Why I’m Wearing Pink:
This October, as we observe Breast Cancer Awareness month—we’re so moved to have had the chance to sit down with New York Times bestselling author and breast cancer survivor, Elin Hilderbrand.
Hilderbrand, the author of 27 novels, including her latest, Golden Girl, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014. She opened up about her journey during the promotion of her book The Matchmaker, on the eve before her double mastectomy on The Today Show. One year later, she shared on the show that it's her job to tell others, "You can do this."
A vocal advocate in telling her story to raise awareness and solidarity among the breast cancer community, Hilderbrand was inspired to start the initiative, #MamaStrong. Mama Strong encourages women to share and submit their own breast cancer experiences. Once submitted, Elin's publisher sends a box of her novels to each woman's cancer center.
Below, Elin shares her advice on how to talk to your children about having breast cancer and why she’s wearing pink throughout the month of October.
Why Are You Wearing Pink This Month?
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in May of 2014, just before my novel The Matchmaker was released. It came as a complete shock -- I always considered myself a very healthy person -- and the experience completely transformed my life. I was treated at Mass General by remarkable doctors, I underwent five surgeries including a six-hour double mastectomy and had complications that saw me airlifted from my home island of Nantucket to the Boston Medical Center by helicopter. And yet, a year after my diagnosis, I was healthy and whole and remain so now, seven years later.
Think Pink: Elin Hilderbrand on Nantucket, Photograph by Emily Elisabeth Photography
The Most Notable Part Of The Community Of Breast Cancer Battlers & Survivors
People think cancer takes something away -- and it does -- but it also gives something back: a community of incredibly strong women who are dealing with this disease with strength and grace. I did a book signing a mere two weeks after my double mastectomy. I was still on pain meds and had drains in, but nonetheless I flew to Chicago to do two events. At the second event, I signed books for two women who had undergone double mastectomies, chemo and radiation. They came to my book signing to reassure me that I was going to be fine. They knew I was scared and hurting and they reached out. In so doing, I felt like they passed me a baton. We support one another because we've been there and we understand.
Can You Share Where The Phrase #MamaStrong Came From?
My children were 14, 12 and 8 when I was diagnosed, and my 8-year-old daughter Shelby spontaneously said, "Mom is strong" and kissed her biceps in a way that struck me as so cute and meaningful that I shortened her words to Mamastrong and determined that, once I was finished treatment, I would find a way to support other women going through breast cancer. My publisher generously donates boxes of books to treatment centers across the country once a reader writes into the section of my website called #MAMASTRONG and shares her story.
Any Tips For Mothers That Are Unsure Of How To Tell Their Kids That They Have Cancer?
I told my kids straight up in a calm and matter of fact manner that I had breast cancer and would have to go to Boston to be treated. My middle child, Dawson, went out on Day One and shaved his head (at age 12!!!) but that was his way of letting me know that he was all in -- supporting Mom in her journey.
Advice To Those Currently Battling Breast Cancer
My practical advice is to put faith in your medical team and take your antibiotics. My rather unusual emotional advice is to embrace the experience. It is not pleasant and it is not pretty, but overcoming a disease like breast cancer will change you for the better. You will learn to value the things that matter and ignore the things that don't. In facing the fear of the diagnosis, the surgeries and the treatments, you will emerge stronger and wiser. You will learn what it means to be alive.
Why We Should Wear Pink This Month:
We should wear pink this month to honor and support the mothers, sisters, daughters and friends in our lives who are facing or have faced this disease. Treatment has improved tremendously -- even in the past seven years! -- but I'm looking forward to the day that all breast cancers are curable.