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Why I Wore Lipstick: To My Mastectomy

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"Her book's catchy title belies its substantial this is an honest, perceptive memoir from a feisty survivor who's willing to discuss every detail, like getting sick in cabs during chemo treatments, baldness and sex. " - Publishers Weekly

Having recently graduated from Columbia Journalism School and landed her dream job at 20/20, the last thing 27-year-old Geralyn expects to hear is a breast cancer diagnosis. And there is one part of the diagnosis that no one will discuss with what it means to be a young girl with cancer in a beauty-obsessed culture. Trying to find herself, while losing her vibrancy and her looks, Geralyn embarks on a road to self-acceptance that will inspire all women. Although her book is explicitly about a period of time where she was driven by fear and uncertainty about the future, Geralyn managed a transformation that will encourage all women under siege to discover their own courage and beauty.

The important and outrageous lessons of Why I Wore Lipstick come fast and furious with the same gusto that Geralyn has learned to bring to every moment of her life.

224 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2004

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Geralyn Lucas

7 books12 followers

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5 stars
185 (27%)
4 stars
227 (33%)
3 stars
204 (29%)
2 stars
48 (7%)
1 star
19 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 91 reviews
Profile Image for Zee Monodee.
Author 46 books346 followers
January 19, 2018
As a breast cancer survivor myself (2x, actually), this is one book that totally resonated. I was nodding along much of the way, because this IS what goes on in the mind and heart of someone diagnosed with breast cancer and having to go for a mastectomy. I loved how Ms. Lucas emphasized that breasts is not the only thing making a woman feminine - it also comes in attitude, in that lipstick (red or otherwise).
My only beef is that this happened to her a long time ago, and what her options were are not what the options are today. For example, fertility preservation is definitely a thing now, with egg harvesting done in a manner that even women with hormonal cancers can safely have their eggs harvested without this causing a flare in cancer in their bodies. Cancer research and treatment changes by the year, if not by the month even, and her struggle - though I do NOT at all deny the emotional journey she went through! - is not really the same as someone with the same diagnosis would face today.
Profile Image for Kristen Putch.
4 reviews
December 1, 2011
I have mixed feelings on this book, which sounds harsh about a book written by a cancer survivor. The book certainly had some powerful elements, especially with the trauma of being diagnosed and the decision to have her breast removed, and the pain and struggle the followed. However, there were certain parts of the book that just seemed overly gratuitous. Geralyn became a poster girl for breast cancer because of her job and her connections, and that's great. But her story didn't speak to the average woman, which is unfortunate. I don't think it really would give comfort to the everyday person battling breast cancer, but I applaud Geralyn for sharing her story and her experience with the world.
Profile Image for Samantha.
198 reviews37 followers
March 22, 2015
I started this book shortly after finding out my 26 year old sister had found a lump and needed an ultrasound and mammogram. Thankfully its not cancer but it gave us all a scare. I figured what better book to read while awaiting my sisters results. What I got with Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy is a book about a young woman who was so beautiful that doctors cried over the fact she would lose her breast. She was so beautiful that cabbies stopped to cry with her and kiss her hand when she told them she had cancer. Don't get me wrong, Geralyn is a survivor and her story isn't less than any other story of breast cancer. I was just hoping for am uplifting survivor story centered around your average woman. You know, one who didn't have Barbara Walters sending her flowers.
Profile Image for Susan Swiderski.
Author 3 books37 followers
March 3, 2016
If you only read one book about breast cancer in your life, it should be this one. The gutsy author was diagnosed at the age of 27, and this is her raw tell-it-like-it-was story, with all of of the ups, downs, ins, and outs of gut-wrenching fears and self-doubt, and the ordeals of surgery, chemotherapy, and reconstruction. It's a story of the courage and determination of a brutally honest woman, who learned the hard way who she is, and what really matters. And it's a story of grace, good humor, and hope.

