Review: Let Me Get This Off My Chest

Let Me Get This Off My Chest: A Breast Cancer Survivor Over-Shares, Margaret Lesh. Publishing, July 2013, Kindle Edition .99

LeshCoverMargaret Lesh strikes the right note here in her account of the “floating year” she spent going through diagnosis, surgery for a bilateral mastectomy, implantation surgery, and recovery. This charming little book with the funny title could have been a lot of things, but the author, who’s a Southern California novelist and freelance court reporter, doesn’t overshare—despite the subtitle!

Lesh writes that she was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999 when she was only 34, and had a lumpectomy. Then, in 2012, she made the alarming discovery of another lump in the same breast. “I’d been warned that if there was a recurrence, mastectomy was the only option—no more cutting,” she writes. She then had to make the tough decision whether to have her noncancerous right breast removed as well, and she opted for that.

Lesh has also blogged about cancer, and the book is a sort of cancer journal of her year; it’s made of of short chapters that are like little meditations. Skilfully formatted, with wonderful quotes beginning each chapter, Lesh dwells just enough on each physical ordeal she has to go through, and touches slightly on the emotional part as well, but not enough to overwhelm the reader. The tips that she ends each chapter with are super-informative. I would call LMGTOMC a sort of “Breast Reconstruction for Dummies” except that Lesh’s sweetly sincere, funny, yet somehow quite private personality imbues the book with a real sense of intimacy, like she is telling secrets over the dinner table.

As one of her quotes, from Erma Bombeck, says: “There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.”

I felt myself rooting for the author and glad that she is in a happy marriage, which clearly sustains her and keeps her the balanced and kind person that she is, despite having had to go through what some might consider a tragic ordeal. And in fact Lesh admits that the cancer has been life-changing: it’s helped her appreciate life, she cries much more easily, she laughs more easily too.

She gives the reader permission to chuckle along, too, with phrases like “Frankenboobs.” (Or a grotesque yet funny incident of a friend’s reconstructed nipple falling off in the shower…!) A few years ago, reading this, I might have thought Lesh was too much in denial, not angry enough about what happened to her, and so on. Now I can feel her bravery and optimism shining through—and that’s just what women who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer and face scary choices need. Good job!

About Gabriella West

Author of LGBT historical fiction and contemporary queer romance. Copyeditor/proofreader.
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