The Silver Pen Beginnings

The inspiration for the The Silver Pen (formerly known as is to document my physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and oftentimes hilarious journey through, with, over and around breast cancer.

To clarify:  breast cancer isn’t funny.  Not at all.  However, my journey?  Frequently guffaw inducing.

Another clarification: I prefer to call breast cancer FBC. The “F” stands prominently for the F-Bomb. I’ve dropped quite a few F-Bombs since the diagnosis so, without being overtly crude, just know that when you see an “F” in my writing, you can safely assume what it stands for.

I believe that breast cancer happens within the ecosystem of family, friends and community. Consequently, I decided to take the holistic approach and write about breast cancer with style, a sense of humor and Silver Linings.

It is important to me that you hear about this journey from my husband (from this point forward, he will be referred to as “The Husband”) and me directly, in our own words.

Throughout this blog, I candidly incorporate my personal and professional experiences as an Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera-wearing Pediatric and Adult Palliative Care Nurse and Social Worker with graduate degrees in Bioethics and Child Development.

Many people have asked how it all began. So, I’ll tell you the story….from the beginning.

On September 28th, I was awakened with shooting pain to my right breast.  I am a person can sleep standing up, with lights on and a live band playing. So, to be awakened is a rare occurrence. I immediately felt a lump. WTF?

I don’t consider myself to be an alarmist and promptly went back to sleep. On September the 30th, the exact same thing happened. WTF – again? Reminding myself that I am NOT an alarmist, I assumed that this lump was a direct result of drinking coffee….a new and unfortunate habit to which I succumbed as a result of total fatigue. Additionally, I assured myself that breast cancer doesn’t typically hurt. So, I wasn’t particularly worried.

I was happy (and a little relieved), however, to already have an appointment with a gynecologist in Santa Barbara for a full checkup the week later.

Fast forward to Monday, October 11th. I had full check-up and I do mean FULL, including blood work and all of the other unmentionable components of a gynecologic exam. I directed my doctor to the lump in my right breast…still prominently palpable.

My doctor asked when my last mammogram was. I told her that I am 39 ¾ and that I had not yet had one. Well, you would have thought that I had committed a mortal sin. “What? You should have had one at 37,” she said. I explained to her that I just moved from the Midwest where women typically don’t have mammograms until age 40. I thought I was actually AHEAD of schedule, as I am apt to be.

She said that the lump was probably nothing, but that she wanted me to have a mammogram and handheld ultrasound as soon as possible. ASAP? Well, I wondered, if she thinks it’s “nothing” then why am I rushing to get these tests?

I called the two places in Santa Barbara that do mammograms and ultrasounds. The first appointment availability was mid-to-end of November at each location. However, one of the two said, “if you come as a walk-in (promptly at 8:30 on Thursday), it is very likely that you will be the first seen.” Okey-dokey. I’ll be there.

The Husband was heading out of town on Wednesday for 5 days with a group of dear friends to Israel. This couples-trip had been planned nearly a year in advance. At the onset of the planning, I knew that I was not supposed to be on this trip. Why? I had no clue. Though I knew it would be an absolutely incredible, over-the-top trip, I just knew that I was not supposed to go. Because it was important to him, I supported his participation 110% (even though I had an inkling that he, too, was not supposed to go). I tell you this because I am a big advocate of intuition. When your inner voice talks, LISTEN.

Before he left, he said, “If you need a biopsy, wait until I get back.” Really? More of this alarmist talk…

On Thursday morning, I drove myself to my tests. Having someone come with me was not even in the realm of thinking. On my way there (at 8:15 am, by the way!), my gynecologist called to ask me when I was going for the mammogram and ultrasound. I told her to relax, that I was on my way there now.Geez.

Well, the mammogram went brilliantly. The tech was kind, gentle and apologetic for smooshing my breasts into the vice-like machine. Much unlike the horror stories I’ve heard from friends.

I asked if I could take a look at the images when she was done and it looked nice and fibrous. I was confident that in no time, I would be told to stop drinking coffee.

