Cover image for Songs from a lead-lined room : notes-- high and low-- from my journey through breast cancer and radiation
Songs from a lead-lined room : notes-- high and low-- from my journey through breast cancer and radiation
Shea, Suzanne Strempek.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Beacon Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
204 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
RC280.B8 S4923 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



From the beloved author of "Hoopi Shoopi Donna" and "Selling the Lite of Heaven" comes a moving and uplifting breast cancer journal.

Author Notes

Suzanne Strempek Shea's writing was first published in her own hand-lettered & illustrated "Nutty News" (circulation: one copy) when she was eight years old. Now, in her early-40s, she covers two small towns for the "Springfield Union-News". Her freelance writing has been published in magazines including Yankee & New England Monthly. She lives in Bondsville, Massachusetts, with her husband, Tommy, a journalist with the "Union-News". She was the recipient of the NBA Award for "Lily of the Valley".

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Shea starts with a song of herself: at 41, she had never smoked, walked daily in all weather, hadn't eaten meat in a decade, and drank very little. She attended church, recycled, gave to charities, and had regular mammograms. In short, she was in the best shape, physically, she ever had been. So she thought. Then, a diagnosis of breast cancer. Because of milk, she wonders, or high-tension wires, or pesticides? What with early detection, her prognosis is good. She gives us her flashback-filled diary, the account of a month-and-a-half of postlumpectomy radiation treatments administered in a lead-lined room, which she initially meant to burn after sharing only with intimates. With no lymph nodes invaded, no chemotherapy was required. Still, though painless, the weeks of daily 10-minute procedures, five days a week, brought on self-isolation and fatigue in a limbo-like state, despite her relatively easy regular life as a stay-at-home writer. Shea's journey to understanding and appreciating her overall good fortune is a self-revelation that others affected by breast cancer will value. --Whitney Scott

Publisher's Weekly Review

Novelist and former journalist Shea (Selling the Lite of Heaven) says that while she was never much of a diarist, she found writing about her experience with radiation therapy for breast cancer therapeutic. In order to help other women "who'd been in [her] boots," the author decided to publish her account of the six and a half weeks she spent going to a "lead-lined room." Her straightforward memoir reveals exactly what her radiation treatment involved: the drive to the hospital, the overly air-conditioned waiting room, her favorite technician, the hard little dish she rested her head in when she lay down in the machine, and the music she listened to through headphones to take her away from it all. She also shares her shock and anger at being diagnosed when she was a healthy 41-year-old woman who "liked [her life] the way it was" and her unwillingness to embrace the positive attitude many people demand cancer patients adopt. Though she connects with a handful of people on her own terms, Shea emphasizes her need for solitude. One person she feels akin to is Molly Bish, a teenager from her area who disappeared around the time of Shea's diagnosis; Shea weaves news of the search for Molly into her own story because she feels she has "vanished in a way as well." Yet despite Shea's candor and often poetic writing style, her memoir lacks focus and can leave the reader feeling bogged down in minor details. As Shea slogs through treatment, readers are given yet another comprehensive description of a waiting room. Nevertheless, the book is an important addition to a small but growing number of realistic cancer memoirs. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved