Let Me Get This Off My Chest: A Breast Cancer Survivor Over-Shares

Let Me Get This Off My Chest: A Breast Cancer Survivor Over-Shares

by Margaret Lesh

ISBN: 9780615812519

Publisher Publishing

Published in Calendars/Diet & Health, Calendars/Astrological, Biographies & Memoirs/Memoirs, Biographies & Memoirs, Health, Fitness & Dieting

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Book Description

Tamoxifen hot flashes, mastectomy, reconstruction, breast cancer etiquette, Frankenboobs, bras with special attachments—Margaret Lesh shares all in her funny, heartfelt collection of essays, anecdotes, and life lessons from the perspective of a two-time breast cancer survivor. With practical tips sprinkled throughout, LET ME GET THIS OFF MY CHEST explores how breast cancer changed her outlook on life, offering honest insights, humor, and sensitivity as she looks for the silver lining in a not-so-great situation.

Sample Chapter

 Our Floating Year  

Have patience with all things, but first of all, with yourself.   ~ Saint Francis de Sales      

The year of 2012 was largely spent waiting. Waiting for appointments. Waiting for doctors. Waiting for surgeries. Waiting for healing. We weren’t “doing” things, not having much in the way of fun— in fact, quite the opposite.

One day, while I was complaining about the sucky suckiness of my sucky situation, whining about how 2012 was the year that would not stop sucking, my patient partner-in-life Steve, with a calm look on his face, said, “It’s okay. 2012 is our floating year.”

I got it. Just like that. I totally got it. 2012 was like a placeholder in the scheme of our lives together. This was a temporal matter. Life would go on. Eventually.  

In March of 2012, I was diagnosed with a recurrence of ductal carcinoma in situ after a routine mammogram showed cellular abnormalities.

The innocent-sounding voice on the answering machine stopped me in my tracks: “This message is for Margaret Lesh from the Radiology Department at Kaiser. We need you to come in and have some additional films taken.”

I’d had countless mammograms in the past twelve years since my first occurrence; they’d all come back normal. I’m not exactly a pessimist; I prefer to think of myself as a glass-half-full kind of person, but I knew. Somehow, I knew my cancer had returned. Steve tried to reassure me.

“Oh, it’ll be fine. Don’t worry.” But I did worry.

So two days after my annual screening— within perhaps two hours of the phone call from the radiology department— I was back at Kaiser with my breast up on the slab having additional films taken. Strangely enough— and possibly because I simply hadn’t had enough time to process things— I wasn’t freaking out. Okay, not too much. My gut was a little clenched, breathing was becoming shallow. My inner mantra of “stay calm, stay calm” was fighting the involuntary nervous state I was in. In short, I was calm on the outside, a mess on the inside.  

Poor Lefty. For the second time in three days, my left breast (aka Lefty, the Troublemaker) was once again placed on the shelf at the Women’s Center and flattened. A few moments later, as the technician put the films up on the light box, I asked her what she’d found, making my way over to where she stood, clutching my hospital gown.

“Are there any microcalcifications?”

“Yes, there are. Right here.”

She pointed to a little dot of white about the size of a pencil tip. There were several dots of white in two areas of my breast.


That was it; my suspicions were confirmed. I dressed, collected Steve from the waiting area, and we walked down the long hall to the radiology department and its crowded waiting room, mammography films in my hand.

“I hope this doesn’t take too long,” I said, as we stood in line at the reception desk. The last thing I wanted was a long wait to hear my fate, to add insult to injury.

We didn’t wait long. Cancer is serious business. Something most people probably don’t know: one of the “perks” of cancer is always being on the stat list. Every time I have blood drawn before my appointments with my oncologist, I get to go in the stat line, bypassing all the mere mortals with their non-cancer blood tests.

Silver linings; right?

We waited a few minutes, and the nurse escorted us back to Dr. Feinstein, a pleasant-looking woman in her late thirties with wire-rimmed glasses and shoulder-length brown hair. She was sitting at her desk, and right away I noticed the open, compassionate expression on her face. My films were already up on the light box situated on the wall behind her.

“Hi, I’m Dr. Feinstein. I understand you have a history of breast cancer?” 

"Yes, I was diagnosed in December of 1999.”

“You had a lumpectomy?”

“Yes, and radiation.” We chatted like that for a minute or two, catching her up on my history. To let her know I was up on things and that I wouldn’t have a meltdown in front of her, I said, “I saw the microcalcifications. I had them the first time.” She nodded; I saw concern in her eyes. I knew, and she knew, and I knew she knew: “it” had returned. Her steady, reassuring gaze told me: I’m going to take care of this for you, and she offered, “If you want, I can do a biopsy right now.”

I took a breath and looked over at Steve. He nodded.

So, just like that, in the space of a little over an hour since my arrival at Kaiser, I was preparing myself to have a breast biopsy.

Life was starting to feel a bit more real than it had three hours before.


Excerpted from "Let Me Get This Off My Chest: A Breast Cancer Survivor Over-Shares" by Margaret Lesh. Copyright © 2013 by Margaret Lesh. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

Margaret Lesh

Margaret Lesh

A lifelong resident of Southern California, Margaret Lesh writes middle grade, young adult, and women’s fiction, and delights in creating worlds in which zombie teachers as well as disco-dancing werewolves exist. Her talents include a mastery of the Hula-Hoop and witty repartee (she thinks). A lover of baked goods, she places donuts somewhere at the top of the bakery food group pyramid. She believes tacos are magic.

View full Profile of Margaret Lesh

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