Getting Graphic About Cancer: Authors and Illustrators Share Cancer Stories and Experiences through Comics and Graphic Novels

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CURE® Magazine Story Highlights Therapeutic Nature of Sharing Personal Cancer Journey Details in Unique Manner

MARISA ACOCELLA MARCHETTO felt there was no better way to describe her cancer journey than through a graphic novel, Cancer Vixen. - PHOTO BY SUSAN FARLEY

Graphic novels and comics are emerging as a remarkably creative and heartfelt way to tell a cancer story and connect with others on the same path, especially with the increased international interest in the medium.

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Many associate comics and graphic novels with light humor or superheroes. However, numerous people have found that they’re also great vessels for sharing details of a personal cancer journey. Written by Don Vaughan and published by CURE Media Group, the nation’s leading digital and print media organization focused on patients with cancer, CURE® magazine’s spring cover story, “Getting Graphic About Cancer,” includes insights from authors and illustrators who put their own life-changing experiences on the page in both pictures and words.

The one thing most graphic novels about cancer seem to have in common is their gritty, unflinching honesty about the difficulty of those journeys and the raw emotions they evoke. It’s all on the page: the good, the bad and the ugly. As “Getting Graphic About Cancer” interviewee Marisa Acocella Marchetto, who penned and illustrated “Cancer Vixen,” a 212-page hardcover graphic novel, said, “I just think, if you’re not going to tell the truth, why bother? People respond to authenticity, and I don’t like it when I’m reading something and I feel like the author is withholding the truth.”

These outpourings are not only cathartic for the authors and illustrators, but instructive and even comforting for readers facing similar challenges. To benefit even more, readers of graphic novels about cancer may want to turn the tables and pick up a pen themselves, an expert tells CURE readers, since journaling or taking part in a cancer center’s writing program can be a valuable therapeutic exercise.

“I’ve always felt that writing could be a useful tool to get you through a difficult time, and there is a lot of evidence to support the theory that writing is helpful,” said “Getting Graphic About Cancer” interviewee Charlotte Evans, a retired writer and editor with The New York Times who now runs a writing program specifically designed to help patients cope with their disease and treatment at the Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven in Connecticut. “I would say give it a try, because you may not know what’s inside you that wants to get out in word form. With proper feedback, you can write, even though you don’t think you can, and you might surprise yourself as to what comes out on paper.”

Showcasing the true extended reach of these comics and graphic novels comes the story of graphic novel writer Brian Fies, who noted that one of the first emails he received regarding his book, “Mom’s Cancer,” was from a nursing instructor in Australia who wanted to include pages from the story in her coursework. “She wanted her students to understand some of the family dynamics they might face when serving remote communities in the Outback,” says Fies in “Getting Graphic About Cancer.” “That blew me away. I intellectually understood the instantaneous worldwide reach of the Web, but hearing from someone like that on literally the other side of the planet was powerful. These stories are universal in ways I didn’t suspect.”

CURE magazine managing editor Beth Incollingo added, “Graphic novels and comics are emerging as a remarkably creative and heartfelt way to tell a cancer story and connect with others on the same path, especially with the increased international interest in the medium. ‘Getting Graphic About Cancer’ shows just how therapeutic comics and graphic novels can be for writers, illustrators and their audiences.”

“Getting Graphic About Cancer” also features a sidebar story that discusses an array of books for children and teenagers about the experience of having cancer or seeing a loved one through it.

About CURE Media Group
Combining science and humanity to make cancer understandable, CURE Media Group’s flagship product, CURE® magazine, is the indispensable guide to every stage of the cancer experience. With nearly 1 million readers, CURE is the largest U.S. consumer publication focused entirely on cancer, with broad distribution to patients with cancer, cancer centers and advocacy groups. CURE Media Group’s offerings also include its online resource,; live meetings; a resource guide for the newly diagnosed; and the Extraordinary Healer™ oncology nursing award. It also offers CURE Connections, a video platform designed specifically for patients with cancer that features information, stories, advice about the cancer journey and subscription options to receive updates. Cure Media Group is part of Michael J. Hennessy Associates Inc., a full-service health care communications company offering education, research, medical media and the acclaimed OncLive platform of resources for the practicing oncologist.

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Michael J. LaCosta
CURE Media Group
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