Book: Cancer Vixen by Marisa Acocella Marchetto
Genre: Graphic Novel
Publication Date: September 26, 2006
Synopsis (from Goodreads): What happens when a shoe-crazy, lipstick-obsessed, wine-swilling, pasta-slurping, fashion-fanatic, single-forever, 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.
But Cancer Vixen is about more than surviving an illness. It is a portrait of one woman’s supercharged life in Manhattan, and a wonderful love story. Marisa, self-described “terminal bachelorette,” meets her Prince Charming in Silvano, owner of the chic downtown restaurant Da Silvano. Three weeks before their wedding, she receives her diagnosis. She wonders: How will he react to this news? How will my world change? Will I even survive? And… what about my hair?
From raucous New Yorker staff lunches and the star-studded crowd at Silvano’s restaurant to the rainbow pumps Marisa wears to chemotherapy, Cancer Vixen is a total original. Marisa’s wit and courage are an inspiration – she’s a cancer vixen, not its victim.
Thoughts: In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I thought I would share Marchetto’s memoir about her battle with breast cancer. Over the summer, I took a course on graphic novels, which is a genre I had never explored before. I had always thought of graphic novels as somewhat childish, but a few books into my course readings quickly changed that perception. Cancer Vixen was one of my favorite take-aways from that course; it tackles the serious topic of cancer with bright, colorful illustrations and a streak of humor.
Perhaps the reason that I can describe a book about breast cancer as funny is because the book isn’t all about cancer: it’s really about Marisa’s life while she happens to have cancer. In between the chemotherapy trips, we get to see Marisa’s love life, her friendships, her career struggles, and her unapologetic love for makeup, clothes, and shoes. Much of the humor Cancer Vixen revolves around “girly” clichés, such as Marisa wearing expensive pumps to the hospital to get chemo and doing anything to not lose her hair. Although many readers may not be able to relate to Marisa’s glamorous life (think Carrie from Sex and the City), Cancer Vixen illustrates that the threat of breast cancer is a reality to women of all backgrounds, and I think the way in which Marisa faced her battle with such gumption is something all women can respect and take encouragement from.
Bottom line: Cancer Vixen is honest, funny, and inspiring, illustrating that there can be life during – and after – cancer.