Patient Stories – Hollie

“Don’t let the fear of having cancer drive you to ignore it. Take ownership of your body and your health. If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, don’t let what you think you know about cancer treatment scare you into not taking care of yourself. Cancer is unique to each person. Include your family and friends in this journey and create your cancer team.”

Hollie is married to the love of her life and partner in crime Robert. They have a 27-year-old daughter Jasmine, a 5-year-old granddaughter Braelyn, and a 17-year-old bonus son Andrew. Hollie is I’m an office manager with the City of Tacoma.

What was “normal” for you before your diagnosis?
Normal for me was getting involved in as many things as I could get myself into. I love goats and volunteered at a goat rescue. I’m a huge soccer supporter so I attended every Sounders home match. The weekends were about friends and family. That was my normal.

Tell us about your diagnosis.
On April 23, 2015, I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma in my right breast (Stage I; Grade 3; ER Positive).

How did you feel after receiving the news that you had breast cancer?
I sat in Jennifer Witte’s office with my husband and I went completely numb. I did what I was supposed to do. I got a mammogram every year since the age of 40. This is not supposed to happen to me because I did what they told me to do. After my time with Jennifer, my husband and I walked out into the parking lot and I had the best tantrum ever! My purse flew one way and the notebook Jennifer gave me flew the other way. I screamed. I cried. I cussed. I swore. My granddaughter would have been impressed by her Nana’s tantrum.

What made you come to the Carol Milgard Breast Center?
I’ve grown up in the Tacoma community and was very familiar with the philanthropy of Carol Milgard and her family. So many of my friends told me how wonderful the facility was so that’s why I chose Milgard for my very first mammogram. I continued to return because of how comfortable the staff makes you feel and the spa like setting of the facility.

As a patient, tell us about your experience with our Nurse Practitioner Jennifer Witte.
Jennifer has been a God send and every chance I get to come back and see her, I do. She’s understanding, patient and caring. She a wealth of knowledge. At the moment of hearing those words, “You have cancer” you can’t think. Jennifer steps in and helps you navigate your choices and options.

What was your experience with our Spiritual Care Program and our Rev. Barbara McHenry?
Rev McHenry has a calming and centering presence. She’s a fantastic listener. She is so welcoming. Fighting breast cancer is a spiritual journey, no matter what your religious affiliation is. Rev McHenry makes everyone feel welcomed.

Have you attended Tea for the Soul?
If so, tell us about your experience. Yes I have and I loved every minute of it! You meet survivors at all stages of their journey. It’s uplifting and encouraging. You are definitely reminded that you are not alone in your journey. I highly recommend it for anyone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

In what ways did your fight against breast cancer empower you?
I’ve been told in the past that I was a strong woman, but I never embraced that about myself. My fight against cancer helped me accept that I am a strong woman. I was also empowered to advocate for myself and my body. I learned when to push back with treatment options and to speak up for myself when I didn’t understand something.

As a survivor, what 3 life lessons have you learned thus far?
Two days after receiving my diagnosis, I got a tattoo that says, “You keep alive a moment at a time”. Those are my word to live by now: 1. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Priorities shift and change when you are in the fight for your life. 2. Be kind. You never know what people are going through. 3. It’s ok to be impulsive. Life is too short not to be. Since the end of treatment I’ve swam with dolphins and flew to Oakland to see Prince perform one of his last concerts before his passing.

What advice would you give someone who is skeptical of getting their screening mammogram?
Early detection saves lives. I’m living proof of it. The first question women ask me is, “Did you feel anything?” and the answer is not at all. My previous screenings did not see anything unusual, but with the new 3D mammography at Carol Milgard, it was detected. Also, with early detection comes more choices and options for treatment. I’ve had women actually tell me they were too embarrassed and too modest to get a mammogram. I completely get that but the alternative is finding the cancer too late and your loved ones are preparing for a life without you.

Is there anything else that you would like to share regarding your journey with breast cancer?
Researchers have discovered that black women have a worse breast cancer survival rate compared to our White and Hispanic counterparts. There are some theories as to why, but for me personally, this is why I want black women to hear my story and get their screenings. Don’t let the fear of having cancer drive you to ignore it. Take ownership of your body and your health. If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, don’t let what you think you know about cancer treatment scare you into not taking care of yourself. Cancer is unique to each person. Include your family and friends in this journey and create your cancer team. Reach out to other women who have been through it. You don’t have to go through it alone.

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