Next up: handheld ultrasound. I was taken into a nice, quiet, dark room and given a warm blanket, which had NAP written all over it. Unfortunately, the technician was chatty, chatty, chatty. She was so nice, though, that I couldn’t be grumpy with her. Then, she stopped talking. Silence.  This, I knew, was not a good sign. However, I took it as an opportunity to catch a little shut-eye. When she finished, she asked me to stay in the room because she wanted to ask the radiologist if he wanted a few more images. No problem. She promptly returned 5 minutes later to squirt more gel on my breasts and take more images.

After she finished, she asked me to put my clothes on and wait in the waiting room. I asked her when I would get the results. She told me that the radiologist would see me before I left. Another bad sign. I wondered why the radiologist needed to tell me in person to stop drinking coffee. Seemed a little dramatic since I was only drinking one cup a day at most.

When I was finally called into the radiologist’s office, my images (a lot of them!) were on 4 large monitors before me. He said, “I understand you are a nurse.” Yes, I said. “Then, I assume that I can talk with you more directly and clinically than I would someone else.” Sure, I said (though, I wondered if there was a clinical way to tell me to stop drinking coffee).

I felt as if I was about to be in a car crash, where everything happens before you know it, but it feels like slow motion. “You have 4 lesions in your right breast and 3 in your left. We need to do a biopsy today and an MRI as soon as possible. Here are the images. You can see right here…” WTF? WTF? WTF?

I said, Hold on…let me get my journal out so that I can take notes. I have always prided myself on being a good student, a diligent note taker. As I reached for my Moleskin, I noticed that my hands were shaking.

So, he proceeded to introduce me to my lesions (a/k/a tumors). How the F did they get there so fast? They are BIG, too. I just had a full check up from my internist this summer, including a breast exam, and nothing. Not an inkling of anything.

The radiologist then asked if I was available for a biopsy that afternoon (by now the morning has evaporated and I’ve already had to rearrange preschool pickup). I told him that he just needed to name the time. 3:00. OK, 3:00 it was. He told me that I should probably bring a friend with me. Really? You think?

In the meantime, my husband had just landed in Israel and was getting ready to go to dinner.

My first call was to one of my dearest friends in Chicago, who went through the exact same thing a year and a half ago. No kidding. We went to nursing school together. We think the exact same way. I was with her at her diagnosis appointment, during her surgery, at her last chemo treatment. After a few F-bombs, she said, “This really sucks, but at least we know how to do this.” Yes. We. Do.

After the revelation, my first question: what do I tell The Husband? He just landed-in ISRAEL-for goodness sake. Ironically, her husband was on a weekend-long fishing trip when she received her diagnosis. At the time of her diagnosis, we talked through “Do I tell him or do I let him enjoy what will probably be his last worry-free vacation for a long time?” She decided to wait to tell him when he got home on Sunday night after all, nothing would happen over the weekend. She said that she felt like this was the only wrong decision that she made throughout her treatment and that my husband needed to get is toukis on the plane and come home.

So, driving down the 101 Freeway (which happened to be a construction zone), I called The Husband. In Isarel.  Not the best idea for the delivery of the news. In fact, I’m so grateful that I didn’t crash my car into one of the barriers when I burst into tears. “I’m coming home” is all I remember him saying.

In the meantime, I had already sent an email to my internist to talk through the events of the day, which were now moving at lightening speed. I at least had the wherewithal to realize that I couldn’t see the forest from the trees and needed some level-headed clinical thinking.

My doctor called immediately – love him. His first response was, “Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Slow down. This is ridiculous. Things are moving way too fast. I’m sure this is nothing, but the first thing you need to do is an MRI. If you do a biopsy first, then, the MRI results can be skewed. You need an MRI and you need a Breast Surgeon overseeing everything.” I immediately breathed a sigh of relief. FINALLY. Someone who is NOT an alarmist. He said, “I’ll call you back in 5 minutes.”

He called back in 5 minutes just like he said he would – love that. He said, “Can you be downtown in 15 minutes to meet with a surgeon?” Absolutely.

Now that I finally had a voice of reason that echoed my own, for the second appointment of the day, it never occurred to me to take someone with me. Back on the 101 Freeway, I felt much more cool, calm and collected. After all, I was on my way to see a surgeon who would certainly tell me that this was just one big misunderstanding.

