~ ~ Most of Me Surviving my Medical Meltdown Show ~ ~
Most of Me
Surviving My Medical Meltdown
by Robyn Michele Levy
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Robyn Michele Levy is a visual artist, radio broadcaster, and writer. Her writing has been published in the Vancouver Sun, the Georgia Straight, and other publications. Her most recent CBC radio documentary, “A Cruel Coincidence” Won the Silver Award at New York Festivals 2012 World’s Best Radio Programs. She has performed stand-up and sketch comedy as well as slam poetry. At age forty-three, Robyn Levy was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and, eight months later, with breast cancer. She lives with her family and her remaining body parts in Vancouver, British Columbia.
"Most of Me" is Levy’s debut memoir. It was shortlisted for the 2012 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour & shortlisted for the 2012 Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction.
Interview with Author Robyn Michele Levy
Author's Website: mostofmebook.wordpress.com
Author's Blog: mostofmebook.wordpress.com/blog
"Sometimes, laughter is the only way to deflect despair. Robyn Michelle Levy knows it from personal experience. Her memoir Most of Me is simultaneously amusing and poignant. From the first word, the story pulled me in and never let go, and the pages practically turned themselves. But it was a harrowing read, too, because of the subject matter: a serious, life-altering illness. Or rather two of them at once.
With poise, candor, and self-deprecating humor, Levy writes about her medical plight. At the age of 43, she was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson's. Eight months later, while still reconciling her debilitating affliction, she added breast cancer to her list of maladies. So far, she has won both battles.
Her memoir covers several years before and after her diagnoses. The book starts with 'before,' when the author struggled with her deteriorating health and bouts of depression without knowing why. Her immediate family--husband and teenage daughter--were often on the receiving end of her black moods, and afterwards, she was swamped by remorse. Then the bomb of Parkinson's exploded in her face.
Throughout the book, Levy is relentlessly honest, as she chronicles her seething cauldron of emotions: anger and guilt, shame and acceptance, terror of impending diapers and determination to survive. She also details the support and affection she received from her friends and family during her arduous medical journey. In a way, the book is a tribute to her loved ones, although the writing never slides towards melodrama. Funny asides and droll observations keep the narrative balanced on a tasteful line between mushy and tragic.
One of the grimmest problems the author faced after each of her two diagnoses was how to tell her thirteen-year-old daughter. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that Levy's father was diagnosed with Parkinson's a couple years before. She writes: "We're in the same sinking boat now: daughters coping with parents who have Parkinson's. Under these circumstances, how can anything be OK? How can we get through this together, when I'm falling apart?"
Tears sprang to my eyes when I read those and similar lines. But more often than not, a morbid joke was only one step behind. Laughter and gentle self-mockery permeate the book. No dysfunction of the writer's ailing body is off-limits to her irreverent keyboard, even when breast cancer piles on top of Parkinson's. In her bleakest moments, humor sparkles, as she describes her recovery after mastectomy; outlines her wrestling with the question: chemo or no chemo; or tells us about naming her prosthetic breast Dolores. "If I don't laugh I would cry," she writes.
The same applies to me, as a reader. If I didn't smile so often while reading the book I would've cried too. Books about illnesses are always emotionally draining, and this one was no exception. I wanted to protect myself from the author's pain, but even more I wanted to understand how she found the strength to deal with her "diverse disease portfolio." I read the book, and grinned, and chuckled, and learned from Levy's courage.
Definitely recommended to anyone."
by Olga Livshin
for Story Circle Book Reviews
reviewing books by, for, and about women
A valuable memoir
"This is a wonderful book. I found this memoir of illness engrossing, well-written, clever, and often very amusing -- no small feat given the subject matter. Robyn Levy has a gift for smart turns of phrase and offbeat insights. The book works well at another level, as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of the daunting double assault of Parkinson's disease and cancer. I imagine that the writing of this book must have served the author well, creating space around difficult and frightening experiences. Finding courage in herself, she encourages us. We are all, of course, vulnerable to similar affronts to the body and mind. Close friends and compassionate physicians can help us, as they did Levy, but I hear her telling us that a sense of humor is also a great gift, a welcome companion, and a guide."
Laughing Off Pain
I loved this memoir. I read it in two sittings, sneaking off to finish it when I had things I was supposed to be doing. I laughed out loud several times while reading it. And I learned a lot--about things every woman kinda wants to know but doesn't really want to ask because you're not quite sure what you're getting yourself in for when you ask about cancer procedures. And I knew nothing about Parkinson's disease, and painlessly and humorously, I learned a great deal. Robyn Levy is a marvelous writer, laugh-out-loud funny, clear, and astute.
"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
(Net Proceeds to Benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society -Multiple Sclerosis Research Department)