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Flat: Reclaiming My Body from Breast Cancer

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A feminist breast cancer memoir of medical trauma, love, and how she found the strength to listen to her body. As a young, queer woman, Catherine Guthrie had worked hard to feel at home in her body. However, after years writing about women's health and breast cancer, Guthrie is thrust into the role of the patient after a devastating diagnosis at age thirty-eight. At least, A feminist breast cancer memoir of medical trauma, love, and how she found the strength to listen to her body. As a young, queer woman, Catherine Guthrie had worked hard to feel at home in her body. However, after years writing about women's health and breast cancer, Guthrie is thrust into the role of the patient after a devastating diagnosis at age thirty-eight. At least, she thinks, I know what I'm up against. She was wrong. In one horrifying moment after another, everything that could go wrong does--the surgeon gives her a double mastectomy but misses the cancerous lump, one of the most effective drug treatments fails, and a doctor's error may have unleashed millions of breast cancer cells into her body. Flat is Guthrie's story of how two bouts of breast cancer shook her faith in her body, her relationship, and medicine. Along the way, she challenges the view that breasts are essential to femininity and paramount to a woman's happiness. Ultimately, she traces an intimate portrayal of how cancer reshapes her relationship with Mary, her partner, revealing--in the midst of crisis--a love story. Filled with candor, vulnerability, and resilience, Guthrie upends the "pink ribbon" narrative and offers a unique perspective on womanhood, what it means to be "whole," and the importance of women advocating for their desires. Flat is a story about how she found the strength to forge an unconventional path--one of listening to her body--that she'd been on all along.


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A feminist breast cancer memoir of medical trauma, love, and how she found the strength to listen to her body. As a young, queer woman, Catherine Guthrie had worked hard to feel at home in her body. However, after years writing about women's health and breast cancer, Guthrie is thrust into the role of the patient after a devastating diagnosis at age thirty-eight. At least, A feminist breast cancer memoir of medical trauma, love, and how she found the strength to listen to her body. As a young, queer woman, Catherine Guthrie had worked hard to feel at home in her body. However, after years writing about women's health and breast cancer, Guthrie is thrust into the role of the patient after a devastating diagnosis at age thirty-eight. At least, she thinks, I know what I'm up against. She was wrong. In one horrifying moment after another, everything that could go wrong does--the surgeon gives her a double mastectomy but misses the cancerous lump, one of the most effective drug treatments fails, and a doctor's error may have unleashed millions of breast cancer cells into her body. Flat is Guthrie's story of how two bouts of breast cancer shook her faith in her body, her relationship, and medicine. Along the way, she challenges the view that breasts are essential to femininity and paramount to a woman's happiness. Ultimately, she traces an intimate portrayal of how cancer reshapes her relationship with Mary, her partner, revealing--in the midst of crisis--a love story. Filled with candor, vulnerability, and resilience, Guthrie upends the "pink ribbon" narrative and offers a unique perspective on womanhood, what it means to be "whole," and the importance of women advocating for their desires. Flat is a story about how she found the strength to forge an unconventional path--one of listening to her body--that she'd been on all along.

30 review for Flat: Reclaiming My Body from Breast Cancer

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    This book is a must for anyone who has dealt with a life threatening illness. Guthrie, a nationally known health journalist writes about the topic of breast cancer in a way rarely addressed. The book is honest, non "pinkified" raw, and just beautifully written with a voice and story I did not want to part with when I finished the book. Guthrie also talks about reconstruction and her own decision to stay "flat". To my surprise, this decision is not as rare as one might think based on how little i This book is a must for anyone who has dealt with a life threatening illness. Guthrie, a nationally known health journalist writes about the topic of breast cancer in a way rarely addressed. The book is honest, non "pinkified" raw, and just beautifully written with a voice and story I did not want to part with when I finished the book. Guthrie also talks about reconstruction and her own decision to stay "flat". To my surprise, this decision is not as rare as one might think based on how little it is talked about. I loved this book and was moved by it in so many ways-- an essential read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Roach

    Catherine Guthrie's FLAT invites us, not only into the intimate space of illness and the journey of her breast cancer experience, but also into her relationships with her partner, her family and her body. We get to see how she learned to love the skin she lives in and how meeting a woman—a community of women—in San Francisco helped her to regard the female form as sacred, sensual, strong. Then we get to see how the medical field views the female body and how, in many cases, it fails to see the i Catherine Guthrie's FLAT invites us, not only into the intimate space of illness and the journey of her breast cancer experience, but also into her relationships with her partner, her family and her body. We get to see how she learned to love the skin she lives in and how meeting a woman—a community of women—in San Francisco helped her to regard the female form as sacred, sensual, strong. Then we get to see how the medical field views the female body and how, in many cases, it fails to see the individual human behind the curved parts of us thought to makes us whole people. FLAT is honest, eye-opening and beautifully written. It's also intelligent and has the humor of a survivor who is also a health journalist with insight into a world that most of us don’t. Catherine's humor is earned, she gets to laugh, she’s alive. This is her story to tell. And she tells it with admirable grace. In reading FLAT, I also thought that this is a book that should be taught in all memoir programs. It’s a teaching book in so many ways. The straightforward and insightful writing is a lesson in craft that many students of the genre would find helpful Everyone should read FLAT.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kristen Paulson