I arrived at the surgeon’s office and was promptly escorted into an exam room, where my morning mammogram and ultrasound images were already up on the screen. Impressive. The surgeon greeted me with a warm and calming smile….and firm handshake (wimpy handshakes are a sure way to raise doubt in me). I felt instantly comfortable with her. She asked if she could do a breast exam. After whipping off my shirt for the 3rd stranger of the day, I hopped up on the table. When she was finished, she said that she was “worried.” She agreed that both an MRI and biopsy were in order. She gave me two options: 1) I could keep my 3:00 appointment for a biopsy with the radiologist or 2) she would do the biopsy on the spot and then send me for an MRI. She assured me that if she did the biopsy, that there would be no problem in doing an MRI after. I trusted her surgeon’s hands and said: Let’s do this.

At this point, the poor, worry-wart Husband is now flying. No clue where in the world he was. All I knew was that he was unreachable and that I couldn’t wait until he got home to do the biopsy, as he had requested. I knew that he would understand.

After I called to cancel the appointment at the radiology center, the surgeon proceeded to tell me that she would do a fine needle aspiration (FNA) of one of the lesions that was palpable on exam. After, she would do a large core biopsy of the other, larger palpable lesion (the one that woke me up). The location of the lesions were described in terms of a clock, i.e., the smaller lesion requiring the FNA was at 1:00 and the big momma was at 9:00. I don’t think that am or pm really matter, in case you were wondering.

As a nurse, I was fascinated with the process of both doing and watching a biopsy, especially ON me. (For the record, I do acknowledge how strange and twisted that is to say.) I told her that I am a big advocate of pain management and to “go big” on the lidocaine. So, without pain, I watched as this skilled, gentle and thorough surgeon did biopsies on two of the lesions in my right breast. When she was finished, I asked her what she thought. She said, “I am very, very worried.” She was eager for me to do the MRI that afternoon and was able to squeeze me in.

Then, we had the conversation about a Closed MRI versus an Open MRI. I had the great misfortune of having a Closed MRI when I was pregnant (long story, but because I had migraines every day of my pregnancy-yes, everyday-my OB thought I had a brain tumor and stuck my migraine-laden head into a Closed MRI head to rule out a brain tumor. I later broke up with that OB, by the way.)

A Closed MRI, in case you don’t know, is a medical imaging technique used to visualize internal structures of the body, in this case, my breasts. It feels like being dropped into a deep and narrow well with people jack hammering about 2 inches from your face.  Seriously.

Closed MRI = Claustrophobia [1.

I tried my darndest to negotiate an Open MRI-essentially the same test but without the claustrophobia-to no avail. “We need the Closed MRI,” she said. Well, then, I’m going to need some serious drugs. “Valium OK?” she asked. Yes, Ma’am. NOW, it’s time to call a friend.

In the meantime, this amazing surgeon told me that she didn’t typically work on Fridays, but that she wanted to come in to discuss the preliminary test results (comprehensive pathology results take several days). I told her that as a Hospice and Palliative Care Nurse, I have been in her chair-delivering bad news-and want to know ahead of time what she was going to tell me. All she said was, “I’m very, very worried.” Enough said. F-Bomb.

So, I called a girlfriend and, in order to ask her to escort my valium-laden head to the MRI, I had to break the news. Now I was sounding like the alarmist, which I did not like one bit. I decided that I actually wasn’t being an alarmist at all. Rather, I was simply delivering factual, but alarming news.

She would meet me at my house in 20 and drive me straight to the exam. In the meantime, I stopped by the pharmacy to pick up the valium. Just having the valium helped me relax. (That first time in the Closed MRI was utterly traumatizing.) As soon as we got in the car, I took the pill. Being opiate naïve (i.e., I am not in the habit of taking drugs) combined with the fact that I forgot to eat that day (a shocking occurrence in and of itself!), the valium took effect almost immediately.

