After watching too many family members die of cancer, at age 28, public speaker and comedian Caitlin Brodnick was tested for the BRCA1 gene mutation and tested positive, indicating an 87% chance she'd likely be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. She had a preventative double mastectomy, thereby becoming an everywoman's Angelina Jolie.
Dangerous Boobies: Breaking Up with My Time-Bomb Breasts goes in depth into her experience from testing to surgery and on to recovery. With a warm, funny, and approachable voice, Caitlin tells readers the full story, even sharing what it was like to go from a size 32G bra -- giant, for a woman who is barely over five feet tall! -- to a 32C. Engaging and open, she admits to having hated her breasts long before her surgery, and enjoying the process of "designing" her new breasts, from the shape of the breasts to the size and color of the nipples.
While Caitlin's primary narrative explores the BRCA gene and breast cancer, her story is also one about body acceptance and what it takes to be confident with and in charge of one's body. Her speaking engagements and comedy routines have shown that the wider topic of breasts, breast size, and personal identity is resonating with younger readers.
My favorite thing about "Dangerous Boobies" is its authentic voice; as I read it was as if Caitlin was reading it to me, in her sweet chirpy voice she writes like she talks raw, honest, fast, confident, sometimes insecure, often anxious, heartily reflective and mostly, "udderly" hysterical. Yup, that was me attempting channel my inner Caitlin.
As an advocate for those with BRCA and other hereditary cancer syndromes, I was excited to read Brodnick's book. I absolutely applaud anyone who is willing to be so open with their experience and Brodnick not only did this with her Screw You Cancer Series but with her book too. All was seemingly rosy as she was recovering in the last of her Screw You Cancer episodes, answering viewer questions. However, we learn in the book that all was not easy. Caitlin sheds light on tougher times post surgery, including struggling with serious depression.
I appreciate the places in the book where Brodnick gets statistics and information straight from the experts. Regarding genetic testing, I am thankful she says to see a genetic counselor and find out the facts. (I'm adding here that you can find a certified genetic counselor by phone or in person at: http://nsgc.org)
If you want to get a quick taste of Caitlin's humor and tone, just take a look at her chapter titles. My favorite one..."CANCER IS AN EMOTIONLESS BITCH WHO WILL RUIN YOUR BRUNCH PLANS"! Another chapter, TITTY TITTY BANG BANG: THE SEX PART, where she discusses having sex with her husband for the first time after surgery. The first sentence of that chapter is "Author's note: Dad and Grandpa, please skip to page 145." So perfect.
And, I cannot end this review without mentioning some stunning similarities I learned Caitlin and I have:
1. We both have the BRCA 1 5385insC mutation 2. We both have neurocardiogenic syncope 3. We both lost a close female relative at 33 years old 4. We both have Jewish fathers named Al 5. We both have moms that are hot shiksas 6. We both love writing, I'm writing my book now 7. We both have fair skin and reddish hair 8. We both have one leg shorter than the other
Very happy I read this. Very funny. Very real. Very happy this is a resource I can recommend to others! XO Amy @BRCAresponder
Okay, so, as a breast cancer survivor, I certainly don't think that humor is out of place in a narrative about cancer (or hereditary cancer risk). But...this book has *at least* one joke per paragraph. It's just too much.
I'm reminded of one of Brene Brown's books, in which she draws a distinction between true vulnerability and simply dumping "TMI" on people. While Brodnick is certainly very honest and blunt about a lot of what goes on during the mastectomy/reconstruction process, she does it in a way that often feels really inauthentic, almost as if she's telling us these things in order to distance herself from them rather than to approach them. Besides BRCA and surgery, the book gets into alcohol addiction, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other heavy shit...but the constant jokes mostly kept me from connecting with these otherwise extremely-relatable experiences.
And I know that's not just because it's comedy. I listened to Tig Notaro's entire cancer set shortly after my own diagnosis and positively roared with laughter, while at the same time feeling so incredibly connected to her experience and feeling for us both.
Besides that, the book is edited either very lightly or not at all. Almost every other sentence ends with an exclamation point. Phrases like "white as a ghost" are repeated two paragraphs in a row. Tons and tons of shallow and adolescent observations about people's clothing and such could probably have been edited out without detracting at all from the actual narrative.
