be processed during and after any rotten experience.

Silver Linings don’t stop the rain. Rather, they provide an umbrella.

Finding Silver Linings is a choice. Sometimes it is a really (really!) hard choice. When you have cancer, Silver Linings come in little and big packages. From watching a hummingbird outside of my bedroom window (because I was too sick to stand) to being cancer free (after enduring the longest and most painful year of my life), Silver Linings are present. All you have to do is look for them.

The only way I know how to make sense of my cancer diagnosis is to try to make it better for those who have to follow me down this difficult path, just as those who suffered before me made my treatment more bearable and more effective. This is why I wrote The Silver Lining: A Supportive & Insightful Guide to Breast Cancer, and why I continue to blog on and speak publicly. I share my story to help other people find Silver Linings in their lives.Capture

What I know for sure is that pain is pain. We are all recovering from something and we can all find Silver Linings.

What I have learned from my breast cancer experience is that inexplicable tragedy creates an opportunity to take righteous anger and sadness and turn it into a force for doing good. No, it’s not easy. I would never sugarcoat the fact that it is hard, really hard. But what I do know for sure is that dumfounding circumstances can be channeled into action that yields positive outcomes. This is the ultimate Silver Lining.


How do you find Silver Linings in the face of a difficult diagnosis? More than 200 of our Breast Cancer Awareness Breakfast attendees had stories to share about how breast cancer impacted their lives, either personally, professionally or through a loved one. Stand strong with them and share your story today on Facebook and Twitter with #MedlineBCA.



About the Author
Hollye Jacobs

Hollye Jacobs

Hollye Jacobs is a speaker, New York Times bestselling author, nurse, social worker, and child development specialist. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, she speaks publicly and writes about her experience on the award-winning The Silver Pen blog. The Silver Pen is an everyday source of inspiration and information for tens of thousands of readers because it is an honest guide to navigating the realities of breast cancer with a focus on health, balance, humor and above all, Silver Linings.

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