1141: Two Years
Title text: She won the first half of all our chemo Scrabble games, but then her IV drugs started kicking in and I *dominated*.
This comic marks the second year of Randall Munroe's wife's battle with cancer, and appears to depict actual events from those two years. Randall is depicted as Cueball and his wife as Megan, as per usual for both.
Explanations of the individual panels:
- Panel 1: Randall's wife-to-be (at that point) receives a diagnosis over the phone (from Dr. Ponytail) as Randall sits by her side supportively. His wife has Megan long hair at this time.
- Panel 2: His wife undergoes IV (intravenous) chemotherapy. Because of the hair loss that results from chemotherapy, many patients opt to shave their heads when they undergo chemotherapy. As can be seen from the stubble she did not shave her hair, but has lost almost all of it. Only the hair coming back between chemo sessions is the cause of the stubble. Her hair grows back over the course of the panels following the end of her chemo (from panel 7).
- Panel 3: The two of them spend time alone together, experiencing something beautiful in the world for it may be one of her last chances to do so. Randall reinforces this sentiment in panel 8. In this panel (#3) she wears a knit cap presumably because it is cold, as well as the fact that patients with hair loss from chemo are urged by doctors to keep their heads covered to protect their scalps from the sun.
- Panel 4: The couple waits for a phone call from her doctor to hear the results of a scan. Both are clearly impatient and anxious.
- Panel 5: More chemotherapy. The couple plays Scrabble, in which players use letter tiles to spell words in a cross-word style. She uses the fact that she has cancer as leverage to get Randall to ignore the fact that the word she has played (zarg) is not a real word.
- Panel 6: Someone suggests they come for a visit next year, but all they can think about are the words "next year." Their future is entirely uncertain because of her health, making long-term planning a consistent source of worry and doubt. In this panel she wears a knit cap to hide her missing hair.
- Panel 7: Randall and his fiancée marry. With the chemotherapy completed, her hair has grown back enough that she has stopped using her knit cap.
- Panel 8: The couple goes whale (humpback whales) watching, possibly on their honeymoon. In this panel, she again wears the knit cap either because it is cold or because she is weak.
- Panel 9: Randall paraphrases a line from the song "Still Alive" (watch the video) from the video game Portal ("I'm doing science and I'm still alive"). He does this because his wife is again back at her laptop working.
- Panel 10: The two of them sit under a tree reflecting on the significance of the past two years.
- Panel 11: Randall and his wife go out to dinner to celebrate the fact that she has made it two years since her biopsy. This turns awkward for Hairy, the waiter, since he had assumed it was an anniversary of their marriage.
The title text is referring to a possible side-effect of chemotherapy drugs, the inability to concentrate. It could also just be the fact that the chemo can make you feel just terrible. When whatever effect kicks in, she loses the rest of their Scrabble games for that day. However, as we see in panel 5, there is a reason why she wins all of the first half of their games. But this is not enough, or she even forgets to play on the cancer, when the drugs takes effect.
This strip is continued in 1928: Seven Years.
- [Randall and Randall's fiancée sit on a bed, Randall's fiancée is talking on the phone. The person she is talking to, a doctor holding a clipboard, is shown inset.]
- Randall's fiancée: Oh god.
- [Randall and Randall's fiancée sit together while Randall's fiancée, now bald, is receiving chemotherapy. They are both on their laptops.]
- IV pump: ... Beeep ... Beeep ... Beeep ...
- [Randall and Randall's fiancée (who is wearing a knit cap) are paddling a kayak against a scenic mountain backdrop.]
- [Randall and Randall's fiancée sit at a table, staring at a cell phone. There is a clock on the wall. Her head is stubbly.]
- Randall's fiancée: How long can it take to read a scan!?
- [Randall and Randall's fiancée are back at the hospital again, Randall's fiancée receiving chemo. They are playing Scrabble.]
- Randall: "Zarg" isn't a word.
- Randall's fiancée: But caaaancer.
- Randall: ...Ok, fine.
- [Randall and Randall's fiancée (wearing a knit cap) are listening to a Cueball-like friend. A large thought bubble is above their heads and it obscures the friends talk. The text below, split in three is the only part there can be no doubt about:]
- Friend: So next year you should come visit us up in the mounta
- Randall and Randall's fiancée (thinking): "Next year"
- [Randall and Randall's fiancée are getting married, with a heart above their heads. Randall's wife's hair is growing back.]
- [Randall and Randall's wife (wearing a knit cap) stand on a beach, watching a whale jump out of water.]
- [Randall's wife is sitting at a desk with her laptop standing on top of two books. Her hair has grown back a little more. Randall stands behind her.]
- Randall: Hey—
- Randall: you're doing science,
- Randall: and you're still alive.
- Randall's wife: Yeah!
- [Randall and Randall's wife sit under a tall tree on a hill.]
- Randall: It's really only been two years?
- Randall's wife: They were big years.
- [Randall and Randall's wife sit at a table in a fancy restaurant. Her hair has grown back even more. The waiter (Hairy) brings them a dish with a cover on it.]
- Waiter: Happy... Anniversary?
- Randall's wife: Biopsy-versary!
- Waiter: ...Eww.
While it is known that Randall's wife has since survived more than two years past the date of the invitation in Panel 6, it is unknown whether the invitation was later accepted, as the followup comic Seven Years does not seem to include a visit "up in the mountains" among its various other recreational activities. However, since it is possible that the invitation was made up for the comic in order to represent the worry over any invitation envisioning the future at that time, it is possible that it was never proposed as depicted in the comic. Therefore, the real life invitation(s) which inspired the inclusion of Panel 6 in the comic could perhaps have referred in real life to an activity that is actually depicted in Seven Years, or to some other activity, which then may or may not have been realized.
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