cover image Down to the Bone: A Leukemia Story

Down to the Bone: A Leukemia Story

Catherine Pioli, trans. from the French by J.T. Mahany. Graphic Mundi, $27.95 (152p) ISBN 978-1-63779-034-2

Corsican artist Pioli records her own leukemia treatment in this gorgeous graphic memoir, published posthumously. After months of pain due to sciatica, which treatments fail to improve, Catherine checks in to a hospital for further tests in 2014. When the doctors discover she has acute lymphocytic leukemia, she’s rushed to chemotherapy. She explains the science behind the disease and treatment (including a concise explanation on preserving her ovary) while also detailing the experiences of bored isolation, drastic weight loss, and cravings for forbidden foods. Treatment progresses, but not as well as doctors would like, leaving Catherine in limbo until they green-light her brother’s bone marrow transplant. Tender moments with her partner Sébastien mingle with humor, like her whimsical haircuts and cheeky reliance on her “leukemia card” to avoid tasks. Pioli places her stylized, full-color characters in lightly outlined backgrounds. Her skills in rendering emotional states and medical symptoms made visible on the page is particularly impressive. Blending precise and educational details about the medicine (and its limits) for cancer care with touching personal vignettes, the work has potential to humanize patient care for practitioners as well as add to the “cancer memoir” genre. It’s a stunning example of what graphic medicine can do. (Dec.)