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The Silver Lining: A Supportive and Insightful Guide to Breast Cancer

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A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

As a healthy, happy thirty-nine-year-old mother with no family history of breast cancer, being diagnosed with the disease rocked Hollye Jacobs’s world. Having worked as a nurse, social worker, and child development specialist for fifteen years, she suddenly found herself in the position of moving into the hospital bed. She was trained as a clinician to heal. In her role as patient, the healing process became ...

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The Silver Lining: A Supportive and Insightful Guide to Breast Cancer

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Overview

A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

As a healthy, happy thirty-nine-year-old mother with no family history of breast cancer, being diagnosed with the disease rocked Hollye Jacobs’s world. Having worked as a nurse, social worker, and child development specialist for fifteen years, she suddenly found herself in the position of moving into the hospital bed. She was trained as a clinician to heal. In her role as patient, the healing process became personal.

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. In the first section of each chapter, she describes with humor and wisdom her personal experience and gives details about her diagnosis, treatment, side effects, and recovery.

The second section of each chapter is told from Hollye’s point of view as a medical expert. In addition to providing a glossary of important terms and resources, she addresses the physical and emotional aspects of treatment, highlights what patients can expect, and provides action steps, including:

What to do when facing a diagnosis
How to find the best and most supportive medical team
What questions to ask
What to expect at medical tests
How to talk with and support children
How to relieve or avoid side effects
How to be a supportive friend or family member
How to find Silver Linings

Looking for and finding Silver Linings buoyed Hollye from the time of her diagnosis throughout her double mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation, and recovery. They gave her the balance and perspective to get her through the worst days, and they compose the soul of the book.

The Silver Lining of Hollye’s illness is that she can now use the knowledge gleaned from her experience to try to make it better for those who have to follow her down this difficult path. This is why she is sharing her story. Hollye is the experienced girlfriend who wants to help shed some light in the darkness, provide guidance through the confusion, and hold your hand every step of the way.

