Archive for the ‘Breast Cancer Awareness’ category

Comic Art Friday: Wonder Woman Day is Sunday!

October 23, 2009

In addition to October being National Breast Cancer Awareness Month — a fact of which you, friend reader, have already been made aware — this is also National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Which means that Sunday is Wonder Woman Day.

Wonder Woman, pencils and inks by comics artist Michael Bair

For the past three years, the last Sunday in October has been celebrated as Wonder Woman Day as a symbolic way of empowering women to free themselves from violent relationships. The cities of Portland, Oregon and Flemington, New Jersey officially designate Wonder Woman Day as an opportunity to support local women’s and family shelters, and to promote awareness of domestic violence as a social issue.

Thanks to the encouragement of the event’s organizer, comics and pop culture author Andy Mangels, dozens of comic book artists each year donate Wonder Woman art for a silent auction, the proceeds of which benefit shelters in the two sponsoring cities.

Wonder Woman, pencils by Al Rio, inks by Bob Almond

Each of today’s featured artworks traces its origins back to a previous Wonder Woman Day auction. I acquired the first piece shown above — a stunning portrait by Michael Bair — on Wonder Woman Day II in 2007. The second drawing was originally a preliminary sketch drawn by Al Rio for his Wonder Woman Day contribution that same year. I later commissioned inker extraordinaire Bob Almond to embellish Al’s pencils.

If you’d like to check out the art available in this year’s auctions, simply follow the Wonder Woman Day link.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

Time to think pink

October 1, 2009

It’s October, and if you’ve been a follower of this blog for much of the past five years, then you know where this is headed.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I’ve never been one for causes or campaigns, but this is one I embrace wholeheartedly and trumpet full-throatedly.

In case you’re new here, a little historical perspective. In September 2000, my wife KJ was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time, she was 34 years old. Over the next nine months, she endured the gamut of treatment — first surgery, then chemotherapy, then radiation treatments. Although there had been some significant lymph node involvement, she looked forward to a positive prognosis.

After six years of reasonable post-treatment health, KJ broke her left femur — that’s the thigh bone, to us non-medical types — during routine housework. Subsequent x-rays and tests confirmed the worst of our fears. Her cancer had metastasized to her skeleton. The site at the top of her femur, where the fracture occurred, was by far the largest tumor location, but not the only one. Radiologic scans revealed smaller tumors throughout her spine.

The new prognosis contained ugly words. Like incurable. And life-limiting. Tough words to hear at any time of life, but especially when you’re just a year past 40, and your only child is about to graduate from high school.

That was two and a half years ago. KJ continues to fight the good fight, with the help of oral chemotherapy drugs and periodic infusions of medication designed to strengthen her bones, simultaneously slowing the incursion of tumor and reducing the risk of crippling fractures. She had been able to continue working until a month ago, when her oncologist placed her on what is likely to become permanent disability status. Her situation has been complicated by other health issues unrelated to her cancer, but at the moment, she’s holding her own — as effectively as is humanly possible.

We’ve learned to value every moment of every day, in ways that we might not have, otherwise. Some days are better than others. This much we know: Every day living is better than any day dying. The difference between the two is more a matter of perspective and attitude than of medical charts and test results.

Today’s been a pretty good day.

One thing that never changes: Breast cancer sucks. (No pun intended.) We despise it with passionate fury.

We love and support every woman (and man, which we often forget) who is battling this tenacious enemy, as well as the people in their lives who try to help them keep battling.

We praise the medical, technical, and phamaceutical professionals who are helping to sustain life — and the quality of it — while seeking determinedly for a cure.

And we pray for the day when no human being will have to stare down the barrel of this cosmic gun.

If you’re a woman of any age, please learn to self-examine, and be dedicated to the practice. If you’re over 30, have a serious conversation with your physician about your risk factors, but also be aware that breast cancer strikes many women with no obvious familial, environmental, or lifestyle risks. (KJ was one.) If your doctor prescribes regular mammograms, get them.

If you’re not a woman, but you love one or more, read her/them the above paragraph.

These are hard times for everyone, we know. (Believe me, we know.) If, however, you can find it in your heart and wallet this month, please make a donation to the breast cancer charity of your choice. We’re fond of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, but there are dozens of fine organizations doing excellent work deserving of your support. So, support them if you can. A pledge to a friend or coworker who’s participating in a breast cancer walk-a-thon this month is one quick, easy, and painless way to do your part.

