At forty-three, Robyn Levy was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and breast cancer. With irreverent and at times mordant humor, Levy chronicles her early, mysterious symptoms of Parkinson's (a dragging left foot, a frozen left hand, and a crash into downward dead dog” position), the devastating diagnosis, her discovery of two lumps in her breast, her mastectomy and oophorectomy, and her life since then dealing with her diverse disease portfolio.
Levy is accompanied on her journey by a fantastic cast of characters, including her Cry Lady (who always makes appearances at inopportune times) and perky Dolores the Prosthesis, as well as her loyal dog and a convoy of health professionals, family members, friends, and neighbors.
Both heartbreaking and hilarious, Most of Me offers a unique glimpse into a creative mind, an ailing body, and the restorative power of humor and fantasy.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The night before my appointment with the oncologist, I am wound up with worry and in desperate need of distraction. Bergen suggests we escape to the movies for some comic relief.
How about Woody Allen’s new film, Vicky Christina Barcelona?”
That means I’d have to get out of these pajamas and put on some real clothes,” I whine.
That’s right. I’ll help you,” Bergen assures me.
Soon I’m wearing what will become my post-mastectomy uniform--jeans and a loose-fitting blouse with a scarf strategically draped around my collar so that the fabric conceals my vacant lot.
This is our first evening out since my surgery--just the two of us. Once we’ve bought our tickets, the mouthwatering aroma of popcorn lures us into the lobby--where I immediately have second thoughts. What am I doing here? This is crazy! People and popcorn stream by. I snuggle up close to Bergen, not because I’m feeling romantic, but because I’m feeling neurotic and self-conscious. What if someone accidentally elbows me in the chest? What if I bump into someone I know and my Cry Lady makes a scene? I don’t tell Bergen what I’m thinking, but he knows that I’m nervous.
Don’t worry,” he says, everything’s going to be OK.” I take a deep breath and while exhaling I spot Michelle and Honey. They’re old friends of Bergen’s and judging by the expressions on their faces, they are surprised to see me alive. There’s a round of hugs and hellos and then Bergen says, I’ll be right back,” and heads to the washroom, leaving us ladies alone to chat.
Michelle stuffs her hands in her pockets, gives me a nervous smile, then bravely asks, How are you? I heard about your diagnosis.”
I’m doing OK,” I say, glancing down at my chest, aware of a slight tingling sensation in my eyes.
When was your surgery?” Honey wants to know.
About a month and a half ago. The beginning of August,” I say, determined not to cry.
Wow! You look great,” Michelle says.
Thanks,” I reply, strategizing how best to keep those unwanted tears at bay. Poke my eyes out? Pass. Let out a primal scream? Not in the mood. Play a practical joke? It’s worth a try.
I spot Bergen in the distance, Here he comes,” I say.
We all turn our heads toward the rear of the lobby and watch him weave through the crowd, toward us.
Do me a favour,” I whisper, keeping a straight face, Please don’t mention my mastectomy to Bergen. I haven’t told him yet.”
Gobsmacked, Michelle and Honey freeze in place, their eyes bulging out at me, then at each other, then back at me. I can almost hear their voices inside their heads, wondering, Why hasn’t she told him?” What kind of husband doesn’t notice a missing breast?” These precious fleeting seconds of deception fill me with joy--it’s comforting to know that my hoodwinking habit still works as well as it did when I had two tits. When Bergen rejoins our group there’s an awkward silence. And then I start to laugh.
What’s so funny?” he wants to know.
Robyn is,” Michelle answers, laughing along with Honey, but you probably already know that.”
Table of ContentsAcknowledgments 1
1 The Bad Old Days 7
2 Breaking News Is Hard to Do 25
3 Ladies in Waning 55
4 Sex and Dogs and Crowd Control 71
5 Lost and Found 87
6 Kissing My Cleavage Good-bye 115
7 In Search of Kick-Ass Clarity 141
8 Travels with Dolores 165
9 The Comeback Mama 185
10 Some Don’t Like It Hot 213
What People are Saying About This
"This memoir is proof of the power of the human spirit. By finding joy in the face of the worst circumstances, Levy shows that "what doesn't kill you makes you stranger" "and" stronger. Enthusiastically recommended.”Library Journal
“Levy’s comedic insertions into what might otherwise prove a depressing narrative provides readers an unexpected, though greatly appreciated, dissonance between subject matter and tone. A traumatic tale surprisingly liberated by laughter.”Kirkus Reviews
"It is a brave story, not because of the private emotional reality [Levy] bares all memoirs require that. It's her determined levity in the face of so much suffering that's heartbreaking and raw."Globe & Mail
"Despite the subject matter, Most of Me is filled with irreverent humour and themes of family life that are relevant to almost everyone who's ever lived with a teenager (or been one.)"Vancouver Sun
"It ís serious stuff, but Levy's writing style is so accessible and compelling that reading her memoir feels like sitting down with a good friend over coffee to hear the latest. Every page is loaded with emotion so heart-wrenching itís almost unbearable, yet her tone is so engaging, her humour so dark, that you canít help but keep reading."Gail Johnson Georgia Straight
"It was such a privilege to read Robyn Levy's story. Her integrity and honesty simultaneously broke and healed my heart, fresh from my own journey through breast cancer. Riveting and endearingly funny, her story impacted me profoundly, covering me in a blanket of feelings and thoughts that will stay with me forever, like a friend."Bif Naked, international recording artist, writer, poet, and actor
"An astonishing debut from a writer adept at handling the delicate balance between laughter and tears."?Cori Howard, editor of "Between Interruptions: Thirty Women Tell the Truth about Motherhood"
"As she says, if she doesn't joke about it, she'll cry. You'll probably do a bit of both if you pick up a copy of Levy's book."Adrienne Brown Homemakers.com
"One nipple up! A must-read for all breast cancer survivors!"Ms. Mastectomy
"A deliciously poetic, humor-laced narrative by a courageous and wickedly honest woman who has been handed a mountain of medical lemons in the prime of her life. Robyn Levy's spirit will stick with you long after you finish the book."Rhona Raskin, radio talk show host and columnist
"Robyn Levy, never one to do things by half, was diagnosed with two life-altering illnesses. Most of Me is her funny/sad and delightfully bawdy account of a dangerous and memorable journey. Long may she travel, and more may she write."Bill Richardson, writer and broadcaster