I can't quite remember when Leslie and I became friends. Our friendship was so quick, open, and supportive that I felt she'd been in my life for more than just a few months. Every picture I saw of her was stunning and I kept thinking how I'd love to have her style. Then I found out that Leslie was somehow doing everything she was accomplishing, and the list is long, while battling cancer.
I've come to know Leslie as having incredible courage, strength and the biggest heart. She's fighting breast cancer with such style and grace and the stories she's shared through her fight have come straight from the deepest part of her relationships and being. I know her story will make you think deeper about life, dreams, and living to the maximum. I encourage you to buy her novel, What a Mother Knows, and get swept up in the beautiful talent that this woman holds. Now, I give you Leslie Lehr in her own words.
You know how people’s lives flash before their eyes when they are dying? At the moment I realized I could die, it wasn’t my life that flashed, but my dreams.
I greeted my cancer diagnosis in August with a great deal of denial. I was a healthy, active woman when the lump was detected by a mammogram. What A Mother Knows, the novel I’d been working on for years, had just sold. I had editing to do, classes to teach, and a family to manage. There was no time to be sick.
Besides, I knew I would be fine. My world-renowned surgeon said so. After two successful surgeries, I was excited to go to my final post-op appointment. My book release was confirmed for May and I wanted to share the news. But when my doctor came into the examination room with my pathology results, he had other news. The good news was that there’s a 90% cure for my kind of cancer; the bad news was that it involved chemo.
“Excuse me?” I asked.
“You’re going to lose your beautiful hair.”
That’s when it hit me. I wasn’t fine. It was only hair, after all, but it was my hair. Before, the C word felt random. Now, it felt personal. I began to cry.
My doctor held me while I sobbed, leaking mascara on his clean collar. Then he pulled his cellphone from his pocket, dialed an oncologist, and handed me his phone to make an appointment.
That’s when my life flashed before me. Not the struggles, but the good parts. I’d married Mr. Right, I lived near the beach, my daughters knew that I loved them, and I had a voice in the world through writing. My sixth book would be out in the spring. Then I wondered: What if it was my last?
I’d begun What A Mother Knows years earlier during a difficult divorce. I put it aside when inspired to write Wife Goes On, then wrote the TV movie to match. But I dreamed of seeing What A Mother Knows in print - I had to make it work. Everything I believed important was in this love story between mothers and daughters, wrapped up with mystery and music and magical places. And I believed that ‘a goal is a dream with deadlines.’ So, I rewrote it until I knew it was my best work. But would it be enough to account for my life? Would I be proud to have the title on my tombstone?
The answer was yes. I stopped crying.
Other survivors said cancer would be a wake up call, that I’d appreciate each moment more. But I already sighed at the sight of a blue sky and stopped to smell every rose. I already appreciated my life – and I wanted to keep going. So, during those hellish months of chemo and radiation when the fog lifted for even an hour, I squinted through the chemo tears and let my numb fingers bleed on the keyboard as I put the final touches on my novel. What A Mother Knows was the dream that kept me going in the dark of night.
Treatment is ongoing, but so is life. And the day I pulled on a wig and posed with my book in front of my picture in the bookstore window, my dream came true.
I could die happy now, but I won’t. I’ll just be happy.
Leslie Lehr is the prizewinning author of the novels, What A Mother Knows, 66 Laps and Wife Goes On, plus three nonfiction books, including Welcome to Club Mom. Her essays have appeared in the New York Times, Huffington Post and anthologies such as Mommy Wars, The Honeymoon's Over, and On Becoming Fearless. She was the screenwriter of the romantic thriller, "Heartless" and wrote "Club Divorce" for Lifetime. Leslie has a BA from the USC School of Cinematic Arts, an MFA from Antioch, and teaches in the world renowned Writers Program.
How far will a mother go to protect her child?
An unsettling, emotional and suspenseful novel of the unshakable bonds of motherhood, in which Michelle Mason not only loses her memory after a deadly car crash, but can't find her 16-year-old daughter, the one person who may know what happened that day. But the deeper Michelle digs, the more she questions the innocence of everyone, even herself. A dramatic portrayal of the fragile skin of memory, What a Mother Knows is about finding the truth that can set love free.