Birding My Way Through Chemo is Andy Rementer’s heartwarming comic made with his dad

In his New York Times narrative, the award-winning illustrator documents his dad’s resilient journey through chemotherapy, and his extraordinary passion for birdwatching.

25 June 2024

A collaboration between illustrator Andy Rementer and his father George Rementer – who Andy lovingly describes as “a retired wallpaper hanger and a great dad” – Birding my way through chemo is a very personal comic, following the life of a devoted birdwatcher (Andy’s father), as he goes through chemo. The illustrator’s visual narrative displays the man-turned-bird’s relentless spirit to pursue his bird watching hobby, whilst receiving treatment.

After his father’s cancer diagnosis, Andy started the project with George as “a chance to connect while making something special during a turbulent and emotional time”. The seed was planted for the work through George’s writing. The illustrator shares: “After my father’s first day of chemo he expressed wanting to write an article about his experience. I was thrilled for him, and suggested he keep a journal and write down his thoughts, observations, and feelings… Typical of my father, though, he never put down a single word”.


Andy Rementer: Birding my way through chemo (Copyright © Andy Rementer, 2024)

It wasn’t until George was later receiving treatment in hospital, that the two started to collaborate on something together in Andy’s regular visits. “I wrote down page after page of his birding stories [...] It was fascinating, and I ended up learning a ton about him and his birding adventures going back to the 1970s,” Andy says. Working from what was originally a text-only article, crafted from George’s words at an early stage of his treatment, Andy set out to illustrate his fathers birding adventures as well as the memories he had, stemming from his diagnosis.

The resulting comic’s bright colour palette illuminates some joyful moments of Rementer’s humanoid bird character watching bird cam videos from his daughter’s porch and installing bird feeders outside hospital windows to continue spotting from inside, it also reframes some of the darker realities of treatment, injecting them with a sense of hope. The series of illustrations took over six months to complete with George working closely on the comic’s text in his “matter-of-fact tone, as well as a great sense of humour”.

While the illustrator often collaborates with other authors or designers, this collaboration with his father is a first for the pair and resulted in “probably the most personal project I’ve ever done”, says Andy. “It was really rewarding to have this opportunity with my father [...] the most important thing I learned while making the piece is that there’s so much to learn from people, even from those closest around you.”

GalleryAndy Rementer: Birding my way through chemo (Copyright © Andy Rementer, 2024)

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Andy Rementer: Birding my way through chemo (Copyright © Andy Rementer, 2024)

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About the Author

Ellis Tree

Ellis Tree (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a junior writer in April 2024 after graduating from Kingston School of Art with a degree in Graphic Design. Across her research, writing and visual work she has a particular interest in printmaking, self-publishing and expanded approaches to photography.

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