Brodnick is probably a great comedian and actress, and her decision not only to write this book but have a literal film crew follow her and document everything is brave and commendable. I'm glad this book exists, and the fact that Brodnick uses her own mistakes to give good advice to others in the same situation makes it potentially really valuable to folks considering preventative mastectomies. Books can be important and helpful without being well-written. It just would've been cool to see a version of this book that's a bit more vulnerable--and edited better.
This book was funny and honest. It was hard for me to get through at parts because I am also a BRCA1 carrier and I see this surgery in my future. Caitlin and I have a lot in common, so it was refreshing to read someone who was so open and relatable. I think I am going to make my boyfriend read this book too so he's prepared! (Do everything Caitlin's husband Allen does and you'll be good, hon.) I think Caitlin might be a little bit more anxious than me (and also battled alcoholism, so major props to her for doing this and staying sober) and also have some body issues I'm lucky to not have. But we both have supportive families, great doctors, nervous feelings about a scary surgery, live in major cities and are Jews from Maryland (I'm sure there's more). She makes me feel like I can do it and be totally okay. Oh, and a comedy book about health with well-researched footnotes? More of that, please!
Update: Had dinner at my friend from high school’s parents house tonight and they brought up their “best friend’s daughter Caity,” who is this Caitlin, whose book I finished reading today. We are the same age and went to neighboring high schools. So, yes, we do appear to have a lot in common!
Caitlin Brodnick had watched many relatives die of cancer, and then in her 20s found out that she carries the BRCA-1 gene that gives her an extremely high likelihood of developing wither breast or ovarian cancer. So at 28, she has a preventive double mastectomy. It's a funny, irreverent (she's a stand-up comic) and brutally honest look at her decision, and getting the operation. She was the subject of a Glamour online documentary called "Screw You Cancer," and this is the written memoir that covers the same territory.
I especially appreciated her concerns about how this would affect her relationship with her husband, and how she describes this as the latest installment in her lifelong love-hate relationship with her breasts (they were very large for her very petite frame and caused her a lot of trouble, from back problems to finding clothes that fit right).
As someone who also had a preventative mastectomy at 28, I found this to be the most honest depiction I have ever read about the description. Caitlin describes everything she went through in the same way I would have and she touches on aspects that many other authors might have shied away from (i.e constipation, depression, etc.) and she manages to do so with humor. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is considering (or who knows someone who is considering) having this surgery!
F0r anyone who remembers "I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy," here's an updated and entertaining tale from a young woman who - lucky us - is a professional comedian. She mixes the woes of having too-big breasts with the reality of depression and substance abuse possibly triggered by the strong chance that her BRCA breasts could kill her. I asked my oncology surgeon if I could have a mastectomy instead of chemo and radiation, but he said no, it wouldn't help. Brodnick makes it clear that it would not have been any easy out, no matter how smooth Angelina made it look. She is also blessed with an incredible family, despite the losses they suffered from this epidemic. This is a thoughtful, realistic, and entertaining book - a perfect trifecta.
There is also a great intro from my favorite comic TV actress, Rachel Bloom (My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) who is not only well endowed but sees the whole picture - and sings about it all over the internet. My only hesitation about this book is that I wonder what marketing whiz made the call on the title. Boobies is a cartoon word for a real body part that shouldn't need to be sick to be respected. But I get! This is where we live.
Caitlin Brodnick makes light of a serious anxiety provoking topic for many women. This book was just as informative as it was humorous! I would recommend this book for anyone, whether affected by cancer in some way or not.
I’m not really the intended audience of the book as I’m not someone that has breast cancer in my family or friends network (thankfully). But, this gives a better understanding of what BRCA carriers face. Plus, we all carry something funky in our genes and have to make life decisions based on it. The author does this by getting her “time-bomb breasts” removed due to her heightened breast cancer risk. It chronicles that journey and is great for anyone that may be looking into the same procedure or have someone close to them going through it. Brodnick is funny and likable, but she is an extremely anxious person which pours out of the pages. I’m not knocking that, but anxious people can drive me nuts so it was an irritating read at points. She is a little needy, sensitive, attention-seeking, fearsome, etc. (which she is self-aware of) and I’m sure it will be helpful for people that can relate more to that. Her complaints and anxious thoughts can be annoying and the story can also be repetitive because she is a talker. But overall, the story is important and she writes in a very compassionate style that will make you smile about topic that’s not meant to make you smile. As a side note, her marriage sounds as rock solid as it gets and it would be awesome if every woman going through a medical crisis could have an Allen.
