Saturday, 21 September 2013

Stalking the catalogue: Cancer vixen

"Here is the tumor.  It looks like a black hole."

Four years ago I lost a friend to cancer. It wasn't until then that I realised it is an equal opportunist killer - men, women, children. It doesn't care about friends, families, lives yet to be lived, hopes, dreams, good people, indifferent people, careers. It doesn't care.  Fullstop. All of this time later and I still can't make sense of it. Sometimes, when I remember how bad things were towards the end, all I can remember is my own anger, and sadness, and helplessness, and how hugely important it was to not let my friend see all of that. Particularly not when she retained so much hope and strength. But Cancer Vixen gave me an insight into so much of what Trace chose not to share with us (that I couldn't, wouldn't, or was too afraid to ask about) and for that alone I love it.

Marchetto's graphic novel account of her experience with cancer is bold, hilarious, funny, strong, sad, truthful, comical, stunningly visual, and painfully human. (Which is exactly how I feel Trace was as a person, particularly towards the end of her life. Do I romanticise her? I'd like to think not). The most amazing things passed through Marchetto's mind at any one time and those, I think, gave the book an extra personal slant, e.g. her relationship with her very funny (s)mother (as she refers to her mum), women who blatantly chased her fiance, medical insurance, the best hamburger she'd ever eaten (and she has a copy of the receipt in the book of said hamburger) and so on. Would this book have meant as much to me had I not known Trace? I'm not sure. I do think I'm a little better off (in coming to terms with her death) for having read Cancer Vixen.

As 'stalking the catalogue' items go, this is a win.

Title: Cancer vixen [graphic novel] : a true story
Author: Marisa Acocella Marchetto
Published: Fourth Estate, 2007

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