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Clarkson: Breast cancer book launch empowers Wellness House clients

Tuesday last week was both a typical day at Wellness House and a bit of a special one.

It was typical in that every day Wellness House offers — at no cost — a wide variety of programs to those who have cancer and to their loved ones, so the Wellness House is always busy. But last Tuesday it attracted a capacity crowd to hear Hollye Jacobs speak about her recently published New York Times best-selling book “The Silver Lining: A Supportive & Insightful Guide to Breast Cancer.” Jacobs wrote the book — partially a memoir about her breast cancer experience and partially practical advice she wishes she had had — while her good friend award-winning photographer Elizabeth Messina provided the photographs.

Before her breast cancer diagnosis in 2010, Jacobs described herself as a happy, healthy, vegan-eating, marathon-running mother, nurse and social worker with no family history of breast cancer. After the doctor uttered the words “breast” and “cancer,” Jacobs said, “In an instance my world shattered.”

The at-capacity audience of more than 70 people — mostly all women who are either fighting the disease or have fought it — could immediately relate to Jacobs judging by their rapt attention, head nodding and laughter.

“The Silver Lining” became the book Jacobs said she wishes her girlfriend had given her. As she was writing, she constantly kept in mind: “What would I say to a newly diagnosed friend?” She offers lots of practical suggestions. Among them: remember to breathe, take the time for that when you can’t process or explain or even hear something; remember that you can always choose to respond to something either out of a place of fear or a place of hopefulness; and patients need to create a team of caregivers which includes the medical professionals as well as family.

“Once I started asking for and accepting help, it made all the difference,” she said.

She urged people to incorporate humor into their life and to always look for the silver linings.

“Silver linings are always present,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs is no Pollyanna. Her own experience with cancer treatment was very rough and tough. Someone asked if she continued to run during her treatment.

“I ran to the bathroom. That’s as much running as I was able to do,” she answered.

As empowering as the presentation and complimentary copies of the book — thanks go to local philanthropist Ted Perlman — was the fellowship and comradarie among the women in the room.

“That’s one of the goals of Wellness House, to remind people that they are not alone and that their lives are so much more than cancer,” said Jeannie Cella, executive director.

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