Colonomic: Cancer, Pregnancy, and Comics

“You’ve got 3 options.

1. Have chemo now and risk damaging the baby

2. Abort the baby and start chemo after… I must make you aware that chemo might make you infertile


3. Delay treatment until after it’s born.”

(Matilda Tristram, February Colonomic)

How does Matilda Tristram face these choices? With a black felt pen.

Colonomic is “an ongoing comic about it all.” As an 18-month pregnant woman, she was diagnosed with Stage IV Colon Cancer in February. With a passion for sketching and writing, Tristram has turned to comics as a means of communicating with loved ones about how she was doing.

The black and white nature of her comics gives them a sense of precision, and her concise use of language leaves a reader valuing the impact of each word.  The simplicity of her sketches sharpens them, and she distills each image to its core. Her authenticity and honesty is exposed by her unaltered writing and drawing, which preserves her presence within this work of art. Unsettled emotions of frustration surface, but so to does gratitude for the simple pleasures. Some moments are comical, others more tragic. 

The name Colonomic melds together the bodily organ with a form of art in a way that piques your interest, and exemplifies that these distinct realms may in fact be connected. This comic establishes an  incredible connection between the work of literature and art.

One thing I thought was interesting was that after watching Matilda’s story: A matter of life and death, the caption didn’t quite seem to fit.  The caption claims that “she has created a comic book that details the difficult decisions that came next: whether to undergo chemotherapy and whether to keep the baby” (Guardian). But Colonomic pushes against these decisions, drawing upon so many more of Matilda’s unique experiences.

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Filed under Literary Narratives, Visualizing Illness


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