Miriam Engelberg, Cartoonist Who Chronicled Cancer Miriam Engelberg, a self-taught cartoonist and author of the book Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person, has died of complications due to breast cancer. She was 48.
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Miriam Engelberg, Cartoonist Who Chronicled Cancer

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Miriam Engelberg, Cartoonist Who Chronicled Cancer

Miriam Engelberg, Cartoonist Who Chronicled Cancer

Miriam Engelberg, Cartoonist Who Chronicled Cancer

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Miriam Engelberg, author of Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person, died Tuesday at 48. Courtesy HarperCollins hide caption

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Courtesy HarperCollins

Miriam Engelberg, a self-taught cartoonist who drew what she called a "memoir in comics" about having breast cancer, has died. She was 48 years old.

Engelberg's comic strips, collected in Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person, are simple and laugh-out-loud funny.

She drew cartoons about losing her hair and buying a blue wig, about how solving crossword puzzles soothed her stress, and how left out she felt watching other couples raise their children.

Of course, it was not all humorous.

Engelberg recalled in an interview earlier this year about how her son was four when she was first diagnosed — and that has been the hardest part of coping with cancer.

"When it comes to family, it does feel very scary and heartbreaking to me," she said.

Engelberg's blog, which she updated regularly, reports that she died at home in San Francisco on Tuesday — peacefully — in the presence of her family and friends.

Chronicling Cancer, In Graphic Form

Chronicling Cancer, In Graphic Form

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Brian Fies writes and draws about his mother's struggle with lung cancer in Mom's Cancer. Brian Fies/Abrams Image hide caption

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Brian Fies/Abrams Image

Miriam Engelberg was 43 when she was diagnosed with cancer. hide caption

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'My Cancer' Blog

NPR commentator Leroy Sievers is coping with his cancer in a different way — with a blog about his experiences.

People whose lives have been disrupted by cancer are using graphic novels to tell their stories.

In Mom's Cancer, Brian Fies tells the story of his mother's struggle with metastatic lung cancer, while Miriam Engelberg chronicles her own breast cancer in Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person: A Memoir in Comics.

Fies' mother was diagnosed with lung cancer that spread to her brain. For Engelberg, news of her breast cancer came in 2001, when she was 43 — and her son was just 4 years old.

The two have very different artistic styles, but they share a brutally honest approach to their subject.

And both say they've found drawings to be highly effective for distilling meaning, humor and sadness.

"Somehow in the cartoon form, panel by panel, the absurdist part of this whole experience comes out in a way that it wouldn't if I were just writing an essay," says Engelberg.