In 2006 I reviewed an advanced reading copy of this book. Here's what I wrote.
"Miriam Engelberg is a wife, mother and cartoonist. She was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 43, and has gone through chemo and radiation. But her treatment of choice is humor. Her graphic novel details all aspects of her disease, physical and emotional. Chances are that you know someone with cancer. It could be a relative, friend or co-worker. You want to be supportive but don't know how. So maybe you avoid that person. Ms. Engelberg lets you know that laughter is the best medicine. This irreverent and funny book is a very honest look at what it's like to live with cancer."
Since then several people close to me have been diagnosed with cancer. I pulled out my copy of Engelberg's book and reread it because it allows me a glimpse into the life of a cancer patient, a way to help me understand what my friends are going through and how they're feeling after being diagnosed. At some point I think they'll appreciate a copy of their own.
In the introduction Miriam writes: "We all have issues that follow us through life, no matter how much therapy we've had. The big one for me is about feeling different and alone - isolated in a state of Miriam-ness that no one else experiences." Her hope was that her comics would comfort others who struggled with the same issues.
Rather than a continuous story the book is a series of cartoon vignettes. The artwork is primitive yet charming. Miriam writes of waiting for the biopsy results and the diagnosis. She tells us how a hairdresser talked her into buying expensive shampoo and conditioner, only to find out chemotherapy would make her hair fall out. Nausea, stress, fatigue, bitterness, sex, and coping mechanisms - she shares them all. It's a story that's honest, funny and heart-breaking at the same time.
I was saddened to learn that Miriam Engelberg died on October 17, 2006. She was forty-eight. Her book remains an inspiration to cancer patients and their families and friends.
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks; (April 25, 2006)