Panel 16 from the Toronto Comics & Medicine conference. This panel is moderated by Ian Williams.
Mita Mahato (These Frames Are Hiding Places) is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Puget Sound where she teaches courses in contemporary Visual and Cultural Studies. Her scholarship explores the reception of illness stories across several narrative forms, including comics and blogs. She also makes comics and likes cutting things up. She writes of her presentation, “Signs of life: Framing terminal illness, death, and grief through comics:”
When it comes to terminal illness and its aftermaths, the “thing” that comics narrative makes manifest, known, familiar, is paradoxically absence, loss, death. A year ago, I began developing a comics project in order to work through my experiences of caregiving for my mother, who died in 2007 from colon cancer. In sharing my work on this project in progress, as well as exploring images in other illness comics that deal specifically with terminal illness, death, and grief, I hope to provide a creative and personal lens through which to understand the transformative value of comics under loss of life.
Aliceheimer’s: Graphic pathography as healing, Dana Walrath
New to the world of comics, my work on Alzheimer’s disease integrates the anthropological (PhD, University of Pennsylvania), creative writing (MFA, Vermont College of Fine Arts) and artistic threads of my life. A faculty member of University of Vermont’s College of Medicine, I established and directed their medical humanities program.
Drawing on examples from my Aliceheimer’s stories, a depiction of life with my mother Alice before and during dementia, this paper focuses on the power of graphic storytelling to heal and support individual caregivers, to support those with dementia, and to re-write the dominant biomedical story of how we age in North America. Because stigma and social death typically surround mental illness and disability, the dominant narrative desperately needs revision. Graphic narratives can bring back the humanity of a person with dementia while also capturing the care giver/receiver reality disjunction that poses such a challenge in life with dementia.
You can see the original blog posts of the Aliceheimer series here. You can read a review of Dana’s work here, and see the most recent Aliceheimer’s story Dana made during the 24 hour comic challenge at Angouleme 2013 here.
Peaco Todd is a syndicated cartoonist, the author/illustrator of several books, and professor in the Union Institute and University’s online BA program. In addition to the book upon which her presentation is based, she’s working on an environmental education project for middle-school children utilizing cartoons. Her website is www.peacotoons.com. She writes of her presentation, “A mild case of cancer”—Using cartoons to express the multiple narratives of one disease:
Disease can comprise several narratives: pathologies that researchers study, medical professionals who diagnose and treat, patients who undergo the assault of illness and its remedies, and the perceptions of those outside the clinical setting who tell their stories. This presentation examines the collaboration between a cartoonist and a biologist-turned-cancer-patient to convey her experience with thyroid cancer. One narrative thread documents the emotional roller-coaster ride that her diagnosis and treatment invoked. Another communicates the science involved and the treatments through which thyroid cancer can be targeted. The images, infused with humor and imagination, integrate and interpret both personal experience and medicine.
You can see more of Peaco’s comic and illustration work on her website. The presentations are followed by a Q&A with the audience.
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