As if having cancer isn’t awful enough, many of the things people say ― however well-meaning ― can really sting.
Most friends and family are likely coming from a good place when they offer their sympathy or advice to someone with the disease. But as artist Matthew Mewhorter, who dealt with cancer himself, points out, these platitudes often don’t have their intended effect.
“I don’t want them to feel pity or guilt, but just be better informed,” he told HuffPost. “There’s so much misinformation about the cancer experience in the media and Hollywood, which has a negative effect on the way cancer [patients] are treated in real life.”
Mewhorter summed up the emotionally taxing experience of dealing with people trying to cheer up cancer patients in the comic below:
Mewhorter, who has been in remission for two years following a stage II rectal cancer diagnosis, channeled his experiences with the illness into his artwork. He created a series of comics like the one above called Cancer Owl, which details the everyday realities of living with and fighting the condition. He draws both his own stories and the stories of others who reach out to him.
“My therapist originally proposed that I art journal my experience and share it with others as a form of self care,” Mewhorter said. “I started drawing an owl with cancer in my hospital bed after my first surgery, and it just felt right. Drawing cute animals with bright colors made talking about cancer easier somehow.”
It’s estimated that more than 1.5 million people were affected by cancer in 2016. Mewhorter hopes his artwork helps people dealing with the condition to find some relief and community through humor about their illness.
“I hope it helps cancer patients and survivors not feel so alone,” he said. “I hope they feel permission to laugh in the middle of their situation, and consider a perspective that has given me vitality and hope in the midst of suffering.”
Head over to Cancer Owl to see more of Mewhorter’s comics.