Blogs > Coping with a breast cancer diagnosis through comics: The Saga of Bob

Coping with a breast cancer diagnosis through comics: The Saga of Bob

Hugo and Nebula award-winning author and illustrator Ursula Vernon shares the story of her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment through art and humor.


“I'm not sure how else I could have dealt with my diagnosis,” said Ursula. “NOT talking about it didn't seem like an option.”

Ursula, an author and illustrator of more than 40 books, was inspired to create The Saga of Bob, in part, because comics were one of her first loves, going back two decades to an epic webcomic called DIGGER that she wrote and illustrated.

“I've always found that readers will engage with a comic more rapidly and intensely than they will with a wall of text (and believe me, as a novelist, I sometimes wish it was the other way around),” Ursula said. “But I also knew that there was no way I'd have the energy to keep up with drawing a comic while I was undergoing treatment. So, I started playing around with text layouts and word balloons and a program called Typorama and what came out had the feel of a comic without me having to sit down and painstakingly draw characters on every page.”

Whether you call it a comic or something else, Ursula hopes someone out there finds her story useful. And she wants readers to know: “It’s ok to laugh, by the way. Some of it is hilarious.”

Read The Saga of Bob: Part I below. Each Tuesday we'll post another installment of the comic here on the LBBC blog.

The Saga of Bob: How I got boob cancer and all I got was this lousy tumor. Speech bubble: Must we? Caption: So I had a breast lump. But I have tons of lumps. This one felt like all the others, except it was sore. Speech bubble: Dammit. I bet I'm gonna have to get that drained. Caption: I ignored it for a month but it didn't go away. SHOCKING! Speech bubble: Don't you start.
Caption: Finally I had some spare executive function and made an appointment to see my doctor. She was impressed by its size. GP speech bubble: Holy crap! Speech bubble: I know, right? GP speech bubble: Two and a half centimeters. Let’s get you a mammogram. Speech bubble: You can’t just pop it now? GP speech bubble: No, you need a specialist for that. Speech bubble: Nuts. Large text: Three weeks later . . .
Large text: Whirrrrrrrrr thunk thunk thunk thunk. Tech speech bubble: Now take a deep breath…and hold it… Speech bubble: Hhhngh! Tech: …and breathe. Speech bubble: Hey, what are these wormy looking things? Tech: Those are lymph nodes. Speech bubble: Do they all look like worms. Tech: I can discuss anatomy, but that’s all. Speech bubble: So I should Google do lymph nodes look like worms? Tech: That might send you down some rabbit holes…
Fancy text: Then it was…ultrasound time. Speech bubble: But there’s lots of things that are dense with blood vessels, right? Tech: Oh, sure. Speech bubble: I’m not worried. If it was a tumor that size, it’d be, like, doing something by now. Tech: …mmm. Large text in quotation marks: We need a biopsy.
Caption: For the biopsy, they numbed up my boob, then used what sounded like a staple gun on it. Fifteen times. Bold text fading into the background: Ka-chunk! Ka-chunk! Ka-chunk! MD: Looks like three centimeters. Speech bubble: I’m not worried. MD: Mmm. Large text in quotation marks: Someone will call you back in two business days. Speech bubble: It’s fine. I’m not worried. Also my boob bruised like cheap tie-dye.
Large text: Two business days later… Caption: I drove to the lake so that I could pretend I wasn’t watching my phone more effectively. Speech bubble: Man, I’m gonna feel so silly for worrying when it turns out to be nothing. Just so silly. Large text: *Ring-Ring* Speech bubble: Hello! Hi! Yes! Speaking! Uh-huh. ...oh.
Caption: The nice woman on the phone assured me that breast cancer was extremely treatable and that most people got a happy ending. I did not make the joke that I desperately wanted to make, but it was a near thing. We made an appointment to meet the cancer surgeon five days later. She told me not to Google "triple negative" breast cancer because I’d only scare myself. I promised I wouldn’t. I lied, obviously. First, though, I just sat in my truck by the lake and Large text: Had cancer Caption: Apparently I’d had it all along. Speech bubble: Well, fuck.
Caption: I went home and cried on my husband. MR: Oh shit. Oh shit. Large text: MR: We’ll get through this. I promise. Speech bubble: sniff. I know we will, but I’m too busy to have cancer! Large text: I had deadlines, dammit! Seriously, if the tumor had just scheduled ahead, I could maybe have worked it in sometime in 2025.
Large text: Why me? …No. I head health insurance and savings and people who loved me. Better me than someone who didn’t have that. Besides I was happy and successful and I’d always known sooner or later the universe would notice.
Large text: It was a long five days. Caption: I Googled too many things. I told people. I canceled travel. I cried occasionally. Large text: Also I named my tumor Bob. Speech bubble: Fuck you, Bob. Caption: The weirdest thing was that I would go about my life and get groceries and watch movies and in the back of my head, all the time, a little voice kept saying, "You have cancer. You have cancer." It was like having a song stuck in your head, except, y’know, with crushing existential dread. Speech bubble: Die in a fire, Bob. MR: Also not a fan of Bob.

The Saga of Bob was originally published on Ursula Vernon's Tumblr. It is reproduced here with permission from the author.


The views and opinions of our bloggers represent the views and opinions of the bloggers alone and not those of Living Beyond Breast Cancer. Also understand that Living Beyond Breast Cancer does not medically review any information or content contained on, or distributed through, its blog and therefore does not endorse the accuracy or reliability of any such information or content. Through our blog, we merely seek to give individuals creative freedom to tell their stories. It is not a substitute for professional counseling or medical advice.


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