Written by a renowned children’s cancer specialist, John Graham-Pole, Blood Work is a fictional but true-to-life-account of just such a near-fatal illness. It is also a life-and-death adventure and a coming-of-age romance.
The story tells of sixteen-year-old Moraig (“Raig”) Brossard’s journey through the trauma of cancer and its treatment. It opens as Raig wakes up in a hospital room, utterly unaware of how she came to be there. Events of the past weeks unfold like a high-speed movie.
Oncologist Maddie Sullivan lays out the stark reality—leukemia is threatening her life. Raig is hurtled into the maelstrom of cancer therapy, an odyssey which leaves her physically and emotionally scarred and embittered towards the world. Cut off from friends and rejecting her parents’ efforts at support, she draws comfort from Maddie’s loving care—herself a life-long sufferer from spina bifida. But nothing appeases Raig’s despair at losing her blond curls and eye-catching figure, while developing rolls of fat and colonies of zits.
Freed from the hospital’s torments, Raig sets out to recapture her physical and mental toughness, only to suffer a major head injury in a bike accident. Back in Intensive Care, blood presses down on her brain—and her leukemia is back in full force. During emergency surgery she has a near-death experience and talks to her dead grandfather, who reignites her will to live. In her twilight state she agrees to further cancer therapy.
An ally appears: Rap, a high-school senior and hospital volunteer, who introduces her to the drum and the paintbrush. As she battles her way through her ordeal, and her feelings for Rap deepen, she helps her parents draw close once more. The story closes as Raig, now eighteen and newly finished chemotherapy, ponders the uncertainties of her future: Will her parents stay together? What of Rap and herself? Most of all—will she stay cancer-free, build a career, and live to raise children of her own?