October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time to learn about prevention and treatment. However, I think it's also a time where we can agree that breast cancer is very rude. According to recent studies, about 1 in 8 women develop breast cancer in their lifetime and the most significant risk factors for breast cancer are gender (i.e. being a woman; men have only a 1 in 833 chance of developing breast cancer) and age (i.e. growing older). Very rude, breast cancer, very rude.
The good news is that if detected early, there are more treatment options and they tend to be more successful. The other good news is that no one is alone in this – some very talented, brave, and funny women have turned their own journeys through the worlds of surgery and treatments into relatable graphic novels.
If, like me, you think that the only way through the fear is to laugh in its face, allow me to recommend some titles...
About Betty’s Boob written by Vero Cazot and illustrated by Julie Rocheleau
She lost her left breast, her job, and her guy. She doesn't know it yet, but this is the best day of her life. Embarking on a journey of self-discovery, Betty runs straight into the arms of fellow outcasts familiar with what it means to be on the outside looking in. An inspiring and surprisingly comedic tale of loss and acceptance told largely through silent sequential narrative.
The Story of My Tits written and illustrated by Jennifer Hayden
When Jennifer Hayden was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 43, she realized that her tits told a story. Across a lifetime, they'd held so many meanings: hope and fear, pride and embarrassment, life and death. And then they were gone. Now, their story has become a way of understanding her story: a journey from the innocence of youth to the chaos of adulthood, through her mother's mastectomy, her father's mistress, her husband's music, and the endlessly evolving definition of family. As cancer strikes three different lives, some relationships crumble while others emerge even stronger, and this sarcastic child of the '70s finally finds a goddess she can believe in.
In-Between Days: A Memoir About Living with Cancer written and illustrated by Teva Harrison
Teva Harrison was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer at the age of 37. In this brilliant and inspiring graphic memoir, she documents through comic illustration and short personal essays what it means to live with the disease. She confronts with heartbreaking honesty the crises of identity that cancer brings. A lifelong vegetarian, Teva agrees to use experimental drugs that have been tested on animals. She struggles to reconcile her long-term goals with an uncertain future, balancing the innate sadness of cancer with everyday acts of hope and wonder. She also examines those quiet moments of helplessness and loving with her husband, her family, and her friends, while they all adjust to the new normal.
Cancer Vixen: A True Story written and illustrated by Marisa Acocella Marchetto
What happens when a shoe-crazy, lipstick-obsessed, wine-swilling, pasta-slurping, fashion-fanatic, single-forever-but-now-about-to-get-married, big-city girl cartoonist with a fabulous life finds... a lump in her breast? That's the question that sets this powerful, funny, and poignant graphic memoir in motion. In vivid color and with a taboo-breaking sense of humor, Marisa Acocella Marchetto tells the story of her eleven-month, ultimately triumphant bout with breast cancer—from diagnosis to cure, and every challenging step in between.
If you or someone you know is concerned about their breast health, there are a lot of support and resources out there:
PA Breast Cancer Coalition
The PA Breast Cancer Coalition represents, supports, and serves breast cancer survivors and their families in Pennsylvania through educational programming, legislative advocacy, and breast cancer research grants.
Young Survival Coalition
Young Survival Coalition (YSC) strengthens the community, addresses the unique needs, amplifies the voice, and improves the quality of life of young adults affected by breast cancer—locally, nationally, and internationally.
National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc
Providing help to those affected by breast cancer through early detection, education, and support services.