You're probably saying, "The heck?", but this is not that random. First, we know Caitlin's mother from way back (she taught my aerobics class decades ago). Second, Caitlin performed a comedy/story-telling act at my church not too long ago, and she's really funny. Third, my half-sister has the BRCA mutation (and, unfortunately, a bunch of cancers), and I've been asked to get tested to see if I'm a carrier. So, I thought it might be a fun read, plus educational. It was both. At first I had a strong TMI reaction, because Caitlin seems to have put every mood swing, every emotion, every thought she had into this book. But when you finally get into the ordeal of her surgeries, it becomes moving and educational. I can see any other woman in her place having the exact same range of emotions, and being grateful to Caitlin for writing this book in such intimate detail. Plus, I think her courage, persistence, fears, doubts, sense of humor, hopes and dreams will be inspirational for a lot of people who have medical challenges that involve many surgeries and doctors' visits.
I’m getting a prophylactic double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery in less than 2 months, and I’ve been viewing my boobs as time bombs basically since I was 14 when my mom died. It was never a matter of “if” but a matter of “when”. I actually tested negative for the BRCA gene, but due to strong hereditary reasons (my mom, my aunt, and others), I still had a 53% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. That was the final push I needed to move forward with the surgery. I know this isn’t what many people would do, but I feel good about my decision, and I knew it was the right thing just because it immediately felt like a huge weight off my shoulders once I made the decision. I was so happy to see Dangerous Boobies mentioned in a support group I’m in, because I had never seen a book where someone went through something somewhat similar. It was great hearing Caitlin’s story & experiences and also hearing her sense of humor when talking about it. This book is great for anyone going through something similar and will make you feel less alone and more understood.
The only reason I took off a star is because I thought it could have been edited better. Seriously though did her editor fall asleep when she used “white as a ghost” twice on the same page? Other than that it was a great book; simultaneously funny and serious when it needed to be. She is definitely a friend I would want to hang out with regularly. I’m glad she’s in a better place in her life now after everything she has gone through and I hope it keeps going along swimmingly with only minor bumps in the road.
When Caitlin is diagnosed with a BRCA genetic mutation she has to make a difficult decision. In order to prevent breast cancer she opts for a double mastectomy. Caitlin shared her personal experiences-the funny, the tears, the sex and everything in between! As someone who was facing the same diagnosis/decision it was eye-opening. At the end I just wanted to give her a hug because I felt like she truly understood what I was going through.
This book is exactly what I needed to read, as I find myself about to undergo the same procedure. I appreciated the candidness and recognized a lot of my fears and concerns in the things that Caitlin discussed with her doctors or disclosed to readers.
The editing in this book is terrible, but I didn't want to take a star off an otherwise fabulous read that I'm sure has helped many women in my position.
Next month I’m getting a preventative double mastectomy and wish I read this book sooner. (I didn’t, for all of the avoidant and anxious BRCA mutation-carrier feelings Caitlin describes perfectly in this book!!) I felt like I was reading my own stream of consciousness. It is so reassuring to know that BRCA makes other people crazy and scared and stressed out too!! Thank you Caitlin for sharing your story!
An incredibly funny, relatable, and often moving memoir from a fresh voice. Caitlin Brodnick's account of her preventative double mastectomy is told with humor and heart, effectively walking the line of the serious and the laugh-out-loud entertaining. Her positivity is infectious: this is a gift to the previvor community, and to all women everywhere. Brava!
I could not finish this book. The author had a preventative mastectomy. I also had a double mastectomy, but unfortunately I was not able to plan, mine was not preventative, I had an active cancer diagnosis. I do think I have a very positive attitude, and there are things that I can joke about, but not everything is a pun, innuendo, or comical. Maybe one day I will finish it?
I wish I knew about this book before my double mastectomy. I am a little over a year into my journey and five surgeries in. I am so glad I found this book. I will be rereading it again. Her explanations and the way she words it is so true! I love this book!