A devastating and inspiring cancer memoir mixing drawings and essays, hope and dread.
“I’ve been an artist my whole life,” writes Harrison, “but this is the first time I have felt the need for narrative.” The narrative amplifies the art, as each single-page comic is followed by a short essay with the same title, the words illuminating the theme with greater depth and nuance, the drawings conveying feelings and experiences so powerful that they transcend expression in words. At age 37, the author was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, which could be arrested through treatment but couldn’t be cured. It’s a genetic strain that has afflicted women in her family for generations, and the memoir expands from a single woman’s treatment into the legacy left by cancer within her blood ties. It is also a love story, as the author felt an almost immediate connection with the man who would soon become her husband and has remained so supportive throughout the pain, the treatments, and the hope. This isn’t easy reading, for cancer isn’t an easy disease. As the title of the graphic memoir suggests, the author feels like she is in limbo, that she is dying with a fatal disease yet continuing to find passion and purpose in living a day at a time. The narrative has a cathartic power for her, but it also serves a greater purpose, giving readers the sort of account she wished she’d had. “I know that somewhere—if I could have just found her—there was a woman who could have told me I was not alone,” she writes. “And that would have changed everything.”
What Harrison has learned through her ordeal is that whatever she is feeling, it is natural to feel—and that, ultimately, all of us are living with the same finite mortality. An impressive graphic memoir.