Judith, a French woman in her early twenties, experiences "spells" - episodes of shaking, staring, and sudden memory loss. These spells occur daily and her behavior becomes erratic. She visits a neurologist. He diagnoses epileptic seizures and prescribes medication. Yet the convulsions continue so Judith's drug dose is upped and an MRI of the brain is done.

The MRI scan finds a small tumor that appears inoperable. A brain biopsy reveals an astrocytoma. Judith's life now revolves around her illness and the medical monitoring of it. Time feels distorted, and she likens her seizures to "a little death." Everyday life becomes blurred. She is advised to see a neuropsychiatrist. Her parents worry about her constantly.

Eventually Judith is referred for Gamma Knife radiosurgery. Eighteen months after the procedure is completed, only a tiny scar at the site of the tumor remains. Three years following the treatment, the seizures are gone. She rediscovers the joy of life and embraces a hopeful future.


The author uses her middle name, Judith, to identify herself in this graphic illness memoir. She compares epilepsy to "a spark that sometimes causes a short circuit" and then that short circuit "unplugs you from life" (p55).

The author-artist's black and white illustrations are potent - at times fierce and overwhelming, other times bashful and even childlike - in portraying her struggle to understand the seizures and her attempt to communicate their impact on her life. One drawing depicts a huge head disconnected from its body and being hoisted by her hands. Another sketch shows two colossal doctors standing over Judith. One of the physicians is examining her with a magnifying glass.

The author's chronic illness clouds her memory and alters the passage of time. It provokes feelings of fear, shame, and frustration. Loss of control - over her body and her life - reverberates repeatedly throughout the narrative. Judith's evolving views of the medical professionals involved in her care are noteworthy.


Originally published in French by Editions Delcourt in 2010.

Primary Source



Top Shelf Productions

Place Published

San Diego, California



Page Count