I can't wait a minute longer to tell you about this book and you don't even know I've bought it until tomorrow's confessions.
Cancer Vixen by Marisa Acocella Marchetto has arrived in Devon and was the next book of the year to become an open and don't shut until finished case.Like all graphic novels it will bear a zillion re-reads because there is so much to miss each time and so many new things to notice.
Marisa is the self-confessed fashionista and cartoonist with The New Yorker and it must have been almost instinctive for her to record events as a cancer vixen rather than victim through her pen. The result is one of the best books you could ever wish to read on the subject of breast cancer but probably holds principles that could apply to any form of the disease.
This was never meant to happen to Marisa especially as she had let her health insurance lapse.The discovery of the lump comes just three weeks before her wedding to Silvano Marchetto owner of DaSilvano's which sounds like New York's answer to The Ivy in London, probably and not that I'd know.
On the subject of cost, continue to light a candle at every opportunity for the parlous state of health and wellbeing of our beleagured NHS because Marisa's final bill, eventually mostly covered on Silvano's insurance after they married, was $192,720.04
But what this book gives you is one of the most unique rides through this disease that you are ever likely to find. A serious subject dealt with in comic book format.Marisa took a tape recorder and a camera along to all her appointments translating the results into her distinctive cartoon style.
The outcome is an emotional as well as a factual account of what to expect, but it's all done with wondrous honesty and humour.
I always thought I was probably the only woman who had stood in the squashogram machine wondering why on earth men didn't have this done to bits of their anatomy? Well I'm not because Marisa thinks just the same and I suspect that throughout this book there will be moments for any woman to identify with.
Underlying it all is Silvano's love for Marisa and some very funny episodes when the 'it' girls make a play for him in the restaurant; he feeds their calling cards to the dog so they probably had vet's bills to pay too.
Another key player is Marisa's mother Violetta "the New Jersey version of Sophia Loren" and always plagued by her own ills but when the chips are down Violetta comes good, sitting through all the chemo sessions with Marisa and letting the world and its mother know the day the IV needle threatens to damage her daughter's drawing hand.
What follows is one of the many and frequent "best" moments in the book.
"YOU HAVE A SAY-IT-BEFORE-YOU-THINK-IT-TACTLESS-UNDIPLOMATIC
...and I love it"
Marisa, I love it all too and you can all perhaps see why when you read some extracts from the book here.
I was fortunate in the early days of my health visiting career to attend a course on palliative care run by the remarkable Dr Sheila Cassidy.The sessions opened quite dramatically with Sheila's own hand drawn cartoons depicting a woman discovering she had a breast lump.The impact of those pictures remains with me.
This book now joins those images.
I'm tempted to go into the surgery on Monday and quietly dump all those breast cancer "Help Yourself" books from the patient's library (eat tofu and feel better) and put copies of Cancer Vixen out instead, far more helpful and life-affirming.