LIFE LESSONS A sense of hu­mour can help us to nd calm in times of ad­ver­sity.

In the Moment - - Contents -

HU­MOUR HELPED ARTIST, WRITER AND FILM­MAKER MATILDA TRIS­TRAM TO FIND CALM IN TOUGH TIMES

Four years ago, when I was preg­nant with my rst child, I was di­ag­nosed with stage 3 can­cer. Dur­ing the treat­ment that fol­lowed, I wrote a di­ary comic about my life, about hav­ing chemo dur­ing my preg­nancy, about the birth of our son, James, about the things that made me laugh and kept me go­ing.

Why did I put it all in a comic? When I was work­ing out how to de­scribe or draw some­thing, I’d stop think­ing about how fright­ened I was. Fa­mil­iar ob­jects and scenes sud­denly seemed more mean­ing­ful, more pre­cious, be­cause they told the story of my life – which could end at any mo­ment. I wanted to draw it all while I could. Talk­ing about how I felt was up­set­ting and di cult; draw­ing wasn’t.

I posted the comic on­line and re­ceived a great re­sponse from other can­cer pa­tients, their friends and fam­i­lies, and from doc­tors and med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als. It came out as a book, Prob­a­bly Noth­ing (Vik­ing, £16.99), when my son was one.

What strikes most peo­ple about the book is that it’s funny. They won­der how I kept laugh­ing dur­ing that time. Be­fore I be­came ill I loved laugh­ing and mak­ing jokes. That didn’t change af­ter my di­ag­no­sis. Although can­cer is hor­rific, some of the things that sur­round it are funny: the awk­ward­ness, the in­ter­est­ing peo­ple you meet, the strange things your body does.

How­ever, one of the hard­est as­pects was the pres­sure to al­ways look for pos­i­tives. There were days when I felt like there was no bright side, times when I couldn’t laugh. But I am glad to have turned the ex­pe­ri­ence into some­thing that has been re­ceived in such a pos­i­tive way.

MATILDA TRIS­TRAM co-wrote CBee­bies’ The Ad­ven­tures of Ab­ney and Teal and the BAFTA win­ning Dip­dap. Her new book, My Year in Small Draw­ings:

No­tice, Draw, Ap­pre­ci­ate (Leap­ing Hare Press, £9.99), is out in Oc­to­ber.

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