At once comforting and instructive, realistic and inspiring, The Silver Lining is a visually beautiful, poignant must-read for everyone who has been touched by cancer.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
01/06/2014
In her pragmatic and empathetic first book—a hybrid memoir and professional guide—Jacobs, a palliative care/hospice nurse and social worker, offers an unabashedly candid account of her experience with breast cancer. Speaking as both patient and experienced healthcare professional, Jacobs, at the time of her diagnosis a “vegan-eating, marathon-running 39-year-old with no family history” of the disease, covers every aspect of diagnosis, treatment, and care, with a spiritually and emotionally uplifting viewpoint that allows her to see the “Silver Linings” in even the most difficult situations. Each chapter—beautifully illustrated with images by Messina—focuses on a particular point in the breast cancer journey and discusses how to handle challenges with a clear head, including: diagnosis; relaying the news to children (toddlers to teens to adults), family members, and other loved ones; surgery; chemotherapy; the isolating nature of the disease; radiation; nutritional and other therapies to ease treatment; discovering the new normal; and redefining your life post-treatment. Every section provides invaluable tips, such as questions to ask your treatment team, what to expect during diagnosis and treatment, and red flags to watch for. If you or someone you know has battled breast cancer, this book will serve as a lifeline for navigating this potentially devastating disease. Full-color photos. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
2013-11-26
A two-year ordeal with breast cancer conveyed with frank prose and stunning photography. A Southern California–based palliative care nurse, Jacobs' blog, The Silver Pen, evolved into an online diary immortalizing her thoughts and feelings after a grim diagnosis in 2010. Originally begun as a way to avoid personal interaction yet still update concerned friends, the blog went viral. It also reiterated the hard truth that cancer is an equal-opportunity affliction, since the author considered herself a "healthy, happy, vegan-eating, marathon-running thirty-nine-year-old with no family history of breast cancer." As a caregiver and social worker, Jacobs unexpectedly found herself "on the opposite side of the bed," and her candid chronicle doesn't spare or sugarcoat the details about how blindsiding cancer proved to be, with numerous biopsies, surgeries, grueling chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and their attendant side effects. Jacobs' narrative voice is firm, gently authoritative, yet comfortably good-natured as she addresses the challenges of delivering the news to children, post-treatment reintroduction to everyday life, vital nutrition advice, and the unlimited virtues of having levelheaded, supportive friends and family throughout the process. Her compassionate guidebook--something Jacobs admits she longed for during her own treatment--provides perhaps the most important advice in sections called "Practical Matters," which address key clinical details about managing the entire patient experience. Award-winning photographer Messina beautifully captures the essence of Jacobs' journey, delivering mood and emotion through gorgeous imagery. Throughout it all, Jacobs remained resilient, buoyed by a holistic approach to wellness. This is a wise investment for women newly diagnosed with breast cancer or simply interested in how the process works. Unfailingly optimistic, Jacobs compassionately offers proof positive that even a terrifying, arduous disease like cancer can have a silver lining. A dignified, intensely personal journey of survival.
Susan Love
“Like a good friend, this book will be by your side as you travel through the world of breast cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.”
Dr. Susan Love
“Like a good friend, this book will be by your side as you travel through the world of breast cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.”
Nancy Brinker
“Hollye Jacobs combines inspiration with practical suggestions for women and men working through a breast cancer diagnosis. She gives breast cancer survivors the ability to put things in perspective, with spot-on advice about what to expect.”
James L. Madara
“Hollye probes the varied and granular issues surrounding breast cancer with thoughtfulness and sound advice while leavening the experience with humor. Elizabeth Messina’s collector-quality photographs… aid in capturing the essence of the journey…. [and] result in a remarkable tension: the allure of life simultaneously overlaid with the threat of disease, which is starkly, and beautifully, portrayed.”
Marisa Weiss
"This bold and resourceful woman's powerful account of her breast cancer experience offers important guidance, strong encouragement and real inspiration to any person challenged by this disease."
Otis W. Brawley
“This book provides true insight into the challenges involved in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. It is a lesson in survival. It is a testament to the courage, grace and dignity of one woman who truly defines the word 'survivor.'”
Mary Jane Massie
“Hollye Jacobs has provided us with an informative, supportive and uplifting account of her unusually arduous breast cancer treatment. From mouth sores to mood swings she extends us 'life lines,' her practical hints for adaptation. Through the dark clouds and dense fog of cancer treatment she both recalls and discovers beauty and hope and her "silver linings" are pithy expressions of wisdom and truth - maxims that help make the difficult doable.”
Kathy Freston
“This book is a little miracle, both for the body and the soul. If ever there was light in the face of the storm, this book is it. Read it and heal.”
Betty Ferrell
“It is a rare thing to find a resource that captures both the very real, lived experience of having breast cancer while also serving as an incredibly practical guide to understanding cancer and its treatment. The Silver Lining should be read by every professional who cares for those who face breast cancer as a reminder of the person and family surrounding the tumor. Hollye Jacobs' expertise as a nurse, social worker, and child development specialist is evident, as the book is richly infused with the wisdom of each of those professions. Even more important is that this book is clearly coming from a woman who has been there, heard the words, 'you have cancer,' and found the silver linings known only to a survivor.”
Judith A. Paice
The Silver Lining reflects the experience of a remarkable woman, undergoing what is sadly an all too common journey. The challenges faced are honestly, yet compassionately shared, often with humor and always with grace. The lifelines and wisdom remind readers that at the end of this expedition there is growth and hope. The breathtaking photos reinforce the beauty that can come from pain. This book is an extraordinary gift for all who have been touched by breast cancer.”
Library Journal
★ 12/01/2013
Palliative care nurse and social worker Jacobs often related bad news to patients and their families, but the shock of her own breast cancer diagnosis was still difficult to assimilate. In this offshoot of a blog she wrote with her husband, her path from lump discovery and diagnosis to double mastectomy and reconstruction to chemotherapy and radiation is accessibly detailed and cleverly communicated. Jacobs reveals the worst (constipation, diarrhea, and vomiting during chemo) while allowing for the best (a silver lining) at every turn. Boxed "Lifelines" simplify basic actions to take, while "Practical Matters" sections list terminology, therapies, questions to ask, and strategies to follow. The photos by Messina include a few expected bald heads and bare chests, but most are lovely evocations of life and all that we hold dear. Where this book distinguishes itself from other similar titles (e.g., Joyce Wadler's My Breast, Geralyn Lucas's Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy, Teresa J. Rhyne's The Dog Lived (and So Will I), and Melanie Young's Getting Things Off My Chest) is the author's emphasis on pain management throughout the process and the excellent early chapter on how to talk to children (of all ages) about a parent's illness. VERDICT With her humorous and approachable style, Jacobs has written an essential title for patients facing a cancer diagnosis. Highly recommended for all consumer health collections. [See Prepub Alert, 9/30/13.]—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781476743714
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • Publication date: 3/18/2014
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 94,137
  • Product dimensions: 7.30 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Hollye Jacobs, RN, MS, MSW, speaks publicly and writes about her experience on her award-winning blog, TheSilverPen.com. She is a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post, BreastCancer.org, Susan G. Komen, and the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation Army of Women Blog. She lives in Santa Barbara, California, with her family.

