For long-time readers, I hope that you will indulge me as I write about the Silver Lining philosophy after my diagnosis of cancer, specifically f-bomb breast cancer. You see, this summer has brought a whole new audience to The Silver Pen, which is a Silver Lining in and of itself! So, I thought that I’d take this opportunity to give you a little bit of a background on the blog.
In September of 2010 (I can’t even begin to believe that I’m coming up on my 3rd Cancerversary), I was awakened in the middle of the night with stabbing pains to my right breast.
I thought, “Hmmm, that’s weird, but probably nothing.” Three more times that week, the same thing happened. As a nurse, I assured myself that breast cancer doesn’t typically hurt and that the pain in my breast was simply from the dense tissue resulting from drinking too much caffeine. But, I decided to have it checked out…just to be sure.
My gynecologist assured me that it was “probably nothing” and referred me for a mammogram and ultrasound…also just to be sure.
My mammogram and ultrasound appointments went well, until they didn’t. I knew that there was an issue when I was told that the radiologist wanted to see me before leaving.
When I walked into his office I saw my breasts on four large computer monitors. I thought, “This isn’t good.”
“You’re a nurse, right?” the radiologist asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Well, that means that I can talk with you more frankly than I could other people, right?” the radiologist asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“You have 4 tumors in your right breast and 3 in your left. We need to do a biopsy immediately for what I highly suspect to be breast cancer.”
I found myself feeling like a deer in headlights.
As a nurse, I know that patients forget virtually everything that comes after hearing the dreaded words, “you have a tumor.” So instinctively I knew that I would forget what I would hear and needed to write everything down.
So, I said, “Hold on, let me get my journal so that I can write down what you are saying.” When I looked down, I saw that my hands were trembling.
In an instant, my world stopped.
Here I was a healthy, happy, vegan-eating, marathon running 39 year-old mother with absolutely no family history of breast cancer. This diagnosis literally rocked my world.
As a nurse and social worker, I now found myself in a very unique position, moving to the opposite side of the bed.
From the time of my diagnosis, 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 Silver Linings. So, throughout the blog, you will see me refer to Silver Linings.
Treatment was pretty horrendous for me (understatement of the decade!). Despite my difficulties, what kept me going was the ability to look for and find Silver Linings. Now here’s the thing about Silver Linings, unfortunately, they don’t take away fatigue, hot flashes, nausea or constipation but they do provide balance and perspective.
After telling my friends and family about my diagnosis, during the time before beginning treatments, I started writing. Prior to this experience I had written a few academic papers and a couple of book chapters, but I had never written about myself.
I started my blog, The Silver Pen, as a way to keep people apprised of what was happening to me during treatment. 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 and go out for the evening, when people asked how I was, he could (and did!) say, “Read the blog.”
The Silver Pen then 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.
As many of you know, I write about a myriad of things, from cancer to healthy recipes to travel to books, partly because who in their right mind wants to write (or read) about cancer everyday? I mean, really.
So, please allow me to thank the readers who have been with me for the past 2 1/2 years and welcome new readers.
* This beautiful photograph was taken by my dear friend and photographer extraordinaire, Elizabeth Messina.