As we were driving to the exam, my surgeon (I now refer to her as “my”) called and asked, “Have you taken the valium yet?” Ohhhhhh, yesssssss. “Oh no,” she said, “The MRI machine just broke.” Toooooo baaaaaad. Then, she said, “It’s too bad because everything was going so well today.” Foooooor whoooom was it going well, dear surgeon? At least we both were able to laugh at that seriously laughable line.

So, MRI was scheduled for the next morning at 7:00 at a different location. Valium buzz still firmly in place. My girlfriend and I decided to just run some plain old errands. After all, not everyone’s world was rocked today and errands still needed to be run. It was actually gift of time for us to process the day.

I need to stop this story to tell you that throughout this process, I have been able to witness (with gratitude) so many Silver Linings (SL’s). So much good is coming out of so much bad. Seriously. It is important that I point these out to you because these Silver Linings are what are helping me maintain perspective and a positive attitude. From this point forward, I will simply refer to them as: SL’s.

Fast forward to 6:45 am Friday morning. Having taken the second valium, I am smooth sailing into this closed MRI. When I arrived, the woman at the desk said that they were going to have to wait to do the MRI because they didn’t have the official doctor’s order. Reaaaaaaaallly? I think that she saw that pathetic, devastated look on my face and said, “I know it’s coming. Let’s get you in, sweetie.” SL

Well, I am here to say that not only did I survive the MRI-I fell asleep in it! The technician had to wake me up. Awesome.

So, I came home to sleep off my valium buzz before my 11:30 doctor’s appointment (to which I have asked my girlfriend to come). At this point I have finally learned to NOT go to a doctor’s office without a friend! Well, my head had barely even hit the pillow and my surgeon’s office called to ask if I would come an hour earlier so “we can have more time to talk.” Another bad sign. Sure, I say, we will be there.

We arrived promptly at the newly-designated time of 10:30 and were escorted almost immediately to my surgeon’s office. Isn’t it wonderful when physicians are on time (SL)? My valium buzz was long-gone. I was ready-well, as ready as I could possibly be. I had my computer AND my journal to take notes. I asked my girlfriend to take notes in my journal while I typed on my computer so that I could accumulate as much information as possible.

Note: anytime you go to a doctor’s office for an important meeting, such as a diagnosis, it is always very important to take as detailed notes as possible. I know that there are statistics (though I can’t put my fingers on them right now, so please don’t quote me) that say that patients only hear a teeny-tiny fraction of what is said in these types of anxiety-filled meetings. The benefit of taking notes, in addition to accumulating valuable information, is that it slows the conversation and allows you to ask clarifying questions.

So there we were. Ready. My surgeon calmly and gently said exactly what I expected her to say, “As I suspected, you do have Breast Cancer.” F-bomb. Because I expected her to say this, at least it didn’t feel like a wrecking ball hitting me in the head-well, it actually still felt like a wrecking ball. What am I saying? I must admit that there was a little part of me that was hoping that someone would please tell me to just stop drinking F-ing coffee.

My surgeon told me that the large core biopsy at 9:00 is invasive ductal cancer associated with DCIS (ductal carcinoma in-situ). The FNA (Fine Needle Aspiration) biopsy at 1:00 shows high cellularity and cancer cells and is most likely also invasive ductal carcinoma (because the other lesion is). I asked about the left breast, the one with the three lesions. “Because they are so hard to reach,” she said, “we would need to do a MRI guided breast biopsy.” Fabulous.

She immediately started talking about the treatment plan: mastectomy immediately, chemotherapy for 3-4 months, and radiation for 6 weeks. Holy Moly. All that kept running through my head was: We. Know. How. To. Do. This.

On a side note, having delivered a whole lot of bad news and taught how to deliver bad news (after all, my professional background is hospice and palliative care), my surgeon did an incredible job. Stellar, in fact: SL.

So, this was Friday. The (exhausted and worried) Husband landed in LA about the time we finished our meeting. My girlfriend and I went out to lunch (yes, I had a gigantic glass of wine) to strategize. My big issue was: How to tell everyone? Calls? I started making a list of the people I needed to tell. The list became bigger and bigger: SL (to have so many loving people in my life).

