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How Elin Hilderbrand found strength during cancer recovery

The "queen of the summer novel" is out with “The Rumor,” which takes readers to Nantucket for the 15th time
Elin Hilderbrand on fighting breast cancer and new book 06:41

For author Elin Hilderbrand, it was the "normalcy of life" that kept her going after her double mastectomy in June 2014. She would make pancakes for her family, take her children to school and write two novels during her recovery.

A plot twist: Elin Hilderbrand's letter to readers 07:42

Just 12 days after her surgery, she even spoke at a brown-bag lunch of about 100 women.

"I had drains in, which is too awful to explain. They were tied to my dress, and I was on painkillers, and I wasn't supposed to be traveling at all, but I thought, 'I'm going to travel, because I'm going to be healthy enough to do it,'" Hilderbrand said Wednesday on "CBS This Morning."

Two women were sitting in the front row, one with no hair and another with short hair.

"When they came through the line, they said to me, 'We have both had double mastectomies. We have together gone through 36 rounds of chemo and 64 rounds of radiation, and we came today, Elin, to show you that you are going to be fine,'" she recalled.

"It was the grace and the strength of women who were far sicker than I was coming to give me support that made me feel like, 'You know what, I can do this,'" Hilderbrand said.

Now, Hilderbrand said it's her job to tell others, "You can do this."

Author Elin Hilderbrand on breast cancer diagnosis and new novel 05:03

On the eve of her double mastectomy, Hilderbrand opened up about her breast cancer diagnosis on "CBS This Morning."

"Nobody prepares you for it. And I have so many friends, such wonderful family, but the interesting thing you find out is that you are alone in your body," Hilderband said last June.

In retrospect, Hilderbrand said she knew nothing.

"I had no idea what was coming, and I think actually that was a good thing," she said.

When she woke up from the surgery, she felt like she had "concrete breasts tied on with barbed wire."

"So much pain. A long reconstruction," she shared candidly.

She also ran into complications along the way.

"Then in October, once my implants were in, I had a life-threatening infection on the left that had me flown in an emergency helicopter from Nantucket to Boston, and my left breast came out again," Hilderbrand said. "So I'm probably the only person you know who lost three breasts this year."

She was "flat to the bone" on her left breast for three months.

"I had a prosthetic breast. My teenage boys would throw it at each other. I'd have to say, 'Can I please have my breast back, guys?' But I'm now fully reconstructed and I'm healthy and I'm cancer free. So I'm so happy," she said.


Now the "queen of the summer novel" is releasing her latest novel, "The Rumor," which takes readers back to Nantucket for the 15th time.

"It's about people who gossip. And I live on Nantucket, which is four miles wide and 13 miles long and is a fishbowl. And people say, 'What do you do in the winter?' And I say, 'We talk about one another,'" Hilderbrand said.

The book tells the story of two best friends, one of whom is having an affair. She tells her best friend and the friend writes about her in a book.

"Then the friend writes about her best friend's novel as it's happening and is having some sort of moral qualms about it," Hilderbrand described.

Hilderbrand said she doesn't have "the luxury of writer's block" because she has to write two novels each year.

"So I have to make myself do it. But I have, over the course of writing 15 novels, fallen prey to the distractions," Hilderbrand said.

She writes the first draft of her book in long-hand on a yellow pad.

"People think it takes a long time, and I suppose it does, but this is how my brain flows," Hilderbrand said.

Watch the video above to find out one of Gayle King's favorite moments from "The Rumor."

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