the women in my family get breast cancer

the women in my family 1

the women in my family 2

I know getting a mammogram doesn’t really mean I will get diagnosed with cancer. I know this. Getting mammograms regularly and doing self exams is how they would diagnose breast cancer early enough that my survival chances would be much better. And maybe I will never get cancer, that’s also a possibility.

But still.

I think I will always be waiting for that shoe to drop, in the back of my mind. Grasping on the edge of fear every time my breasts are squished between two glass plates, worrying that this mammogram might be The Mammogram. Every time I prod my breasts with my fingers in a circular pattern, dreading the possibility of A Lump.

I know that I am not guaranteed to get breast cancer.

But still.

I’m really scared that I will. That my body will betray me. That my son will sit with me at chemo, shave my head for me, make me radiation mix tapes, hear me vomit in the middle of the night and lie awake with the terrible knowledge that his mama might die. That he’ll have to live un-mothered too young.

I want to live to be really, really old, with Greg at my side reminding me where my glasses are, getting to watch our children grow up. I want to live at the beach. I want to LIVE. Live, live live. Grow to a ripe old age. Mother my children, love my husband, document and process my experiences through art, watch all the movies, eat all the popcorn, dance with my sister, howl at the moon, love it all.

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holding it in my hand

I finished the cancer comic book. With the help of a really lovely woman named Kate Barber and the Publication Studio at the Williams College Museum of Art, it is printed and bound and is a real live book I can hold in my hands.

adventures of a left breast

I want to cry. The intense joy of seeing the physical result of seven years of work plus the deep sadness of my mom not being here, not seeing this, and the sadness of everything we’ve gone through… seeing it and holding it I want to cry.

Reading the first part of this book, my mom’s part, is the only thing that makes me feel close to her right now. When other people tell me they dream about her or feel her presence I get mad, because I don’t feel it. It’s too much for me to feel it, or she just isn’t here, and I’m so mad, because she’s not here and she’ll never be here again.

But she’s in this book. At least, a part of her is. 2007 Viola is here, and I remember all these scenes. Reading her story in her own voice with her drawings and collages and handwriting is comforting and devastating at the same time.

We made this together. And I finally finished it.

Now that it’s a real live book, organized and formatted, I’m going to send copies out to publishers and hope it gets made into a book you can actually buy in stores, at comics festivals, and on the internet. I’ll let you know when that happens. (Incidentally, if you are a comics publisher reading this, feel free to contact me.)

seeking love

I haven’t been posting as often this fall, as I’ve been so dang busy. Busy with good things– weddings, trips, work, projects. But I cherish the times sitting at my desk, looking out at the gorgeous glowing fall trees. Seriously, this year is the most beautiful autumn I have ever seen. Every day I am knocked out by tree after tree.

And we got kittens. Two deliciously adorable sisters, about 8 weeks old. Ever since Henry died, the idea of getting a new cat has been on my mind. Not because I want to replace him, he will never be replaced. When he died my heart broke, my heart that was already broken after losing my mom. Any tiny bit of it that felt slightly, delicately healed was ripped open again. The idea of a cat planted itself in my brain. I thought this cat would help me– through taking care of it I could heal my heart.

And it ended up being two tiny kittens who, in only three days, have already started healing my heart. I watch them interact with each other and this new world that is our apartment. Watch them play until they fall asleep, then wake up and play again. Hear them purr as I stroke their backs and tiny heads. I watch their distinct personalities bloom in front of my eyes, as Ingrid learns quickly to climb and jump gracefully, and Galactus cocks her head to the side and looks at me with her sweet concerned expression.

Somehow I am moving forward. I live in the same place I lived when my mom died, do many of the things we used to do together, go to many of the same places. I don’t want to move forward because that means getting further away from the time when my mom was alive. I’m pulled in both directions: forward and back. I don’t know how to keep living, how to get older and grow up and move on into the future of the whole rest of my life without my mom. But I know I have to. I found my wedding dress. My hair is growing out. I breathe, once in a while I manage to cry in front of other people. I take one small step at a time. And these kittens are little new lives, growing and learning every minute, and I’m helping them do that.

I’ve been working on this big cancer comic book, the first part of which is my mom’s cancer comic book she made seven years ago. On the second to last page she has written this quote from Paulo Coelho’s By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept:

“The moment we begin to seek love, love begins to seek us. And to save us.”

On the bottom of the next page, the last page, she has written a note in her quick cursive (handwriting that feels like home):

Ate: Nachos + Beer (I was very careful w/ the cheese) – chocolate – few nuts
Drank also champagne + pom juice

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workin’ hard

I’m in the middle of a big project. When my mom first got diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 she started making a comic book. It was called The Adventures of My Left Breast, and chronicled her experience through diagnosis and treatment, her feelings and thoughts, frustrations and hopes. She wanted to make something out of what was happening to her, to be an active participant instead of a victim.

When her cancer came back in 2011, I started making comics about it from my perspective. I hadn’t fully processed it the first time, and wanted to document my own experience of what was happening. I’ve continued working on these comics since she died, trying to figure out the right format for this work, and now I’m making a big cancer comic book with my mom’s comics and mine together.

working on cancer comicsbig cancer comic book

Looking through my journal and remembering all these moments and details while drawing them has been really healing for me. I feel like I’m working on a project with her. She made me promise I’d finish her comic book, and this feels like the right way to do it.

I’m making so many new pages! And I’ll post some new stuff as I go.

 

work-in-process

I’m in the middle of a lot of new things. Writing, comics, things without a label yet. Here’s a look at my desk right now:

comics in progress

 

Hopefully I will have more to share with you soon. But it’s this in-process place that I love. And it’s necessary. The ideas need to marinate, I do one thing at a time, eventually the final product becomes clear. It’s the same way with being a person. You don’t know what all the little things are going to add up to until after. And you have to feel the uncertain feelings.

I’m also doing the important work of being a fiancee, like making pinterest boards, reading wedding blogs, talking giddily to family and friends, looking at Greg with doe eyes, visiting venues together, talking about music and food. It’s an interesting place to be– a fiancee. The only time I’ll be one, and for just a year, until I become a wife.

 

school for style

Hey all you locals– some of my stuff is now available at the School for Style in their new location at 20 Spring Street! Cat Cards, and several of my comics: Shelf Life (#1-3), Fish Dreams, and some mini cancer comics.

Anne Kennedy has done a lovely job with the store’s new location, and just as before, she breathes life and color into the community. Check out her awesome selection of vintage and handmade clothes, accessories, locally made jewelry, all kinds of great stuff. And while you’re there, take a look at my comics and cards!

photo-17photo-15IMG_0865FD-1Photo on 2013-03-15 at 17.15