Hats off to Ms. Lucas for writing such an honest account that is bound to be helpful to many other women facing the same horrible challenge.
Profile Image for Christy.
313 reviews9 followers
March 9, 2008
This was a good memoir of breast cancer, but it was a very specific memoir, I think.. the memoir of a girl who had it all... the perfect job, perfect husband, "perfect" life... before the cancer hit. Moving story, but I can't help but wonder if she exaggerated... did the doctor really cry? Did strangers really tell her it was a shame for someone so beautiful to get cancer? Maybe that's irrelevant. It's a good read for what it is.
Profile Image for Chrissy.
819 reviews
November 13, 2010
It's been years since I read this autobiography, but I remember quite well feeling annoyed that Geralyn Lucas found it important to (embellish?) that the experienced doctor wept over the thought of such a physically attractive woman to suffer with breast cancer. For a more honest take on breast cancer, try Nordie's at Noon instead
27 reviews2 followers
February 3, 2020
I have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and this was the first book on the subject I picked up. It was well written and well told. I cannot imagine being diagnosed with breast cancer at 28 as she was. The first thing I did was google the author and was so happy to discover that she is alive and well, 53 years of age, still married and has two grown children.
Profile Image for LiteraryMarie.
599 reviews51 followers
October 16, 2011
Twenty-seven-year-old Geralyn Lucas landed her dream job at 20/20. She was ready to have children with her husband. But life threw an unfortunate monkey wrench into her plans. Geralyn Lucas was diagnosed with breast cancer. She knew something was wrong with the lump found during a self-exam. She really knew it was bad news when two men in white coats stood before her in the examination room, both of them crying. One of them being her husband.

Why I Wore Lipstick to my Mastectomy begins with Geralyn in a strip club. She's there to make a decision: mastectomy or lumpectomy. She clearly sees we live in a boob-obsessed beauty-driven world. She wondered if she'd be as attractive with only one breast. Will her husband Tyler ever stop crying? Will she be respected? And why did this happen to her, a young woman under thirty?

Geralyn Lucas holds no emotions in. It's gutsy. It's funny at times. And it's a fresh perspective on the touchy subject from a survivor's point of view. She makes the reader feel every ounce of fear, uncertainty, sadness, pride and victory. Wearing red lipstick became her armor. It gave her strength and power. You can feel her boldness through the words. Feel her pain and struggle through the pages.

When I chose this book for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I had no idea it would be this personal and detailed. Whether you know someone who suffered from breast cancer or not, it will touch you. It will encourage you to do self-exams. It will change your outlook on cancer as a whole. You will learn to sympathize and not pity. As actress Kim Cattrall said, "Read this book and you'll never wear lipstick the same way again."

Literary Marie of Precision Reviews
Profile Image for Kristine (fezabel).
107 reviews69 followers
June 25, 2008
Overall, this book is good. It's funny. It might be inspiring in parts. You could call it realistic and honest. I picked it up to read about 'what it means to be a young girl with cancer in a beauty-obsessed culture'. It's actually the story of what happens when the Perfect Life is tainted with cancer.

There are too many references to that Perfect Life. The author is a name-dropper and talks about all the people she knows and how they contributed to her successful recovery. Barbara Walters sent her flowers. Everyone in the book that she encounters is helpful, supportive, complimentary (even when she's sick & bald from chemo), and lavish with their praise. She does the surgery, the treatment, and the recovery in her Perfect way. At times, it seems that she is more worried about losing her Perfect Husband & Dream Job than her health.

