Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I’m going to write about what happened over the last few months. It’s a bit blunt, forgive me.

At the beginning of the summer we got a call from our friend Drew with bad news. Joanne, his fiancée had learned her cancer had returned after a lengthy fight over the winter and spring. This would be her third diagnosis with the disease, the first being four years ago with ovarian cancer. She beat that. The second bout began last year when a large tumour was found in her lung and required very risky surgery to remove it. There were complications and it looked bad but she came out from that a winner and we were all delighted, more so by their announcement that they would be getting married in October. And then that phone call. The cancer had spread to her brain and there was no treatment for it. She had six months. They wanted to keep it quiet so they could have as much normal time as possible and yep, they would still be getting married.

In July they went to Key West to stay with friends on the beach, and on our return from SDCC we heard they were back in town and wanted to get together with friends before flying off to Hawaii for the rest of August. We prepared ourselves for a solemn affair but it was anything but. Joanne looked fantastic and the night was a blast. They were going to a condo on the big island with two friends and soon we were talking about joining them mid-month to Labour Day.

I was running behind on Doctor Who by three weeks and as a result issue three had just been assigned to a cover artist. I was grumpy and tired from the push and the idea of jetting off to spend time with Drew and Joanne seemed perfect, especially since there wasn’t a lot of time to spend with them last year what with the crazy schedule on Y and then the equally crazy time right after Y that should have been spent doing nothing instead of jumping on a complicated short story and a couple of promo tours before jumping on Doctor Who.

Mid August, a couple of days before we were to be on a plane we got another call. Joanne was having some paralysis and bad headaches and had to come back immediately. The next day she had a seizure.

We visited them a couple of days later at the hospital. She still looked good and had high hopes about getting her pain regulation sorted so she could get the heck out of there. They were still set on flying out to Ontario so they could get married in October as planned. We visited again that week, had a sushi party in the lounge. Everyone’s hopes were up despite increasing incidences of seizures and issues with pain regulation.

The next two weeks were a blur, a steady downturn into awful and more awful. The doses of meds were needing to be stronger and stronger and in order to have the ceremony while still conscious the wedding was bumped up to September 2nd. The venue would be a friend’s restaurant in town, we were very happy to be invited to join them. On the Friday before, we got word that things had turned bad, that she might not make it past the weekend. Saturday, a text came in saying she was ‘fading fast’. We all rushed over and waited. She fought herself away from that brink but was pretty much out of it for the rest of the week, occasionally she’d wake up, ask about the wedding and drift off again. Tuesday, another text, another rush out to the hospital, more waiting. And still she fought. It went on like this for days, one spectacular sunset after another (as the lounge had one of the most amazing views of the city anywhere), it would have been funny if it weren’t so damn heartbreaking.

We read magazines, shared cookies and scones and fruits, passed around a back massaging machine picked up at the PNE that was quickly dubbed “Earl”, watched America’s next Top Model and then we’d go home, get some sleep and jump out of bed at every ring of the phone. Never have I held such animosity towards telemarketers.

On the morning of the 9th, a few hours after returning from a visit, we got a call that she had passed away peacefully.

Yesterday (Monday) was the memorial. Drew read the poem he had written to read to Joanne on their wedding day.

And y’know, comics just aren’t that much of a priority right now. I’m working on pages here and wondering why the hell I let so much of my life get set aside to do this. You hear it all the time among comic book artists, insanely long hours and very little time with family and friends, stress and more stress. It’s not healthy, not physically, not mentally. I’m very proud of the work I’ve done, happy as all get out at being able to reach as many readers as I did. I set a goal and achieved it to the best of my ability. I showed those who didn’t think I could do it that yes, I could. I gave those who suggested I was riding the coattails of my partner a big middle finger and it felt wonderful. And yes, it came at a cost. I see that now and need to address it.

Once issue five and six are done (Issue four has also been assigned to a cover artist), I’m going to take time off. If I do work on something it’ll be my own stuff or with friends and sure as hell won’t be on a deadline. I think I’m done with those for the foreseeable future.

Take care all, give a hug to those you love yeah?

3 comments:

David Lee said...

Peace.

Condolences.

Strength.

Rest.

Laughter again, eventually.

James Lloyd said...

Hi Pia.
I've been receiving bits of this story second-hand from Susan, but I was unaware of it's full significance. It slipped my mind to offer condolences the other night when I ran into you and Ian, so I'll offer them now. I'm truly sorry for the loss of your friend, and that you had to deal with it at such a trying time. I know Dr. Who is a dream project for you, but I really wish you had been able to take some much deserved time off before jumping into it. I would have stopped you if I could have.
For what it's worth, I can relate to everything you've written in this post INTIMATELY. My mother passed away two years ago, and I feel a deep sense of regret that I not only did not dump as much career responsibilities as I could the last year of her life, I actually redoubled my efforts (This was partly because I wanted her to see me get as much work published as possible before she was gone). After she passed away, I just could not see anything relevant about connecting all these little drawing in boxes anymore (and in many ways still don't). Following my return to Vancouver, I had to immediately jump into a new, high pressure gig at an animation studio in a near catatonic state. I quit shortly thereafter, and it was definitely the wisest thing to have done. I applaud your decision to give yourself some time to breathe and reflect. The book and the industry (presumably) will still be there when you get back. Regardless of what the future brings, your talent will not be denied. I can assure of one thing: for whatever it's cost you, Y is a very important work in the medium's history. At the end of the day, you have proven yourself not just to be a hell of an artist, but one that enriches our culture.
For what it's worth.

Tom Daylight said...

Hey, Pia. Hope you're okay.

You've got an amazing run on Y behind you and an amazing career in the future. Take as much time as you need.