Sometimes life is nuts... it’s good to have a squirrel around

Published Oct 4, 2018 at 4:01pm

Cartoonists have bad days. Rejection is an occupational reality.

Then there are really bad days. Cartoonists have those too.

And then there’s Wednesday, February 7, 2018: the worst day of our lives. That was the day we got the news no one ever wants to hear.

Invasive Ductal Carcinoma; moderately differentiated

Breast cancer.

A small mass was discovered on my wife Lezley’s most recent mammogram. The subsequent biopsy on the mass revealed a malignancy. Her cancer was classified as a Stage 1– 80% of diagnosed breast cancer cases cases are. Caught early, elimination and recovery is highly probable.

Still... it’s breast cancer. Makes a rejected squirrel drawing seem like a great day.

From Wednesday, February 7, 2018 to Thursday, May 3, 2018, 85 days, our lives would be dictated by cancer cells we couldn’t see.

Now, my wife descends from a very long line of tough women. But even the toughest person crumbles when the big “C” word is mentioned with their name.

My ability to make her laugh became the most important job ever. I absolutely refused to call it “cancer” – preferring to call it our “challenge”. It was subtle, but it helped lessen the weight of it all.

Later that first night, I asked Lez if she was good with me incorporating “our challenge” into my comic strip Bob the Squirrel. My life is my material - in that 90% of what happens to me or my family generally makes it into the comic strip. If she gave me “the look” or told me where to go and how to get there, the conversation would be over.  She says no...it’s a no.

She didn’t say no... but she didn’t want me jumping into it right then and there. We obviously had other bigger and generally unknown things to deal with. Plus, there were people she wanted to tell before they read it in Bob.

In some way I thought... if I put it in the strip, I could control the story and make it a happy ending.  Silly, but it kept me from breaking down.

The first installment of our challenge saga ran on Monday, February 26, 2018. The fan response was immediate. I joked that we’d have to rent a storage facility to hold all the positive thoughts and prayers sent. Let’s face it, it’s a pretty heavy, emotional subject to be dealing with – words and images together to tell a story make the emotion more digestible. Humor also plays a big role.

I was very careful not to turn Bob into “the cancer comic strip.” It is, after all, a ‘comic’ strip. There’s a LOT of life lived in-between the appointments, tests, procedures and treatments. Life is just life... boring, exciting, challenging, normal, daily life.

Sometimes life is nuts... it’s good to have a squirrel around.