This book might be good to give someone for a laugh or for support with cancer. But please warn them that it takes place in a Hollywood Perfect World.
Profile Image for Jeanine.
5 reviews1 follower
May 4, 2007
The book was turned into a Lifetime Original movie. (Obviously). I've never read it nor have I seen the movie. The title did inspire me, however, to wear red lipstick to my molesectomy I will be having this afternoon. In this way, I will be symbolically reclaiming my womanhood even after my mole is gone. On that note, lets share these words of Pink and India Arie:
"I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am not your expectations no no
I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am a soul that lives within"
Am I right ladies? Woo. I am not my mole, a whoa, a whoa, a whoa!! Alls I gotta say is thank-you jesus that it's just a mole and not my boobs because we all know my boobs do define me.
98 reviews
April 16, 2013
I have mixed feelings about this book. Should I really criticize a book written by a cancer survivor? I'm glad that it has helped some women and people feel inspired by her story. I felt like she was very privileged and wonder how the average woman struggling to get by would feel reading this. She gets nine second opinions, Barbara Walters sends her flowers, she gets a haircut and is featured in a magazine! You get the idea. I was incredulous that everyone she told burst in to tears or otherwise bonded with her. At least she uses her resources to work as an activist and help other women with breast cancer.
Profile Image for Morgan.
103 reviews4 followers
April 12, 2007
This book is NOT for the faint of heart. I read it looking for general life inspiration - I came away from imbued with morbidity and absolutely convinced that if faced with this challenge, I would not survive. This is not to say that someone else could benefit greatly from reading it - I just wasn't quite prepared for the hundred pages of horror stories. It's safe to say that in my already-depressed state, this book successfully launched me into a state of existential crisis. (Good choice, Morgan.)
Profile Image for Crystal Haddock.
5 reviews2 followers
November 2, 2012
This book was a gift from a college friend to me after my mastectomy. My friend ironically was diagnosed with breast cancer in May, while I was diagnosed in August. I think what I noted most is that this journey can be handled differently by different people, and though I appreciated Geralyn telling her story and detailing how she coped I did not relate to her as closely as one would expect. Of all things I liked the most was her getting a tattoo of a heart with wings at the end of her scar rather than a nipple, but that was about it. Luckily, it was a short read...
Profile Image for Lisa Heiberger.
115 reviews3 followers
January 19, 2010
This book annoyed the bejesus out of me. Out of the 3 breast cancer related books I've read lately, this one was one I thought I'd relate to the most. She was diagnosed @ 27 and endured all kinds of stuff. Well, unfortunately, her personallity and writing style just bugged me too much and I didn't enjoy this book one bit. I must admit that I left it with 10 pages left to go. I just didn't care to waste anymore time with it.
Author 3 books1 follower
July 29, 2011
This book seems to want very hard to be fierce, but it could probably have been told in half as many words. There's a lot of repeated information in here. Also, I understand that each person struggles, grieves, and moves on in different ways, but this book is pretty much as frivolous as the title suggests. It's not a terrible read - it's mostly engaging, however, there just isn't much substance to it.
Profile Image for Lucy.
595 reviews116 followers
May 16, 2011
I did not like her particularly--there was a lack of self-awareness and perspective that was at times astounding--and I felt like the whole was more of a diary than what should have been a highly edited and published memoir, but the occasional insights she illuminated made it worth reading.
Profile Image for Nora.
23 reviews
November 19, 2013
I worked with Geralyn and got a signed copy of her incredible book. She is one inspirational woman!
Profile Image for Sandy Cee.
Author 5 books11 followers
September 15, 2019
Like many other women who have read, are reading, or will read this book I had breast cancer. I think I did a search somewhere and this book came up as a must read. It sounded greaat. Funny, poignant and sad all at once. I just had to find a copy of it.
I did a search online and found it online somewhere in South Australia. I began reading it before I went into hospital for my mastectomy. All the way through it I was determined I too would wear lipstick to mine. Sadly on the day, I didn't cos the nurses wiped it off. But my mindset was certainly thre.
Geralyn inspired me in many ways. Firstly she was so positive all the way through the book. Secondly, she was still a raving beauty. Her hair grew back inspite of the fact that it fell out a clump at a time. She lived to tell the tale of her woes and even shared her scars with her coworkers and family.
I recommend this book to any woman - with or without breast cancer. But at least you can understand another woman's position. Even though she had a great job, she was able to go through with her treatment. Even though her job was important to her, she put up with the likes of her needle phobia. This was perhaps one of the biggest things that resonated with me as a huge needle phobic. I still could not get over the phrase "The Needle is My Friend" UGH!
Anyway, yes, a good read and a MUST read for any woman in that position.
Profile Image for JoAnn M.
250 reviews1 follower
January 11, 2019
I heard Geralyn speak at an event for cancer survivors, and she told her inspirational story. Her book is also inspirational. Although she did drop a lot of celebrity names (she was a producer at 20/20), the best parts of the book were hearing about all her angels that helped her through her journey of diagnosis, surgery, chemo and afterwards.
Profile Image for Christine (Queen of Books).
951 reviews133 followers
November 11, 2017
Heavy topic, but still a fast read -- read like a blog (not in a particularly bad or good way). Felt like she was being honest about her experience, and I appreciated the intimate look into this part of her life.
Profile Image for Natalie.
16 reviews
September 27, 2017
This book read like an autobiography for me. I loved it and her humor. I had a very similar outlook during my breast cancer and it inspired me to write my story.
Profile Image for Julia Sienski.
74 reviews
May 7, 2020
Ngl I do not think Geralyn Lucas and I would be friends in real life. Sam gave me this book and I literally had to drag myself through to the finish line. Tough.
595 reviews
January 2, 2021
A well-written memoir in which the author describes her diagnosis, treatment, and survival from breast cancer.
Profile Image for Megan M Muldowney.
4 reviews1 follower
January 16, 2023

This is THE book for younger hopeful cancer patients looking for inspiration without the tacky positivity. Thank you, Geralyn- you nailed it!!!
Profile Image for GreenGablesFan.
20 reviews5 followers
January 23, 2015
"Why I Wore Lipstick" resonated with me on a personal level. My mum and I are both cancer survivors and can fully understood what Geralyn Lucas went through from diagnosis to treatment. Our cancers may have been different, but I related to her feelings of loss and ultimately hope for the future.