I decided that I just didn’t have the capacity to call everyone on the list. First of all, I’m generally not too chatty on the phone. Secondly, I was exhausted and the thought of making a gazillion phone calls to retell the story was just too daunting. Then, I decided that I wanted everyone to hear the news directly from me, in my own words. Hence, sending a group email was the choice for me. While it wasn’t quite as personal as a phone call, everyone knew that it came directly from me and didn’t have to hear it from someone else. This was very important to me.

After lunch, I went home to wait for The Husband. While waiting for him, in an effort to make some sense of the news I was told, I went to The Susan G. Komen foundation was founded in 1982 by Nancy G. Brinker, Susan’s sister. It is an extraordinary website that has the perfect balance between sophistication and accessibility. I was definitely intellectualizing the situation.

After flying 30 of the previous 48 hours (with a good 8-10 hours spent in airport terminals), The Husband finally rolled into the driveway. I’ve never been happier to see anyone in my life. Well, I was pretty happy to meet my daughter when she was born, but that’s another story. Anyway, we were both pretty numb and exhausted. Quite frankly, I don’t remember much of the rest of the day. That’s what the stress of this FBC has done to me: wiped out my memory bank. This is the reason that I have a tendency to write (or type) everything.

I imagine that there were a few tears when I saw The Husband, but definitely no snot fest. We are both problem solvers and now we had a big, bad problem that needed a plan.

Not sure who has actually slogged through this first BrooksideBuzz blah-blah-blah, but if you have, thanks!

I am in an incredibly good place right now. I feel like I am exactly where I am supposed to be. No, I am not in denial and I don’t think I’m crazy. I feel like I am at an intangible height of emotional bring-it-on-ness.

Next step:  Making a PLAN.

‎Thank you for the reminder to focus on what matters most–finding silver lingings and learning to make sweet lemonade from a bowl of lemons. I am convinced that we all have formative hurdles in life. Our challenges are to make it through, over, around those obstacles holding on to love, kindness, and grace (and cursing like a truck driver when the need arises).

–Dana Jennings


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  1. says

    I love these writings, they have got me through some rough patches! I shared your "friend-ly reminders' on my facebook page and some of my survior friends really loved it! I am on my second round of chemo now, with 6 more to go. Not ONLY 6 more!
    f-n 6 more! Thanks again for sharing your journey!

    • says

      Dear Traci,
      Many thanks for your note. I'm so grateful. Truly. It means so much to me. All my best wishes to you. Please stay in touch! I hope that the f-n 6 go smoothly!

  2. says

    Reading your blog about your diagnosis and first thoughts and actions (including F-bombs) – could have been describing my diagnosis experience. So glad you are doing well. And you are so right about the importance of acknowledging the SLs ( I called them the Serendipities, but SL is shorter). Keep on writing, sister.

  3. Sandy says

    Thank you so much, Hollye, for your reply! My exam on breast ca's/disorders was last night and we don't have our results back yet. :o( My mammogram this past Monday went very well and I will be getting a report on it very soon. She said it looked great. Thank you so much for asking and for your kind words! Have a beautiful and blessed weekend!!! ;o)



  4. Sandy says

    Dearest Hollye~
    Thank you sooooo much for your intimacy and candor! I was directed to this website from our nursing instructor as an adjunct to our other study helps, as I, too, am a nurse and am presently furthering my education with graduation set for this June. Our exam that covers this terrible subject is scheduled for next week. I have many loved ones that have been "attacked" by this vile demon from the pit of hell, a couple of whom, unfortunately, did not win the battle. My family and I participate in the Susan G. Koman Race for the Cure here in Cols., OH, each year in their honor and in honor and support of all the survivors, including you now! My life story is too long to share here, but will tell you that I've experienced many trying times, yet with many more SL's to offset the negatives, thanks to Jesus Christ. I don't know about you, but as a student in the medical field, I am constantly tempted to think that I have just about EVERY disease process I've ever studied (except for those w/the s/s's of anorexia and weight loss!! LOL!)!! I've learned to recently temper that mindset for sanity's sake, and just continue w/my yearly screenings and physicals as we tell our patients to do. I have my yearly mammogram scheduled for next week and I'm hoping the results will be negative as they have been thus far. I must confess that I recently told my husband that my breasts have been very sore and tender lately and have had shooting pains in the right one in the recent past. I hope that it's r/t only to either my ovarian or menstral cycle. Other than the typical "nursing student syndrome" I, myself, am not an alarmist either and tend to bend towards positive thinking, yet still knowing that FBC is of no respector of persons. I wish you the very best as you continue on in your healing journey and the love you minister to those around you, both professionally as well as personally, as you have done in your writings and with your nursing care!! God's blessings on you and your husband/family, and hopefully, you can make it back over to Israel in the near future!! If not, there's always the Holy Lands Experience down in Orlando, FL that is a very close second to the real deal!! We were there last year and it is WONDERFUL!

