At the age of twenty-five, Kimiko Tobimatsu was a young, queer, mixed-race woman with no history of health problems whose world was turned upside down when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. In an instant, she became immersed in a new and complicated life of endless appointments, evaluations, and treatments, and difficult conversations with her partner and parents. Kimiko knew that this wasn’t what being twenty-five was supposed to be like … but then, she didn’t have a choice.
With tender illustrations by Keet Geniza, Kimiko Does Cancer is a graphic memoir that upends the traditional “cancer narrative” from a young woman’s perspective, confronting issues such as dating while in menopause, navigating work and treatment, and talking to well-meaning friends, health care professionals, and other cancer survivors with viewpoints different from her own. Not one for pink ribbons or runs for the cure, Kimiko seeks connection within the cancer community while also critiquing the mainstream cancer experience.
Honest and poignant, Kimiko Does Cancer is about finding one’s own way out of a health crisis.
Tobimatsu navigates the daily consequences of living with breast cancer as a queer woman in this direct, yet gentle-voiced, debut graphic memoir. At 25, the lawyer notices a lump in her breast. The diagnosis is indeed what she feared, albeit a treatable form of cancer. She deals with conflicting opinions on whether chemo, sets of drugs, or even a preventive mastectomy are the answer, as well as various side effects from drugs and friends who don't get why she can't party anymore. Her girlfriend and she try to pause their relationship drama, but "knew things had to end," even though her partner had understood "more than anyone else about how cancer had affected" Kimiko. Meanwhile, her parents care, but can't truly understand, and, as a politically active Asian-Canadian, Kimiko finds the predominant culture's "We kick cancer's butt" narrative false. But as she goes into remission, what emerges is a woman who has learned to care better for herself. Geniza's expressive figure drawings show a keen eye for the close-up, with a simple color palate of muted blues, blacks, and grays that call to mind Alison Bechdel's Fun Home. Kimiko's strong debut offers a fresh perspective in the growing graphic medicine category. \n