Coming Out Party

This weekend I went to a fancy schmancy black-tie event in Chicago. The HOTY is especially cute in a tuxedo and I love wearing a long gown. Our daughter, a/k/a Sweetly Six, swoons over a long dress and is already planning to be a flower girl in one of her older brother’s weddings so that she, too, can wear a long dress. No pressure, boys.

I digress. At the party, a friend referred to my attendance as my “coming out” party (because I hadn’t seen most of these people since before my diagnosis).  I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this phrase. Prior to the party, I spent a lot more time than usual focusing on my personal appearance because subconsciously, I knew that it was indeed my coming out party.

Seeing people for the first time after having been sick is a unique experience. With their heads turned sideways, people ask, “How arrrrrrrrrre you?”  I consistently feel compelled to put their worries at ease and generally put on my biggest smile and say, “Great!” because the truth of the matter is that is what people want to hear. People don’t want to know that I’m totally wiped out and not really myself and that there are residual side effects to my year with FBC. People want to hear and believe that life is back to normal, as if nothing happened. I am not scratchy about it because I’m one of those people who would like to hear (& say!) the same thing.

I didn’t realize until I arrived at the event that being in a big group of people whom I hadn’t seen prior to my diagnosis was a very stressful and nerve-wracking burden to bear.

This weekend, I had the stark realization that I am now officially a part of a club for which no one applies and no one wants to be a member. What I know for sure is that one is forever changed after an expcerience with FBC.

What I also know for sure is that I am less comfortable grinning and gripping in crowds. I’m no longer a schmoozer (not that I was really a full schmoozer before, but I could definitely work a room).  Rather, I prefer being in small groups of people and having depth of conversation.

Additionally, as you all may remember, I no longer “should” on myself. For example, last night before dinner, people were mingling (read: schmoozing!) and I felt like sitting down. At my table. By myself. I was happy as a clam, actually, just sitting. What a Silver Lining feeling to eliminate any and all feelings of obligation.

Last night several people asked me how this FBC experience changed me. Though most people expect me to say that I eat differently and exercise more, that’s not the case (especially considering that before the diagnosies I was 85% vegan and exercised 6 days/week).

Rather, I am drawn toward depth. Depth of conversation. Depth of experience. Depth of relationships. Depth. This is quite a Silver Lining. And you all know that finding Silver Linings has been my true north during this period.

FBC is the disease that keeps on giving; however Silver Linings give more. Always.



Leave a comment


  1. Mary Lou says

    I am about a year and a half behind you in my journey and just now discovering this post. This describes exactly how I felt went I went to my first coming out party last spring and I too now have a hard time being in large groups.

  2. Ruth says

    I understand the idea of being in a club that most people aren't in and hope they never are in. My uncle, who lost his wife to BC, wrote me the sweetest letter after I was diagnosed. He welcomed me to the "club" although he wished he didn't have to. Their daughter was a preteen when my aunt was diagnosed, I also have a preteen daughter. He had some very caring advise.
    I have found an instant connection with others who have had BC as well. I am not as introverted as I once was, although I still do not like to be the center of attention. It has been amazing the wonderful people I have met through the last year.
    I have, also, had the unfortunate "privilege" to "welcome" two of my friends to the cancer club, they do not have BC but other cancers. I have been able to walk with them in a real way because I have "been there".
    I felt like my "coming out" was last Sunday when I went to church without my wig, it was just past 5 months since chemo ended. People gave me some really nice compliments. It was funny to get responses from people who didn't really realize that I had been wearing a wig since June. I think that has been one of the hardest things for me to deal with since all my treatments ended is the hair. I always had very long, thick hair and it has been difficult for me because it so very short. I am thankful for just having hair, and it is very curly and I have never had curly hair before. I just can't quite get used to the person I see in the mirror. My husband says that he thinks it is very cute.
    I have so enjoyed getting to know you through your blog. Thank you for reminding me to seek out silver linings in every thing I do.

  3. Kim C says

    It makes me smile to see you experiencing the gifts of the cancer journey. It has been my experience that it just keeps getting easier and easier and a lot more fun.

  4. Ashleigh says

    Hi Hollye,

    I just wanted to say how much I appreciate your words and that I relate to them so much. I found your site via goop and now look forward to your posts everyday. Your strength, endurance and positive attitude are such an inspiration. Thanks for sharing. As I move forward in 2012 it is my hope to find my own silver linings too. Perspective is everything. I am a mom who has lost 2 newborns in 3 years to unknown causes (non immune Hydrops was the main symptom, but no leads as to what has caused it) and each time I went to the hospital and came home empty handed, I had my own "coming out party" afterwards. Even going to the grocery store was a chore as people would ask about the baby and then congratulate me. Most of the time I would just smile and do the things I "should" do, but really I would be screaming inside. I know this isn't the same as FBC, but I just wanted you to know that your words speak to me. Thanks for the constant reminder that there are still good things in the world, we just have to have the right perspective that allows us to see them.

    Happy Monday,

    • says

      Thanks a million, Ashleigh. Your note means so very much to me. Having done pediatric hospice, I have some experience with what you have gone through. And it's so, so brutal. Nothing can put words to it. The "screaming inside" makes perfect sense and is utterly normal. Thank you so much for reading and sending all of my very best wishes to you! WArmly, Hollye

  5. Diane says

    Omg, that is EXACTLY how I feel. I'm always telling my friends that I'm not interested in attending a big party anymore. We didn't discuss that aspect of the "new" normal. But, it was a big SL that you went, looked gorgeous, and made the observation that will change how you socialize. (just guessing!)

  6. says

    A wonderful post, Hollye; and thank you for reminding us all of how precious our energy and time are and how gratifying, empowering even, it is to use them wisely and in ways that lift our spirits. And the only permission required is our own. P.S. Wish you would show us a photo of you from that night! xo