    Most respectfully,


    • says

      Dear Sandy,
      THANK YOU for your kind and thoughtful note. It means so very much to me! How did your test go? Hope you Aced it!
      Thank you also for sharing…and for reading the blog. I'm deeply appreciative!
      Take good care…and THANK YOU for going into nursing!
      All my best,

  5. Julie Bourff says

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am a 70 year old grandmother that is going in for a "surgical biopsy" tomorrow. I am scared at the finding but reading your story & the other comments makes me a little less "frightned" as there can be a SL at the end. I don't know what to expect but because of my age am not sure what course I will take should it turn out to be the big "C". Again, thank you for sharing your story.

    • says

      Dear Julie,
      Thank you for your kind and thoughtful note. I am sending my very best wishes to you for your biopsy. Please stay in touch and let me know how it goes. Im happy to hear that The Silver Pen readers are helping you feel less frightened!
      Take good care,

  6. Fran Thibadeau Smith says

    Dear Hollye,

    After spending a great deal of time reading your blog and writing a few comments I feel as if I have made it "home" to a safe haven where I can share what is embedded deeply in my heart. I am not so open in most situations, due to the ever present presumptive attitudes of most of the populaton regarding a disease that has received so much attention in recent years. I grew to resent all of the "hoorah" advertisements, telling the world what a blessing it is to be a breast cancer survivor. I kept thinking what a crock — there is no blessing here, I am fighting for my very life and all I see are seas of Pink, with everyone sporting a smile on their face. I felt so sad. I wanted to talk about the real world of living with this often fatal disease that has stolen many dear friends from my life and taken some of the most beautiful women and robbed their families of wonderful and beautiful partners, mothers, and even children. Then I found the Silver Pen while wandering through many Breast Cancer discussion sites and breathed a huge sigh of relief that there were some real women, battling the same issues I was, and willing to open their minds and hearts in a comfortable setting. Wow, what a discovery I made that day, and I have been returning each day since, to encounter more and more honesty and gut-wrenching topics that have released the very core of many women. And as painful as this topic may be, I feel you have tapped into an audience of women ready and willing to share, and it appears they are as relieved as I to have found such a site. I wanted to thank you for having the courage and the commitment to the well-being of others to launch such a place where the focus is on the journey, and if there are issues very painful to share, this is the safe place which to express what is in our hearts honestly, and not fear the judgement of those who do not understand the painful path that we must travel. The Silver Pen helps to keep the reality in perspective, and keep a smile on my face and gratitude in my heart. I may not be prepared to discuss my feelings every day, but I know there are others who will fill in the spaces I am still terrified to explore. I am learning so much. That is my Silver Lining.

    A simple thank you seems so inadequate.

    Fran Thibadeau Smith

    • says

      Dear Fran,
      I can't thank you enough for your kind words and sharing. I couldn't agree more with you about the "hoorah" advertisements. FBC is indeed a crock! Welcome to The Silver Pen! I (and others!) are very glad you're here!
      All my very best to you!

  7. says

    Tired of reading typical fashion blogs {I think I have exhausted the list!} I decided to click on The Silver Pen from the Glitter Guide site…..and boy, am I glad I did! This is a tale of courage, bravery and strength….so inspirational and heartwarming. I think my palms were sweating about halfway through because I was so nervous to read what would happen next, but I am now filled with admiration for you and can't wait to read more of your fabulous writing…. What an inspiration you are Xx

    • says

      Wow, Kerrie. Thank you so much for your note. I can't begin to tell you how much it means to me. WELCOME to The Silver Pen! Thank you for reading!