Elizabeth Messina was named one of the 10 Best Photographers in the World by American Photo 2010. She writes the award winning blog KisstheGroom.com and lives in Santa Barbara with her family.

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Read an Excerpt

The Silver Lining


  • As a happily married wife, mother, palliative care nurse, and social worker living in bucolic Santa Barbara, California, I was stunned by my breast cancer diagnosis (understatement of the century). I mean, really. I was a healthy, happy, vegan-eating, marathon-running thirty-nine-year-old with no family history of breast cancer.

As a bookworm, I first thought, “I need the perfect book to get me through this.” What I needed was a lifeline, a guide and point of reference, a source of encouragement that was simultaneously honest and informative, practical and supportive, beautiful and serious, realistic and uplifting. No such book existed. So, I decided to write the book that I desperately sought, but could not find, after my breast cancer diagnosis. This book is for you.

The story is fundamentally my journey of self-discovery through illness, finding Silver Linings in life, and celebrating grace and positive thinking from the time of my breast cancer diagnosis through treatment, recovery, and ultimately the celebration of life after breast cancer.

Why Silver Linings? you ask. Well, I’ve always been a “half-full” kind of girl. It’s easy to be half-full when life is good, when wondering what to make for dinner is the most pressing issue of the day. However, my half-fullness was first challenged in my professional life as a hospice nurse, caring for both dying adults and dying children, and then in my personal life when I became a cancer patient.

In my clinical practice as a hospice nurse, I vividly remember caring for a woman with breast cancer. She was in her late forties, with two young daughters. I remember playing on the floor of the living room of the hospital unit with the girls, feeling utterly helpless because I didn’t know what to say or do with them. After all, I was in my late twenties. I wasn’t yet a mother. And I hadn’t been trained in talking with children.

Yet, somehow this woman—this dying woman—put the staff at ease by talking about all of the positive things in her life, the things that brought her joy, such as watching her children play, the smell of food cooking (even if she couldn’t eat it), having a day without pain. She taught the staff—and, more important, her daughters—about resilience and finding Silver Linings and seeing the light—even a sliver—in the darkest circumstances.

Fast-forward to October 2010. When I heard the words “You have breast cancer,” my first thought—literally my first thought—was: “This could be so much worse. My form of cancer is treatable.”

As a nurse and social worker, I now found myself in the hospital bed. As a patient, I gained 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.

In fact, between my diagnosis and surgery, I felt lost and overwhelmed. I went through a period of internal struggle during which part of me was feeling like the lead character in Life of Pi: alone at sea with no clue where I was and a ginormous tiger in my boat.

Before I allowed myself to be eaten by this tiger I gave myself a Moonstruck “snap out of it” moment and reminded myself of the woman for whom I cared in hospice. I remembered feeling so inspired by her resilience—her ability to cope with stress and adversity—in the face of overwhelming odds, that from the moment of my diagnosis, I consciously chose to look for the positive, the Silver Linings.