    One of the parts of this book that really stuck with me was the way the character figured she was safe from breast cancer by following a healthy lifestyle. This point of view was quite poignant and made me think about my relationship to my health, mortality, and body. A green smoothie won't save us--but read this book. It provides a real, compassionate, and very funny account of relationships--to a body and a partner and an illness, and a dog that I felt lucky to have shared by reading.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rae

    Check out this review and others on my blog: https://thriftybibliophile.com FLAT by Catherine Guthrie is a stunningly raw cancer memoir. When Guthrie is diagnosed with cancer in her late-30s, she has a tough decision to make. Does she do reconstruction? Go flat? Use prosthetic breasts? In the end, she decides to go flat. This memoir shares her story--her cancer journey--and how cancer affected her relationships, self-image, and her faith in the medical system.  Cancer memoirs are always hard to re Check out this review and others on my blog: https://thriftybibliophile.com FLAT by Catherine Guthrie is a stunningly raw cancer memoir. When Guthrie is diagnosed with cancer in her late-30s, she has a tough decision to make. Does she do reconstruction? Go flat? Use prosthetic breasts? In the end, she decides to go flat. This memoir shares her story--her cancer journey--and how cancer affected her relationships, self-image, and her faith in the medical system.  Cancer memoirs are always hard to read, and I've read several. On one hand, I always feel like a voyeur, viewing the grimness of someone else's life through my healthy, rose-tinted glasses. On the other hand, cancer runs rampant in my family, so it's only a matter of time before it hits closer to home than extended relatives. I'm in my early 30s, and I've had two mammograms and two ultrasounds to check out suspect lumps. While both lumps have been negative, I understand the fear and panic of the not knowing--the ultimate question of, is this lump benign, or is trying to kill me?  FLAT was a wonderful memoir--beautifully written and easily read in a single sitting. It's raw, real, and hides nothing. Guthrie leaves herself bare as she discusses how cancer made her feel during those first days, the missed lump, and the physician's critical mistake. Her cancer journey was not short, and she actively battled the disease for over two years. With those years behind her, she continues lives in wait, not knowing if cancer will make a reappearance or if it's gone forever.  Throughout her journey, her partner, Mary, was by her side. Mary is the partner everyone could hope to have in a life or death situation. She's calm, patient, and unfailing in her love and support as Guthrie made peace with her diagnosis. I fell in love with their love story as I read this memoir.  What I liked best about this memoir is that it showed the good and bad. Guthrie did not sugar coat anything, and shared the range of emotions she experienced during those early days. Depression, joy, heart-ache, hope--all of those emotions radiated from the pages as I read.  While this book wouldn't appeal to everyone, if you enjoy memoirs, I highly recommend you check this book out! Thank you to NetGalley for providing the Kindle version of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Jansen

    Not personally one for fiction, upon arrival at any bookstore, I move strait to the Autobiography/Memoir section where I now hope to find, sitting proudly on a shelf with its entire face forward, FLAT by Catherine Guthrie. At first glance I was put off by the subtitle explaining this book’s subject is breast cancer. Although FLAT evolves around Catherine Guthrie’s diagnosis and cancer treatment, this book is about so much more. Within reading the first few pages I felt like I had crept down the ha Not personally one for fiction, upon arrival at any bookstore, I move strait to the Autobiography/Memoir section where I now hope to find, sitting proudly on a shelf with its entire face forward, FLAT by Catherine Guthrie. At first glance I was put off by the subtitle explaining this book’s subject is breast cancer. Although FLAT evolves around Catherine Guthrie’s diagnosis and cancer treatment, this book is about so much more. Within reading the first few pages I felt like I had crept down the hall, slowly opened the door and walked in on a couple’s most beautifully intimate relationship. Feeling like an intruder but not wanting to leave, I got so comfortable that I found myself over-and-over in this couples life. I sat with them in the car and on the sofa in the living room and didn’t want to leave. The star of this book (and whom you find it is dedicated to) is Catherine’s partner, Mary. What a wonderful love story. You begin to see that the details of their lives play out as “relationship goals”. Frankly, everyone needs a Mary. If there is any lesson besides having someone on your side through a difficult illness, it is, regardless of the doctor you are dealing with, be your own medical advocate. From the beginning right to the end you are forever grateful to have been allowed this little slice of who they are. During the beginning of the book, the author outlines her frustrations of being a health and wellness journalist, unable to fulfill her goal of writing meaningful medical content that would some day change people’s lives. Is it ironic that she ends up suffering the fate of those she wishes to help educate? One is left to wonder if perhaps the patronizing words “meant to be” are coming into play. Truth be told, Catherine’s journalism in several magazines since her diagnosis have done just that. I had personally happened upon one such article that changed the course of my own medical decisions (hence being one of a handful of people who got a publisher’s copy of FLAT). If there were a book that anyone dealing with breast cancer (patients, doctors, nurses and medical workers) were encouraged to read, I would beg FLAT to be mandatory. Catherine's book relays all that is so misunderstood on what “breasts” mean to the person suffering from this disease. As someone who has had breast cancer, I felt I understood myself even more after reading it. In the last several years, “going flat,” bucking the norms of reconstruction and the wearing of bras with prosthesis after mastectomy, has become a slow but growing movement in the breast cancer community. For every such movement there is a book that tends to personify and encompass the feelings of many. I don’t think I am making an overstatement that FLAT may be this movement’s book. Can I even be as bold to say it may be seen as its bible? Yes, I believe so! For all those women who are taking strides in paving the way for the next generation of breast cancer survivors who are reclaiming there bodies, I see at the forefront Catherine Guthrie with her book FLAT held high. Let this be more than just a book. FLAT is her battle cry!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Amanda (Books, Life and Everything Nice)

