Staff Picks: Flat: Reclaiming My Body From Breast Cancer

Reviewed by Sarah K., Materials Handler

Flat: Reclaiming My Body From Breast Cancer by Catherine Guthrie is also available as an Overdrive eBook.

Integrity

Catherine Guthrie was in her thirties, living in Bloomington, Indiana when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had written extensively about cancer in her work as a health journalist, but quickly learned how different the landscape looks when you are the patient.

Guthrie shares her experience navigating the healthcare system as a queer woman, which highlights the gender normative nature of breast cancer care in the United States. Notably, many medical providers assume that having breasts is essential to feeling both “whole” and feminine for women. Where does that leave individuals who want to make a different choice? Where does it leave people outside of the gender binary? Guthrie thoughtfully explores those questions and how breast cancer treatment needs to change to become inclusive of all identities. 

After much contemplation, Guthrie opts to “go flat” after her mastectomy, forgoing reconstruction. While this choice is becoming more common, it has not always been presented as an option for patients. In interviews with others in the breast cancer community, she describes the spectrum of responses people received to their decision to go flat--ranging from supportive to dismissive or baffled. In the end, what patients want is what anyone would want: for their choice--whatever it may be--to be both accepted and respected.

Flat is a moving memoir that pulls no punches as it details Guthrie’s experience with breast cancer. It is an essential read for anyone wanting to take a critical look at breast cancer care in this country and learn more about the often undiscussed choice to go flat.

*A warning to readers undergoing cancer treatment, there are significant errors made during the course of her treatment, which may be distressing to read.

This is review is part of the Finding Value series, inspired by the eleven core values central to the Library's mission. Tune in as Library staff review books and movies that highlight the values accessibility, civil discourse, inclusiveness, integrity, intellectual freedom, lifelong learning, literacy, respect, safety, service, and stewardship.