Let’s kill this thing.

Sick thoughts

September 3, 2009

If you were on Facebook today, you probably had at least a few friends — and I’m using that word in the broad, accommodative way that Facebook does — who posted the following item on their home pages:

No one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick. If you agree, please post this as your status for the rest of the day.

I didn’t throw this up on my Facebook wall — mostly because, as you already know if you know me, I’m just not much of a follower.

I, however, do agree with the sentiment.

In fact, I’ll go a step further: If you don’t agree with both halves of that first sentence, there’s something seriously kapakahi with your thinking muscle.

We might debate how to accomplish these goals. We might differ on whose responsibility, and whose program, and whose nickel, and all that sort of folderol. But if you think either of these concepts is simply wrong, I don’t have any problem in telling you that there’s something wrong with you.

Because your Uncle Swan is just blunt like that.

Oh, and before you decide to pick an argument with me over this, you should know a couple of things.

One: My wife is permanently disabled with incurable, metastatic breast cancer.

Two: I worked in the healthcare industry for a dozen years, and in the seven years since, I’ve maintained several clients in that field for whom I work on a regular basis.

I know all of the arguments. From all sides. Up close. Personal.

Here’s the good news, though.

Even if you’re wrong…

…you can still be my friend.

At least on Facebook.

Comic Art Friday: Suicide mission

July 17, 2009

Today, Comic Art Friday does the unusual. We’re talking about a comic book writer.

Were I to chart my Top Ten comics writers of all time — and I really ought to do that, one of these Fridays — John Ostrander would occupy a spot high on that list. Although he has written dozens of titles during his 25 years in the industry, Ostrander’s place in my authorial pantheon is assured by his creation of one of my favorite Modern Age (post-1980) series: DC’s Suicide Squad.


John was also the writer who transformed Barbara Gordon, the original Batgirl, into the wheelchair-bound high-tech wizard Oracle. His other works include stints on such series as The Spectre, Martian Manhunter, Heroes for Hire, Magnus: Robot Fighter, and Grimjack, which he also co-created.

I share a personal connection with Ostrander, although we’ve never met. Like my wife KJ, John’s wife and frequent collaborator, Kim Yale, struggled with breast cancer for a number of years. Sadly, Kim lost her battle with the disease in 1997.

These days, Ostrander is fighting an enemy that no superhero he’s written (to my knowledge, anyway) has ever faced: glaucoma. John recently underwent a complex and costly surgery that doctors hope will, with careful follow-up attention, preserve his eyesight. The problem is — and when haven’t we heard this? — that John’s health insurance only partially covers this expensive care.

Ostrander’s colleagues and fans have banded together to spearhead Comix4Sight, an effort to help John pay for the medical services that could potentially keep him from going blind. The core of this campaign is an auction being held at the Chicago Comic-Con on Saturday, August 8. Donations are also being accepted via the Comix4Sight site.

What’s especially cool about this is that whatever funds are generated beyond what’s needed to cover Ostrander’s care will be donated to the Hero Initiative, the charitable organization that assists comic industry professionals in need. Thus, the campaign has the opportunity to benefit not just one comics creator, but possibly others as well.

I know that everyone’s tight on funds these days. But if you have a few extra shekels to spare, John Ostrander’s cause is worthy. Please help if you’re able.

Back to comic art — and that’s always our Friday focus — for just a moment. The amazing Suicide Squad commission you see above was created for me by Geof Isherwood, whose art — first as inker over Luke McDonnell’s pencils, then later as penciler with Robert Campanella inking — graced the second half of the original series’ run. Geof reunites four of the Squad’s key members from its early years: Vixen, Bronze Tiger, Nightshade, and Deadshot.

This beautifully rendered artwork was published in the January 2008 edition of Back Issue, on the opening page of the magazine’s Suicide Squad retrospective.

One other note, only tangentially related. I was sorry to read just now that Ellie Frazetta, the wife of renowned fantasy artist Frank Frazetta, passed away this morning after a year-long battle with cancer. I’ll be blunt: This cancer thing just flat-out sucks.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.