Flat

Reclaiming My Body from Breast Cancer

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About The Book

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.

About The Author

Catherine Guthrie is a women's health journalist. For the past twenty years, her reporting, essays, and criticism have appeared in dozens of national magazines including Time; O, The Oprah Magazine, Slate; Prevention; and Yoga Journal. She is a two-time survivor of breast cancer. She lives near Boston, Massachusetts.

Product Details
  • Publisher: Skyhorse (September 2018)
  • Length: 264 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781510732919

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Raves and Reviews

Flat is as entertaining as it is honest and forthright about a subject that has been steeped in pink and sentimentality for far too long. Flat is, quite simply, a darn good read.”
—Christiane Northrup, M.D., ob/gyn physician and author of the New York Times bestsellers: Goddesses Never Age: The Secret Prescription for Radiance, Vitality, and Wellbeing; Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom; and The Wisdom of Menopause

“Guthrie’s refreshing femininity doesn’t fit the familiar cancer narrative. Informed by both the nuances of queer identity and a women’s health journalist’s insider knowledge, this memoir is a welcome punk rock to breast cancer’s pink-washing. Unflinching, eloquent, and richly intimate, Flat has shaken me, inspired me, prepared me for what could happen.”
—Angela Palm, author, Riverine: A Memoir from Anywhere but Here

"Catherine Guthrie’s memoir Flat is a smart and beautifully written story that takes the reader on a journey through the land of the healthy and the sick as she faces breast cancer. As this young woman bobs around in a sea of medical uncertainty, she eventually reclaims her body, her life, and her sense of self. Despite Guthrie’s distaste for the word survivor, hers is as much a story about surviving breast cancer as it is about surviving culture and womanhood itself."
—Gayle Sulik, author of Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health

"With honesty and a touch of humor, the author . . . [traces] the many contours of her struggles, from her diagnosis to double mastectomy to her decision about reconstructive surgery. She details the horror at having the actual lump missed during surgery, her anger at the surgeon, and how her drug treatment failed her as well. She shares the fears, disappointments, and confusion she felt, despite her knowledge about this particular form of cancer, and how she eventually embraced her new body. She includes touching moments with her partner and how, together, they navigated the often confusing medical world and the transition from healthy to sick and back. In a world where 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, Guthrie's memoir is useful, instructive reading for anyone entering this sisterhood or caretaking a friend or family member with this disease. Filled with great openness and sincerity, the book adds an original and colorful layer to the pink-ribbon world of breast cancer."
Kirkus Reviews

"This isn’t only a story of diagnosis, treatment, medical mistakes, and complications told within the impossibility of a neat or final resolution. It is also the complex, honest, and tender rendering of how breast cancer changes her understanding of her own body, her relationship with her beloved Mary, and even the style and content of what she is able to write in her career as a women’s health journalist. . . . With clarity, specificity, and keen narrative skills, Guthrie tells the story of how she regains that sense of ease in her body and finds joy once again in her relationships with her beloved, her career, and her community of friends."
Lambda Literary
“I thought about this book when I was in traffic, when I woke up in the morning, and in the middle of the night. This story is sometimes terrifying and always compelling. The best compliment a memoirist can receive is for a reader to say, ‘Your book changed the way I view the world.’ Flat did that for me, and it has the potential to do that for many people.”
—Krista Bremer, managing editor, The Sun

“The biggest triumph of Flat is how it carefully upends the breast cancer narrative in smart, surprising ways. Flat is laced with sharp, funny, and thought-provoking insights on how living with breast cancer affects gender, identity, and human relationships. It’s a warm, moving, and fresh tale, told by a writer in the perfect position to share it.”
—Mike Scalise, author, The Brand New Catstrophe

“A veteran magazine writer, Catherine Guthrie shares in Flat the poignant story she couldn’t tell in women’s magazines: not the pink ribbon story, but her personal, hard-fought, disorienting and reorienting story of living with breast cancer. Hers is a voice—candid both in fury and in love—you can trust.”
—Howard Axelrod, author, The Point of Vanishing: A Memoir of Two Years in Solitude