  8. heather k says

    hi there!
    i just came across your blog from glitter guide, in which you look and sound absolutely fabulous. i have been browsing your blog, and just read your story, and can i just say that i love how you are so real. real enough to say that f-bombs were thrown and valium was taken. i think i hear a lot of stories where i wonder, where is the real stuff. where is the stuff where it took to get to the happy ending. i think that stuff is very real, and that is the stuff people need to hear as much as the happy ending. i am so happy to hear you are doing well! and your personality shines as much as your envious closet. cheers to big glasses of wine and to having silver linings and being able to say, "Hey! this is a SL!"

    • says

      Hi Heather!
      Thanks so much for your kind and thoughtful note. It means so very much to me. Truly! I agree that the "getting through" is as important, if not more so, than the happy ending. Thank you, again!

  9. sue coghill says

    Hi Ive just found a hot red lump on my r aerola. Im a nurse too. US tomorrow. Blah!! NO family history. All good boobs and long lifers in my gene tree. If it is so I just hope I dont succumb to self pity and constant reflection I couldnt stand it. Thanks for writing your story. I hope you are going well and life is fabulous again for you. Cheers Sue.

    • says

      Ohhhhh, Sue. Grrr. I am so hopeful that you will continue to be among the good boobs and long lifers in your gene tree! Please let me know how your ultrasound goes! I'm thinking about you today! Best, Hollye

  10. Lois says

    I've worked in the field too… dx 2002, NED since surgery… I was older (51)… first mammo at around 38, second one at 50 (just in time). Our experiences with it have been very different. Lots of bc in my family on both sides. None who did chemo until me, none who recurred, one who died in the 1950's because of late diagnosis. I have never, not once, been concerned about the cancer itself, but am chemophobic, and more so not less, 10 years after completing CAFx6 back in the days when there was only ondansetron and laxatives and hours of projectile vomiting. I received the news by telephone and chose not to tell my husband, as we were going on our first vacation in a year to the Grand Canyon and it wouldn't change anything. It was the right decision for me. We stopped at a bookstore and I bought books on bc, including Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book, as well as Questioning Chemotherapy. My husband was very supportive. Only 2 surgeons to chose from here. Chose the wrong one. I'd had mammo and ultrasound at the hospital and then she did another at her office and said "it is fine, I'll compare the U/S at the office with the one at the hospital". Never got back to me, but I was scheduled for another 3 months later so I had it and then she did another at her office and said, "it is fine, I'll compare this U/S with the one at the hospital". Never got back to me. I ordered my own third one, and at the end of it the rads doc saw me… I've worked with these docs, and he was truly furious but very professional. That was the very first time I was told that my other two prior U/S's had BOTH been BI-RADS 4's, just like this one, all 3 months apart…. tumor started out 0.6 cm, now over 1 cm… (the surgeon had been busy vacationing in Europe).

    I'm doing fine other than still needing counseling. I had my surgery by another surgeon at a major cancer center. Last year when I sought counseling there as a long-term survivor, I learned that because the trauma for the newly diagnosed and for those with mets is so great, counseling is unavailable to those who are more than 2 years out from treatment.

    I too have found silver linings along the way, and make the most of them. I'm glad to be NED.

    Thanks for sharing,


    • says

      Dear Lois,
      Thanks so very much for sharing your story. Gosh. I'm so sorry that the physician interaction was so challenging. Actually, challenging is an understatement! I'm also so sorry to hear that counseling was/is unavailable. Grrrr. It is such a valuable tool for a full recovery!
      I'm so happy, though, that you have indeed found Silver Linings and for making the most of them….and best of all that you are NED!
      Please take good care and stay in touch!
      All my best,

  11. Cyn says

    I, too, remember those words, "it's positive for invasive ductal carcinoma." And my silver lining was 2 very best friends that lived close enough to attend every appointment with me. I was also 39 at diagnosis. What a journey it has been and having just come across your blog the other day, I had to follow your story, too. You are inspiring!

