Celebrate Your Life While Living With Cancer

Beth Brophy Health Guide
  • There’s not enough humor writing about the breast cancer experience, which is why I’d like to call your attention to a terrific new book: Cancer Vixen, a graphic memoir by illustrator and cartoonist Marisa Acocella Marchetto (Alfred A. Knopf). Marchetto, a cartoonist for the New Yorker and Glamour, among other publications, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003, a few weeks before she was going to give up her glamorous bachelorette life and marry Silvano Marchetto, a celebrity restauranteur.

    The author uses her wit to poke fun at herself and her shallow concerns as a downtown girl, obsessed with her clothes and shoes and parties. In her detailed cartoons, she chronicles how she had let her health insurance lapse before the diagnosis. She tells her oncologist she can’t lose her hair from chemotherapy because models were always hitting on her financee. She takes the “lighter” chemo on her doctor’s advice and then worries whether she has let vanity come in the way of her health. She lovingly portrays her bossy mother (whom she nicknames “smother”), who both nurtures her during her illness and drives her crazy, as well as her interfering and well-meaning friends with tons of advice. She questions her former competitiveness and negativity, and dabbles in spirituality of all denominations. A Catholic, she lights candles, and also attends Kabbalah classes and consults with two rabbis. Even while handling her illness with courage and humor, she doesn’t shy away from drawing life-sized pictures of biopsy needles, and she depicts death, wearing a gray hood and carrying a scythe, always lurking around the next corner.
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    But her message, as she goes through eleven months of treatment, and a wedding and honeymoon, is life-affirming. Marchetto knows what matters: living and loving and eating well, celebrating life with your loved ones, and always having the best shoes, even if the only place you’re going is to a chemotherapy appointment. We can all learn a few life lessons from Cancer Vixen.

    For another perspective on Cancer Vixen, please see Mary Blocksma's blog.
Published On: September 13, 2006