“We’re Midwestern,” Hollye says of herself and her husband. Although this glamorous pair live with their daughter in Santa Barbara, CA, Hollye sees herself through a different lens. She was born in Indiana; her husband, in Chicago, where they met.
This summer the Jacobs returned to their roots. They spent 6 weeks at a friend’s house in Harbor Springs, MI. Hence, I had the joy of spending time with this gracious and talented survivor.
I got to know Hollye through my niece Jennifer Hale (founder/publisher of C Magazine) and sister Anne Towbes, Hollye’s neighbor in Santa Barbara. Meeting Hollye for lunch at American Spoon in Petoskey, I had the feeling of déjà vu.
Hollye solved the mystery. 20+ years ago, she spent a year in Charlevoix as the manager of the (very cool) Mettlers clothing store and another year managing (equally cool) Mettlers in Petoskey. Fashionista that I was (before I became a farm girl), I made sure to scope out Mettlers shopping Mecca whenever Burton and I traveled north.
Although Hollye still loves fashion, she found another passion: health care.
“My mother always said: ‘You’re no good at math and science so don’t go into health care’,” Hollye recalls. Instead she earned a BA in Political Science and History at St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, IN. After, she worked in fashion, then went back to school to become a nurse. And because she “loved school,” she proceeded to obtain 3 (yes, three) masters degrees—in child development, social work and bio-ethics. Ergo the slew of initials that trail her name: RN, MS, MSW.
In Chicago, Hollye says, “I fell in love with health care. I love hospitals—the staff, the patients, even the smells.” She held a variety of jobs including bedside care, teaching and consulting. She also wrote a clinical curriculum teaching nurses how to do pediatric hospice.
“I don’t think there’s a more sacred place than in the company of someone being born or dying.” As a hospice nurse, Hollye made photographs and hand molds of dying patients—“powerful legacy building traces that give family members something to hold on to.”
Six years ago, Hollye and her husband moved from Chicago to Santa Barbara. Three months later, she received the diagnosis: breast cancer. She began writing a blog to keep friends informed. Her blog was upbeat but honest. She called her disease FBC. You can guess what the F stands for.
Friends sent the blog to friends, and Hollye found herself corresponding with patients around the world. Patients said, “You’re giving me words for experiences for which I have no words.” Caregivers thanked her for helping them understand what loved ones were going through.
Hollye tackles tough questions. Take the subject of talking with children. On Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC.org), she wrote, “Including children from the time of a diagnosis demonstrates that honesty is a core family value. And if adults don’t talk with children, please oh please believe me when I tell you that they always know. … being open with your children may be the best way to help them understand and process what you are going through and how their lives may change during your treatment period.”
As a self-proclaimed “nerdy girl,” Hollye bought nearly every book on breast cancer. She sought a resource that was “informative and uplifting, clinically credible and supportive, practical and hopeful.” When she didn’t find that book, she wrote it. Based on the appeal of her blog, thesilverpen.com, Simon & Schuster agreed to be her publisher. They were as amazed as Hollye was when The Silver Lining, A Supportive and Insightful Guide to Breast Cancer made it to the NYT Best Seller List. And when Hollye appeared on programs including Good Morning America (twice), Dr. Phil and The Doctors.
The part of the publishing project that Hollye says “brings me the most joy” is providing her book to those who can’t afford it. “I want my book in the hands of anyone and everyone who needs it.” To do so, she partnered with Allstate Insurance which underwrote the production of a condensed paperback version, in English and Spanish. The book is distributed nationally by Direct Relief Cancer Support Community and Avon Breast Cancer Foundation.
This bright and beautiful survivor feels well and is ready for a new challenge. “I don’t want to be pigeonholed,” Hollye says. “I’m staying open and waiting for my next divine assignment.”