“Everyone who goes through breast cancer treatment is brave in their way, but Guthrie challenges and overturns orthodoxies right and left. Her wise, clarion, un-saccharine voice is so, so refreshing. She is a muse for her generation and others to come.”
—Florence Williams, author, Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History

Flat is a captivating story that will appeal to any intelligent reader forced to deal with the unexpected havoc wreaked by a breast cancer diagnosis. I highly recommend Flat to any woman and her loved ones looking to move through the tumult of cancer."
—Mary Jane Minkin, MD, Yale University School of Medicine, and author

Flat is as entertaining as it is honest and forthright about a subject that has been steeped in pink and sentimentality for far too long. Flat is, quite simply, a darn good read.”
—Christiane Northrup, M.D., ob/gyn physician and author of the New York Times bestsellers: Goddesses Never Age: The Secret Prescription for Radiance, Vitality, and Wellbeing; Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom; and The Wisdom of Menopause
“Guthrie’s refreshing femininity doesn’t fit the familiar cancer narrative. Informed by both the nuances of queer identity and a women’s health journalist’s insider knowledge, this memoir is a welcome punk rock to breast cancer’s pink-washing. Unflinching, eloquent, and richly intimate, Flat has shaken me, inspired me, prepared me for what could happen.”
—Angela Palm, author, Riverine: A Memoir from Anywhere but Here
"Catherine Guthrie’s memoir Flat is a smart and beautifully written story that takes the reader on a journey through the land of the healthy and the sick as she faces breast cancer. As this young woman bobs around in a sea of medical uncertainty, she eventually reclaims her body, her life, and her sense of self. Despite Guthrie’s distaste for the word survivor, hers is as much a story about surviving breast cancer as it is about surviving culture and womanhood itself."
—Gayle Sulik, author of Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health
“I thought about this book when I was in traffic, when I woke up in the morning, and in the middle of the night. This story is sometimes terrifying and always compelling. The best compliment a memoirist can receive is for a reader to say, ‘Your book changed the way I view the world.’ Flat did that for me, and it has the potential to do that for many people.”
—Krista Bremer, managing editor, The Sun
"With honesty and a touch of humor, the author . . . [traces] the many contours of her struggles, from her diagnosis to double mastectomy to her decision about reconstructive surgery. She details the horror at having the actual lump missed during surgery, her anger at the surgeon, and how her drug treatment failed her as well. She shares the fears, disappointments, and confusion she felt, despite her knowledge about this particular form of cancer, and how she eventually embraced her new body. She includes touching moments with her partner and how, together, they navigated the often confusing medical world and the transition from healthy to sick and back. In a world where 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, Guthrie's memoir is useful, instructive reading for anyone entering this sisterhood or caretaking a friend or family member with this disease. Filled with great openness and sincerity, the book adds an original and colorful layer to the pink-ribbon world of breast cancer."
Kirkus Reviews
“The biggest triumph of Flat is how it carefully upends the breast cancer narrative in smart, surprising ways. Flat is laced with sharp, funny, and thought-provoking insights on how living with breast cancer affects gender, identity, and human relationships. It’s a warm, moving, and fresh tale, told by a writer in the perfect position to share it.”
—Mike Scalise, author, The Brand New Catstrophe
“A veteran magazine writer, Catherine Guthrie shares in Flat the poignant story she couldn’t tell in women’s magazines: not the pink ribbon story, but her personal, hard-fought, disorienting and reorienting story of living with breast cancer. Hers is a voice—candid both in fury and in love—you can trust.”
—Howard Axelrod, author, The Point of Vanishing: A Memoir of Two Years in Solitude
“Everyone who goes through breast cancer treatment is brave in their way, but Guthrie challenges and overturns orthodoxies right and left. Her wise, clarion, un-saccharine voice is so, so refreshing. She is a muse for her generation and others to come.”
—Florence Williams, author, Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History
Flat is a captivating story that will appeal to any intelligent reader forced to deal with the unexpected havoc wreaked by a breast cancer diagnosis. I highly recommend Flat to any woman and her loved ones looking to move through the tumult of cancer."
—Mary Jane Minkin, MD, Yale University School of Medicine, and author

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