    • says

      Thanks so much for your comment, Cyn. I really appreciate it!
      So, so glad to hear that you had (TWO!) Silver Lining(s) with you at every appointment. All my best wishes for continued good health. Thank you for reading!

  12. Joanna says

    I came upon your blog on FB. FBC is a distant memory for me. I'm as healthy as a middle aged horse. Reading your story brought it all back; the way time stops dead when you hear the words "Yes, its breast cancer" and how quickly life becomes so much like a surreal foreign film.
    i just got done crying a few moments ago and am now remembering how it was so easy to find the "beautiful" in my world once I was diagnosed. It's all coming back. I'm seeing the beautful again because of your words. Thanks

    • says

      Thanks so much for your note, Joanna. I love your line "a middle aged horse." Fabulous! Thank you for seeing the beautiful. I hope that you continue to do so. Please take good care!

  13. Erin Downs says


    You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers! Mrs. Austin, recently told me about your blog and I just finished your first entry. I will catch up on the rest but need to tell you now how inspiring this is! I have always adored and looked up to you. Thanks for sharing your story.

    Much Love & Prayers!

    Erin Downs

  14. Mary Kay deMaio says

    I am truly in awe of this story and your courage and willingness to share with others your
    journey. I am happy that you are in great hands not only in terms of doctors but family and all of your lovely friends.(SLs) all the warmth and outpouring of support is beautiful. I said this personally but again I will keep you
    And your loved ones in my prayers and thoughts.

  15. diane says

    What an incredible story, you write like a professional and I think many women and men would benefit from your front line account of your journey. I'm going through the whole blog site now, and really love how expressive you are and so full of insights.
    Love you

  16. Adrienne Carrere says

    As I told the husband yesterday at your home , I know of two groovy things ( I think ! ) that came out of St. Johns Hospital . Me and Haley ! Can't wait to see your two ! Love you " Guts and Stardust " A.

  17. Nan Jacobs says

    What a journey and thanks for sharing .Your strength, courage and humor are truly inspirational and you have my utmost admiration. You are my hero and let those f-bombs fly girl! Thinking of you……you're going to knock this out. Sending love and positive energy to all of you.

  18. Michele Cuttler says

    Thank you for sharing your journey. I echo many of the previous comments — you are a true inspiration, no other way to describe you! . I will see you on the trails before you know it! P.S. Here's another "SL" to add to your growing collection – I've scheduled my long overdue mammogram this week. xo

  19. Tiger says

    You are an amazingly, strong woman. I LOVED your blog….My F-Bombs are right there with you.
    Thinking of you- Love, Tiger

  20. Laura Furtek says

    Your willingness to share your very personal and painful experience is so generous and inspirational. I hope for your surgery and recovery to go smoothly, you are in the best of hands, and have an immense circle of love to help carry you through this journey. Your inner strength and zen-warrior self shine through your prose and description of your experience.
    I wish you many SL's in your war against the "C"(substitute any and all epithets into that "C").

  21. TnT Jacobs says

    Your rational, emotional, and creative self has produced a wonderful vehicle with this blog. Thank you for letting us into your new reality. Knowing this blog is over 100 years old, don't forget that we are aware of the impact that what you singularly are about to endure is going to effect the three of you. Our thoughts and prayers are there 24/7. And let me just say "BC, FU"!

  22. hope cohen says

    Wow, what a courageous way to face this repugnant disease. You are inspirational…sending lots of positive thoughts + energy from the East Coast. P.S. Your logo rocks!

  23. says

    Last nite I was at a City of Hope cancer event at Esquire house in LA when I got your email….started crying with Doobie Bros performing in background…my positive thoughts will be you over the next few weeks..sue

  24. Nini and Jeff Hilleb says

    I love the logo. You're in our prayers and we will make sure those doctors and nurses know to deliver on those SLs when you're in Santa Monica. Love Jeff

  25. Nini and Jeff Hilleb says

    You go girl! I knew that your Chicago buddy would be with you to take those "F-ers" out!
    LOVE your blog and sending you many SLs… NINI