Now here’s the thing about Silver Linings: unfortunately (!) they don’t take away the pain, nausea, mouth sores, or constipation that can come with a cancer diagnosis and treatment, but they do provide balance, perspective, and hope.

When you have cancer, Silver Linings come in small and big packages. From watching a hummingbird outside my bedroom window (because I was too sick to stand), to enduring a side effect–filled treatment, to being cancer free (after enduring the longest and most painful year of my life), I know that Silver Linings are always present. All one has to do is look for them.

I realized that I had two choices about how I was going to handle my diagnosis: from a place of fear or from a place of optimism. I chose—and it was indeed a very active choice for me—optimism in the form of finding Silver Linings. There were many days when finding Silver Linings was a really, really hard choice. On one or two occasions I even doubted whether it was possible to find them. However, I did, because Silver Linings are always there.

This book evolved from my blog, The Silver Pen. I started writing the blog shortly after my diagnosis to keep my family and friends apprised of what was going on with me during my treatment. Prior to my diagnosis, as a nurse and a social worker, I had written a few academic papers and a couple of book chapters, but I had never written about myself. Gulp.

The truth is that I started writing so that I wouldn’t have to talk with people and field the same well-meaning and lovingly intended but—for a patient—unbearable question of “How are you?” over and over again. How many times could I say, “I feel horrendous”?

I was thinking of my family as well. I didn’t want them to be burdened with having to repeat stories over and over again. So if my husband wanted to get away from Cancerville (the name of our home for a year) and go out for the evening, when people asked how I was, he could say, “Read The Silver Pen. Hollye writes everyday.”

So, The Silver Pen became my personal experience with cancer, written through the lens of my professional experience. An unexpected Silver Lining was that in a fairly short period of time, the blog went viral. What started as a way to communicate with family and friends became a source of information and—so I’m told—inspiration that gives a descriptive voice to the breast cancer experience.

This book, with its balance of substance, beauty, humor, and hope, artfully provides the opportunity to see the breast cancer experience from both sides of the bed, from the perspective of an experienced nurse and that of a close friend. Though I can’t prepare you for everything that you may (or may not) experience during your treatment, what I can do is hold your hand and guide you through the process.

The photographic collaboration with Elizabeth was an unanticipated Silver Lining of my illness that began, as many wonderful things do, over a laugh and a cry. Shortly after my surgery, in a gesture of friendship, Elizabeth offered to photograph me. Her vision—literally and figuratively—was one of the brightest and most insightful lights in this dark period. When I looked in the mirror, the reflection that I saw was of the ravages of cancer. Elizabeth’s gift of love, through her imagery, was to show my true reflection. She enabled me to see that I was still Me, full of light, love, and joy. I hope that this book, told through words and photography, will inspire, inform, and support you throughout your journey.

—Hollye Jacobs

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2014

    Buy this book if you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, it

    Buy this book if you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, it will give you a wealth of information, advice, tips and empathy and you will be better prepared for the journey ahead.
    Buy this book if you know someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.  It will help you understand the disease and treatments, and better prepare you to be a strong supporter.
    When a dear friend was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, I felt helpless, inadequate and very lacking in knowledge about this frightening disease. I trawled the Internet and bookstores for information, for both myself and toy share with my friend. The books I found either offered clinical advice in what amounted to little better than boring text book format, or were overly religious and spiritual in nature. I was never so thankful for a dentist's office visit, than a week ago, when I picked up a magazine in the waiting room and read a review for The Silver Lining. I immediately went to Barnes and purchased two copies. One for me and one for my friend.
    Who better to write a book on coping with breast cancer than a hospice nurse who has battled the disease herself.  Her practical advice, personal observations, thorough information and obvious empathy ensure that this book will undoubtedly become a must-read on coping with breast cancer. You don't have to read this book from cover to cover, although you will. You can dip in and out as Hollye's words and Elizabeth's beautiful photographs comfort, educate and give you courage for the journey ahead.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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