Down to the Bone: A Leukemia Story

Graphic Mundi. Dec. 2022. 152p. tr. from French by J.T. Mahany. ISBN 9781637790342. $27.95. MEMOIR
Thirty-ish successful illustrator Pioli (Happy Body) endures persistent sciatica pain that takes her to the hospital for tests, but it’s actually leukemia. So now Catherine is sucked into an alternative universe, the world of the seriously ill, while her healthy blood cells are replaced by diseased immature “blast” cells and her resistance drops. Multiple tests, chemotherapy, a fascinating process to preserve her fertility, and a bone marrow transplant follow. Snarky as well as serious, her account marries medical detail with her own life story while her art renders the specifics both realistically and cartoonishly. Blood cells are cute little round critters; the over-growing immature cells (from the cancer) suck on pacifiers like babies. People, speech bubbles, and key details appear in soft color; backgrounds in grays. But it all cuts off suddenly as readers learn of the author’s 2017 death from the editors.
VERDICT An inventive introduction to what to expect for someone seriously ill with leukemia and for medical professionals needing insight into their patients’ points of view. Also, a sobering readalike for Marisa Acocella Marchetto’s Cancer Vixen, in which the author survives.
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