    Thank you to NetGalley, Skyhorse Publishing and Catherine Guthrie for an ARC ebook copy for review. As always, an honest review from me. My honest to goodness first thoughts were something along the lines of, well this will be a depressing read. And in some ways it is. Cancer sucks. But the book is also educating, validating, inspiring, harrowing, and thought provoking. The intersection of medicine, feminism, and the LGBTQIA+ community is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Her story fills a g Thank you to NetGalley, Skyhorse Publishing and Catherine Guthrie for an ARC ebook copy for review. As always, an honest review from me. My honest to goodness first thoughts were something along the lines of, well this will be a depressing read. And in some ways it is. Cancer sucks. But the book is also educating, validating, inspiring, harrowing, and thought provoking. The intersection of medicine, feminism, and the LGBTQIA+ community is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Her story fills a gap of information and experiences that’s not discussed in the world of pink on pink on pink of breast cancer. Flat gives a voice to women who choose not to have reconstructive breast surgery after a mastectomy. At first thought it seems like such a radical idea, but after reading I’ve become so much more educated the autonomy that women should have over their own bodies, especially when dealing with a health crisis. The story is not a happily ever after fluffy feel good Lifetime movie nor is it so utterly depressing, but a real life look at living with cancer and fighting for your life and happiness. As I’m writing this I cannot think of anything negative to say about the book, so I’m bumping up the star rating to a 5. While it’s a bit of a heavy topic, do yourself a favor and read the book. The discussions about health, feminism, the medical world, relationships, chronic illness and body autonomy are fascinating, necessary and impactful.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Cassandra

    The truth about cancer As a relatively new cancer patient and "flattie" I loved this book. It was relatable and honest, but still carried the thread of hope that is within all of us.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Carroll Sandel

    This is a cautionary tale for all women about the mine field one navigates when dealing with breast cancer. Catherine Guthrie has written an open, brave memoir about her treacherous journey through her treatment, marred by multiple medical mistakes. She shares her losses, her battles with fatigue and depression in a direct, yet riveting voice. Every woman should read this book and should give it to all the very special people who care deeply about her.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Marika

    Author Catherine Guthrie holds nothing back in this memoir of breast cancer. She asks the questions that women often think about, but are too shy to ask. Do you have to have breast reconstruction? What happens if you don't. But don't be fooled by the medical jargon, this is at its heart, a love story. I read an advance copy and was not compensated.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mike Sinert

    I’ve been severely ill myself. I know the scary feeling of ceding control to doctors you are supposed to trust, and the sinking heart feeling when they make mistakes or let you down. Catherine Guthrie captures this intensity in FLAT. She also brings you into the world of breast cancer, and breast cancer recovery, from a different perspective. Her writing is powerful and captivating. This is a story worth reading.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Stacy

  12. 4 out of 5

    E Dolores

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

  14. 5 out of 5

    Catherine O’Neill

  15. 5 out of 5

    Meg

  16. 5 out of 5

    Katie Hobson

  17. 5 out of 5

    Wanda Rose

  18. 4 out of 5

    Priscilla Bourgoine

  19. 5 out of 5

    Meghan Miller

  20. 5 out of 5

    Marcie Graham

  21. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

  22. 4 out of 5

    Megan

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jess

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kesney Fontes

  25. 4 out of 5

    Noel-marie

  26. 5 out of 5

    Emily Hopper

  27. 4 out of 5

    Susan

  28. 4 out of 5

    susan olsher

  29. 4 out of 5

    Belarak

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Henderson

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