Marchetto, a cartoonist for The New Yorker and Glamour, among others, details the 11-month odyssey that followed her cancer diagnosis with blunt candor and honesty about even the most embarrassing details (chemo farts-who knew?).
I sat down to read Cancer Vixen, a graphic novel-style memoir of cartoonist Marissa Acocella Marchetto’s battle with breast cancer, just after learning that my uncle is suffering from terminal cancer. So I may not have approached this book, which was originally published in 2007 and has just been released in paperback, with the most detached critical eye, seeing as how I pretty much cried my way through it. But I also laughed. Marchetto, a cartoonist for The New Yorker and Glamour, among others, details the 11-month odyssey that followed her cancer diagnosis with blunt candor and honesty about even the most embarrassing details (chemo farts-who knew?). These details, coupled with amusing drawings, like a depiction of cancer cells as bird-flipping delinquents, offer a refreshing dose of levity to a heavy subject. Marchetto, a self-described “shoe-crazy, lipstick-obsessed, wine-swilling, pasta-slurping, fashion-fanatic, single-forever, about-to-get-married big city girl cartoonist with a fabulous life” learned she had breast cancer just weeks before she was to marry hotshot New York restaurateur Silvano Marchetto. That might not make her quite relatable to everyone (I, myself, will never fully understand the shoe thing), but her bravery in chronicling every emotion she experienced during her tumultuous, draining, and ultimately victorious fight against cancer is admirable. She also outlines, in great detail, every step of her treatment. The graphic-novel format works particularly well here, illustrating exactly what happens during chemotherapy and radiation. In that sense, the book is not only autobiographical but also instructive, a field guide for those of us facing the cancer of a loved one, or of ourselves, for the first time.