It was only a matter of time until I reviewed a book about cancer on this blog. It’s such a pervasive disease; everyone knows someone else with cancer, many people have experienced it in their immediate family (myself included) and many others have gone through it themselves. The big ‘c’ is something that everyone dreads, yet we deal with it on a regular basis, so much so that is has its own language: chemotherapy, radiation, etc. are all words that people are intimately familiar with, and when you compare those words to other treatment words for other diseases, people draw a blank. For instance, what is the common treatment for cerebral palsy? Not many people know, yet the word chemotherapy is something that easily rolls off our tongue.
In-Between Days, a memoir about living with cancer by Teva Harrison is such a useful book for everyone to read. It details her diagnosis of, and continuing struggles of living with metastatic breast cancer. It’s not only beautiful to look at (see photo of just one of her drawings as an example) but it’s so honest and raw that it provides us with a reference when cancer inevitably affects us. It helps us understand some of the conflicting emotions that cancer patients experience, and for those who are diagnosed, it can offer a relatable story, and more importantly, a glimmer of hope edged with humour.
Graphic novels are one of my new favourite genres, they make such difficult subjects enjoyable to read about, and they draw in a new, wide-ranging audience that may have been hesitant to pick up such books before. Harrison has done just that with her memoir. No offense to her of course, but who wants to read a book about living with terminal cancer? It sounds like, literally, one of the most depressing things ever, and there are so many things available to us to read, why choose something like this? But the cover alone should answer that question-it features a mermaid on it, which you will only come to understand if you read the book in it’s entirety, which by the way, hardly takes any time at all because of all the wonderful pictures.
My favourite part of Harrison’s book is her ability to admit the most embarrassing things that cancer has forced her to deal with. They are somewhat minor, but they truly give us the most realistic picture of what her life is now like. For instance, she points out the fact that she’s lucky to have so many friends that help her clean and cook around the house, but when this happens, her stuff gets moved around to places she has to search out after they’ve gone. I compare this to when we have house guests-we like them to stay for a little bit, but not too long, because everyone has their own way of doing things, and guests disrupt this flow in our daily lives. It’s the same for Harrison because her items help ground her to a way of life that has changed so dramatically with her cancer, so anything that is familiar is deeply important to her. Although her experience is one that I hope I never have to go through, I found her voice so relatable, it was shocking.
I know this would be a totally awkward gift to give someone, but I do think it’s one of those books that everyone should have on their shelf and/or read at least once. So, maybe this is one of those stories that’s going to fly off the library shelves, I don’t know, but read it any way you can. And if the mood strikes you, go see Teva Harrison speak at Wordfest and get your book signed while you’re at it.