Going public with a personal story can be a difficult decision for anyone to make. Powell River cartoonist Wendy Brown said sharing details about her lifetime of dealing with chronic pain was challenging.
“That has been the hardest thing for me,” said Wendy. “I did keep it private for so many years.”
On Saturday, October 28, Wendy will give a reading and sign copies of her book Owww! Traveling With Chronic Pain, which details her life with chronic pain.
“I had chronic pain in my early teens and it has never let go,” said Wendy. “I'm not new to this, but a lot of people I know who are in the baby-boomer generation and younger are suddenly getting chronic pain, developing backaches, fibromyalgia or arthritis and they don't really know how to deal with it.”
Wendy said she knows how to deal with chronic pain after experiencing the affliction for so long.
One of the great reliefs while on the road is a companion, a person Wendy refers to as a travelling saint, such as her sister Shelley Brown. Shelley had the idea for the book, according to Wendy, and suggested keeping a journal during the time spent in hotel rooms when she was in pain and writing down suggestions that make dealing with chronic pain easier.
“I suggested doing some illustrations and that it would be great, people would love it,” said Shelley. “I thought maybe a blog or something, but she ended up with the book and it’s fantastic.”
Most known locally as the editorial cartoonist for the Peak, Wendy has received provincial, national and international newspaper awards for her work. Owww! is very different from drawing a cartoon for the opinion pages, according to Wendy.
“When you do an editorial cartoon it always has a subject and you have to get the message across,” she said.
The book also has a subject and message, but it is different, she added.
As writer and illustrator, Owww! allowed for more freedom of expression and a looser form of drawing than an editorial cartoon, said Wendy.
Instead of describing how to deal or cope with chronic pain, Wendy said she thought it would be more fun and slightly irreverent if the book covered travelling with chronic pain. That way her message, which is to get up and go, will come across better, she added.
The book is a guide for not holding back; if you can travel with chronic pain, you can cope with it, said Wendy.
“You can do almost everything anybody else does, you just have to do it a little differently,” she added.
Wendy said she does not want to be the face of chronic pain but, as a cartoonist, she is able to look at the subject from a funnier side through her drawings.
“Let's look at the lighter side of things because there's a lighter side to everything,” she said.
Everything in the book comes from personal experience, including one of her first adventures, which Wendy said was terrifying.
“I ran off with a man who was travelling on his motorcycle and he said, offhand, ‘Wouldn't it be nice if you came with me?’" said Wendy. “So I went riding on the back of a motorcycle for 3,000 miles with a crushing headache; it was scary.”
The experience did not stop Wendy from developing a travel bug. Her next planned trip is to Toronto, followed by Florida, Cozumel, Mexico, and New Orleans.
Wendy’s author reading and book signing takes place from 3-5 pm at Powell River Public Library.