One of my favourite parts of this book was when Lucas met a larger than life taxi driver whilst on the way to her mastectomy. I cried when he stopped the taxi to tell his story (I won't reveal exactly what he said). It reminded me of something I think of from time to time as a cancer survivor. I remind myself of how I have been given a second chance at life and should make the most of it. The taxi driver was definitely doing that with his loud music and fun flirting.
The memoir continued to reflect more of my own story. It was interesting how you felt like your were inside Lucas' head. She wrote beautifully about her thoughts and fears.
I loved how she dealt with the topic of anxiety in particular. She made me feel that is okay for people to feel overwhelmed by the loss and change associated with cancer. I wished that her book had of been around 20 years ago in a version that a child could understand. It was with great disappointment that I lost my hair. I was so scared of anyone seeing my bald head that I kept wearing a hat to school for several months!
Her chapter on getting tested for a cancer gene was exactly what I needed to read given my present situation. She gave me the courage to stand my own convictions. Last year I had it confirmed that my childhood ovarian cancer diagnosis was just a freak of nature. Just like Lucas I wanted to know more so I could help myself or possibly others in the future. This year I will find out if I am carrying a gene for uterine cancer given my family history. I hope to find the peace of mind that Lucas did.
Finally, I would recommend this to any body that needs their mojo restored ;). Everybody needs a little reassurance now and again (whether they are a cancer survivor or not).
2 reviews
November 27, 2015
I think this book is amazing! I feel like I got a chance to go through Geralyn's breast cancer story, and experience her good and bad moments. She always shares her feelings about everything that happens, and I honestly feel honored to read these things that were written from her truest place. This book made me sometimes feel sad and hopeless, and sometimes extremely happy and thankful. This book changed my way of thinking because it teached me to appreciate life, and not to take things from granted. Geralyn is such an inspiring person, since from her lowest times, she had the strength to climb to the highest and eventually, to be able to accept herself after all her mental and physical changes. She had many difficulties feeling like a woman and showing herself to society while at work or at the street, but she found the iner power to come over everthing and be proud of her development through about 5 years. The fact that she gave birth to her daughter, Skye, shows that everything is possible, and the future might head you positive surprises at are unexpected and seem to look so far from reality. Overall, this book left me amazed and inspired, because you don't get to read that many amazing books such as this one.
Profile Image for April Harzynski.
9 reviews1 follower
April 13, 2008
My friend Angela gave me this book right before we did the Susan G Komen 3 Day Walk in August of 2006. The walk is to help raise money for Breast Cancer research and to help those who can't afford to pay for treatment. I will never forget that experience and this book tells the true story of a very young woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer, beat it and then went on to have a child. It is just an eye opener of what thousands of women have gone through, are going through, and more will go through until they find a cure. It is very good book. After reading this book I actually gave it away to a co-worker who had recently found out that his 20 something year old sister at the time had been diagnosed with Breast Cancer. She is doing very well now. She let me know through my space and her brother that when she finished reading the book she passed it on to another breast cancer patient. I hope this book helps many women realize that there are survivors out there and they can be one of them!
1 review
November 10, 2008
I loved this book. It was a gift from my mother a couple of months after my mastectomy. We were headed to the beach for vacation. The author did a great job of describing the entire process of finding out you have cancer to surgery, chemotherapy and then reconstruction. And she did it with the appropriate amount of seriousness (when needed). It was peppered throughout with wonderful wit and humor. I laughed out loud a lot and had to keep reading passages to my sister on the beach. I've recommended it to other women going through breast cancer and will continue to do so. They've also loved it. It was recently premiered as a movie on Lifetime. The author is a producer for Lifetime and was diagnosed with her cancer at 28.
Profile Image for Emily.
302 reviews
June 28, 2015
I appreciated the very open and honest way Geralyn tells us about her batle with breast cancer. Considering the subject matter, it was a compelling and quick read. I enjoyed her writing style and blunt way of sharing her fears, her hopes, and her personal and gritty experiences.

I only gave it three stars, however, because it was a bit jumpy in the telling of it. She would be in the middle of telling us something and then jumped to another story that I wasn't sure if it was before or after the one she was in the middle of telling. I also struggled with the occasional use of the f word and I did feel uncomfortable with the first chapter describing being in a stripping club. I understand why she included that story and some of the others as well, but it was just a bit much for me.
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