Frequently, I am contacted to write book reviews. Sometimes I say, yes. Usually I decline. Now and then I decide to write one even when no one has asked me to. This is one of those times. The complete title of the book featured in this post is: In-Between Days – a memoir about living with cancer by Teva Harrison, published in Canada in 2016 by House of Anansi Press Inc, 163 pages, illustrated memoir.
You know how some books just feel inviting when you first pick them up?
This is one of those books. Larger in size than the ordinary paperback, In-Between Days is a combination of comic illustrations and short personal essays, both depicting in equally stunning ways what it means to the author to live with metastatic breast cancer.
Teva Harrison was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer at age 37.
In-Between Days is brutally honest. It’s seemingly simple in presentation, yet extraordinarily profound in its messaging. Through the perfectly blended mix of illustrations and essays, Harrison documents her struggles with her devastating diagnosis and efforts to find balance between her stark, new reality and hope. She shares about the delay in her diagnosis, harsh treatments, awful side effects from such treatments, the career she had to give up, her emotional struggles, moments of helplessness, pain management efforts, sleep issues and more. Her words, such as those below, are frank, deeply moving yet through them Harrison makes it possible for us all to relate:
It’s worst when I can’t sleep. That’s when all my demon thoughts come to the surface. They love the dark. They swirl before my open eyes and blinking doesn’t dim them.
Who doesn’t relate to that?
In-Between Days gives readers a look into what living with a terminal disease is like for her. Harrison doesn’t sugarcoat; this alone makes it worth a read. Despite Harrison’s candor, no, because of her candor, the book is inspirational and difficult to put down.
Because truth always inspires. As does love.
And In-Between Days is also a love story. Harrison shares about her relationship with her beloved husband David. Their love literally holds her up when in her words, she “sometimes breaks”. Readers will take note of her deep love for family and friends as well. Harrison also shares about the hereditary component to her cancer story something that resonates deeply with family’s like mine.
Since there’s no way out for me, I hope I am the end of the line for cancer in my family.
There’s a beauty and poignancy to Harrison’s words and drawings. You’ll quickly be drawn in by both. One of my favorite essays is, Cancer Fraud. We are all well aware that looks can be deceiving, but when you’re metastatic and appear “normal” from the outside, it can be difficult for others to even begin to grasp the magnitude of what is really happening on the inside.
As someone who tends to be too wordy at times, I was struck by the minimalist approach Harrison has taken with her essays. Her words are carefully chosen – to the point, honest, descriptive, deeply personal and perfectly expressed.
Harrison says this about hope:
Hope is a dangerous thing. It’s absolutely crucial all the time, or I couldn’t go on…But I can’t put too much hope in any one thing. Especially now. In one moment anything can change…Hope is delicious, heady stuff, but reality has a way of upsetting the applecart. I have to find a way to balance the hope I need to get up every day with the pragmatism I need to deal with bad news.
In the metastatic breast cancer community there is often discussion, frustration and even anger that their voices are not being heard. This book is one woman’s experience and yet through sharing her story, Harrison sheds light on what it is like for others living with metastatic breast cancer or other serious illnesses. She also shines light on the difficult, vital roles loving caregivers and other supporters play in the day-to-day lives of people living with serious illness.
As Harrison states in her preface:
I hope that by talking about the hard stuff, I am helping other people who are living with cancer or other serious illness (and their caregivers and supporters) to start conversations with peers and professionals, with their friends and family, and with their doctors.
I’m quite sure in this she has succeeded.
If you are living with metastatic disease, you will feel as if you have another friend who understands.
If you’ve ever wondered what it must be like for someone living with a terminal illness (and we all should be), read this book, and then share it with someone else.
Learning and talking about the hard stuff is something we should all be doing.
In-Between Days is the perfect book to help get those difficult conversations started.
About the author:
Teva Harrison is a writer, artist and cartoonist. Her graphic series on living with cancer is published by The Walrus. In-Between Days was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction in 2016, and Harrison recently received the The Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for Nonfiction as well. She lives in Toronto with her beloved husband David.
If you would like to win a FREE copy of In-Between Days, share a comment below by 5 p.m. on Monday July 10, CDT, and you’ll be entered in my drawing. A winner will be announced here on this post shortly thereafter. A USA mailing address is required this time.
Thank you for participating and good luck!
The winner of the blog giveaway is Becky! The winner of my newsletter giveaway is Carol! Congrats to both winners!