Ann Silberman, a self-described “metastatic breast cancer ass-kicker in stilettos and denim” doesn’t dislike the color pink, but you won’t catch her wearing a ribbon.
The 54-year-old mother of two from Sacramento has been documenting her terminal battle with breast cancer since she was diagnosed in September 2009 on her blog, ButDoctorIHatePink.com.
“When I started the blog, I named it ‘But Doctor, I Hate Pink’ to demonstrate about how I felt about being drafted into this pink world of ribbons and runners and survivorship and rah-rah attitude I felt went along with breast cancer,” she said. “The longer I am alive, the happier I am that I chose that name.”
Blogging With Humor
Ann’s first post couldn’t have been more aptly titled: “What the heck is that?” From that post on, she journaled her way through a confusing, frightening diagnosis with wit, common sense, and an illuminating, soulful voice.
Ann started the blog to keep everyone she loved informed about her condition. From there, her audience expanded to others’ loved ones going through a similarly trying time.
She chose a humorous perspective so as not to scare her readers, and in order to help herself through the difficult process.
“Changing the focus of my thinking to humor for the blog helped me change the way I experienced cancer, and it has been unbelievably helpful. I highly recommend blogging, or drawing, or doing something creative when you are facing something catastrophic like this,” she said. "It allows you to re-frame your experience for yourself.”
Winner of Healthline’s Best Health Blog of 2012
Ann’s humor was on full display as she drummed up votes for Healthline’s Best Health Blog of 2012 contest. Ann and her chemotherapy infusion buddy, Christine, made a video about making money “on the pole,” a reference to the way some girls pay their way through college. The joke was that if Ann won she could “stay off the pole,” even as she held onto the steel pole supporting her latest round of IV drugs.
The $1,000 we’re proud to give to Ann for winning our contest won’t go toward her college education; it will support her son’s.
“My having to quit work changed how we had planned to pay for college and put a crimp in it, and this will help,” Ann, a former secretary at Mira Loma High School in Sacramento, said.
Ann knows she won’t survive her bout with breast cancer. Knowing this changed not only the focus of her blog, but how she views the time she has left.
“Unfortunately, I ended up one of the small percentage whose cancer spread to an organ, which in the breast cancer world means it is now terminal,” she said. “So, the purpose changed again, and I hope to describe what living—and dying—with metastatic cancer is like, and I hope I can let people know it can be done gracefully.”
Seeing Past the Diagnosis
Last Christmas, Ann was featured on Soul Pancake in their video series “My Last Days.” She talked about her hope that her 16-year-old son Matt would graduate from high school and that her oldest son, Christopher, would become a father, but she’s not holding out for the latter.
“It’s sad to think I won’t be there to see them do it, but I have faith in them,” she said.
Ann knows her cancer is not survivable, but she doesn’t know how long she has. Her doctor hasn’t offered any predictions and Ann hasn’t asked.
“Mostly, I'm about living the day you are in and finding the joy in that. Sounds corny, I know, but it works for me. My son came in and kept me company for a while today and we had a nice, easy conversation. I had a nice dinner made by my husband that I was able to eat, and my dog just came up to get a pet,” she said. “It is the simple things in life that make it beautiful and those are the things I am appreciating these days.”
Ann credits her family as a source of strength, but also as yet another font of humor. When talking about her 65-year-old husband Doug, she said, “I married older so I could take care of him in his old age. Joke's on him!”
The Case Against the Pink Ribbon
Ann was never about the pink ribbon awareness campaigns. She said the money donated to organizations like Susan G. Komen for the Cure doesn’t help the actual cause.
“Awareness is a concept that should have died out years ago; now we need research. Awareness campaigns focus on early detection, but early detection is a false thing to pin hopes on. I was detected early, as were all but four percent of the 40,0000 women who will die of breast cancer this year.”
She said less money should go to awareness-raising charities and more should reach scientists working to find a cure.
“Komen likes to throw great parties for their ‘survivors,’ but they don't do a lot for those of us who won't survive. We are sort of swept under the rug, as we are the ugly side of cancer,” she said.
Ann's Message For the Newly Diagnosed
“There is a lot of mythos involving cancer, but try to see it as a disease you can overcome. Don't think the worst until you are told that bad news. Most people do survive cancer and the treatment is not as awful as you imagine, not by a long shot.
“Most importantly, use it as a wake-up call. Most people walk around letting very petty matters consume their time. We forget what is really important, and we always think ‘tomorrow.’ When you have a terminal diagnosis, as I do, that kind of pettiness suddenly becomes unthinkable and tomorrow may not come.
“The world is a beautiful place, people are wonderful, as you will discover. Use this diagnosis to take time to enjoy everything that you can and live each day to its fullest until you have no more days.”
A Heartfelt Thank You
Ann is thankful for her loving family, doctors, friends, readers, and all those who made her blog the best of the year.
“Healthline gave me the opportunity to see people from all walks of life take time out of their day to vote for me, to encourage their friends to vote, and even friends of friends. People were rooting me on and really taking it personally,” she said. “Many of them found their way to me and read my blog and contacted me and told me my words had helped them in some way.
“It was a beautiful thing to see, and whether I had actually won or not, seeing people pulling for me the way they did was truly heartwarming. I'll never forget it.”