Friedlander’s memoir recounts vignettes about the author’s life after a bilateral mastectomy.
Three months after her sister lost a two-year battle with breast cancer, Friedlander (Speak Easy: The Communication Guide for Career and Life Success, 2009) received a diagnosis of stage 0 breast cancer. Although the condition was noncancerous, she made the decision to remove both breasts. Written in a clear, determined voice, each piece stands alone, though there’s a sense of continuity as well as some repetition. Ranging from poetic prose to reflective musings, the writing is open and honest. Though Friedlander acknowledges that her decision to remove both breasts was extreme, she also notes that just having witnessed her sister’s intense suffering from the disease influenced her decision, further asserting that different circumstances might have led to a different decision. While this book isn’t directed at those with advanced breast cancer, Friedlander’s experiences may help other women dealing with a similar precancerous condition by providing them with a better understanding of the consequences of taking aggressive action. Having removed what is considered the embodiment of womanhood and sexuality, Friedlander writes, “When you lose the most prominent physical symbol of your gender, you must claim your female identity without that symbol.” She candidly reveals her life as a divorced woman in her late 40s, experiencing intimacy after her surgery and all the bouts of self-consciousness and inadequacy that came with it. Despite a period of testing the water for the first few years, Friedlander eventually jumped in with both feet to experience all life had to offer and to make the most of the hand she was dealt. All of her heartbreak, tears and success led her to one conclusion: “Well-being always comes from within.”
An illuminating collection of writing that’s full of introspection and emotional transcendence.