leslie bruce

Bestselling author
and “awesome mom”
claps back at breast cancer

Instead of letting the “C word” slow her down, Leslie Bruce chose to face breast cancer with the same sense of humor and pluck that led her to write a New York Times-bestselling parenting book.
A big fan of NBA playoffs and March Madness, the 38-year-old mom of two thrives on “let’s go” energy. “I was in for a procedure at a local hospital, and they were playing “See You Again” by Charlie Puth. I let the nurses know that perhaps pre-op wasn’t the greatest time for sad songs, so they blasted “Pour Some Sugar On Me” in the OR. And I was very much about it.”
Bruce had successfully stared down her diagnosis and surgeries when chemotherapy presented a new kind of challenge. “After I started, I managed it well, but at first I was scared like anyone would be,” the Laguna Beach, California, resident said. Her determination, and the highly specialized expertise and support of medical oncologist Wade Smith, M.D., who specializes in breast cancer treatment and research at City of Hope | Newport Beach Fashion Island, kept her firmly on track toward her goals.
“Dr. Smith and the entire City of Hope team are fully invested in my recovery. The way they see and believe in me as a whole person — an individual who is much more than their illness — opened my eyes to what world-class, patient-centered cancer care can and should be,” Bruce said.
A Family Story
Bruce is the mom to Tallulah, 7, and Roman, 5, with her husband Yashaar; she is also a prolific author. Her bestselling book of clear-eyed advice and encouragement for all the “awesome moms” out there was released in 2019. “As modern women, we feel like we should be able to ‘girl boss’ our way through motherhood, but it’s easy to start believing you are blowing it, especially if you only have social media as a way to grade yourself. I wrote the book as a way of reminding new mothers they are not alone and are in fact awesome. Shoulders straight, head held high.”
The exhilaration of raising a family and writing books was interrupted by a diagnosis in October 2020 at a local hospital after a lump was discovered in her breast.
Bruce soon discovered City of Hope’s highly specialized breast cancer care for patients and families and the personalized approach that is its hallmark.
“My breast surgeon, Dr. Laura Kruper, called me on the weekend to review my case before I had even walked in the door. It meant the world to me, and it showed she saw me beyond the numbers on the paper. I knew immediately I was at the right place.”
The City of Hope team also recognized the central role parenthood plays in Bruce’s life and tailored her treatment to support her. A surgery was timed so Bruce could celebrate Christmas Eve at home with her family. She wore a “cold cap” — a scalp cooling system that reduces hair loss caused by chemotherapy — because she knew it would be hard for Tallulah to see her without hair.
She completed radiation therapy in time to spend summer at home with the kids.
Being a homebody has its pluses and minuses, said Bruce. She became a pandemic gardener, which she found cathartic and calming at the same time. “I used to wake up on Sunday morning and text my girlfriends about whatever fun stuff we did on Saturday night. Now, I text my best friend, “What’s up with your squash plants right now.”
The Next Chapter Begins
Bruce passionately advocates for being proactive about breast health, especially among women in their 20s and 30s who don’t usually need mammograms yet. 
“I took my breast health for granted,” she said. “I had a breast exam in July 2021, and by October it was a full-blown lump. It moved, and it moved fast. So be diligent about self-exams. If you have concerns or questions, talk about them with your doctor. If you have a family history of cancer, ask about genetic testing. You are your own best advocate for your health care, and if you need to get a megaphone to make your voice heard, get a megaphone.”
Now that her children are back in school, Bruce is excited to have more time for writing. Her editor is eager to see another book since the last one performed well. As far as staying centered, Bruce said, “When it feels like another Groundhog’s Day, I remind myself that last year at this time I was using wipes to sanitize a package of turkey bacon.”
Most of all, Bruce is grateful to be authoring the next chapter of her life. “I'm stronger than this diagnosis. I have the strength of love of my family, and I have Dr. Smith and City of Hope Orange County walking with me. There is nothing that I won't be able to handle. Let’s do this.”
You can find Leslie Bruce at @leslieannebruce on Instagram, @lesliebruceamin on Twitter. Follow City of Hope Orange County @cityofhopeoc.