Matthew Mewhorter's 'Cancer Owl' Comics Reveal Realities of Cancer
Many of us who have been touched by cancer know it’s almost impossible to find anything remotely funny about the deadly disease. But that’s not how artist and colorectal cancer survivor Matthew Mewhorter views his cancer journey, which he hilariously chronicles in his comic, “Cancer Owl.”
Mewhorter, who is currently in remission from stage II colorectal cancer, started illustrating the comic in a hospital bed after his therapist suggested he create an art journal of his experience. And so, “Cancer Owl” was born.
“Owls are my favorite animal. You can even say I’m an owl geek,” Mewhorter told The Mighty, adding:
I used to look for owls in the wild as a kid. They do their own thing, they’re bold, they stand well on their own and they’re expressive. As a cartoonist, I wanted to be able to draw something that had a lot of angles and expressions but was also considered cute and easily sharable.
Mewhorter, drawing from his own personal experience with cancer, tackles honest (and often, unpretty) aspects of the disease. Although he loves every strip, his magnum opus, or favorite one, is appropriately labeled “Start Here” on his website and is titled, “So You Have Cancer.”
It chronicles everything — from the moment he was told he had cancer:
To “meeting” cancer:
And feeling hopeful.
Throughout the series he also highlights the reality of having an ostomy bag:
The unpredictable effects of chemo:
The reality of balancing a cancer diagnosis with a job:
Although Mewhorter started the comic to illustrate his personal experience, he realized there were so many others whose journeys were just beginning or taking place. That’s when he began featuring their stories on his blog.
“I actually like sharing other stories more than my own story,” he told The Mighty. “I’m learning so much from other people’s perspectives. I feel like my new role is as an advocate for patient voices.”
In addition to being a patient advocate, Mewhorter is also working on becoming a licensed therapist. He just spoke at the Standford Medicine X Conference, recently launched an online Threadless store, and just finished his first modeling gig. He will be featured with 11 other colorectal cancer survivors in the 2018 Colondar, an annual calendar created by The Colon Club to raise awareness for colorectal cancer.
“At the photo shoot, the Colon Club provided something more than just advocacy for us survivors,” he said. “They provided dignity. From the movie-star pampering, to reiterating we are human beings that shouldn’t be ashamed of who we are, it was an awesome experience.”
Mewhorter is first and foremost a father and husband. He allocates “special time” with his daughter every day, whether it’s painting rocks or going to the playground. And he can’t say enough about how awesome his wife is:
For any accolades I receive, I would turn around and give even more to her. She’s a big reason why I’m still going, and she constantly reminds me to stay on task and to dream big because I have a bigger purpose. We make a great team.
Mewhorter also has a pretty great team of Cancer Owl followers. He says they continue to inspire him with their support and personal stories, and because of that, he continues to create comics and share his words of wisdom any way he can.
“Beating cancer is not about not dying. It’s about how you spend today. Never let anyone back you in a corner and make you feel ashamed about what you’re going through,” he said. “Never shut up. Talking about it is good for you.”
All photos courtesy of Matthew Mewhorter.