Kaylin Marie Andres was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma (a rare bone cancer) and thyroid cancer at age 23, and she took a path that not everyone would take in response to that. She now lives by the motto, "Cancer is not funny ... cancer is hilarious!"
She collaborates with artist friend Jon Solo on Terminally Illin', a punk comic dedicated to kicking cancer in the nuts. It renders Andres a fierce superheroine fighting the dreaded disease alongside an equally fierce feline, her battle kitty Iceman.
Last Gasp published a 28-page black and white preview issue of Terminally Illin' in October that is still available to order. Now Andres and Solo aim to raise enough money via a second Kickstarter campaign to finish a 180-page, full color graphic novel, which Last Gasp has also committed to publish. This project would contain a lot of writing from Kaylin's Cancer Is Not Funny blog that she kept during treatment.
Their idea is a polarizing one for sure. Not everyone enjoys the humor of a syringe-laden chemochair or cancer DNA that looks suspiciously like a swastika.
"People either love the comic right away or they are horrified," says Solo. "The comic is intended for 'young adults.' Older patients or more conservative types probably won't like it. I've actually gotten a lot of great responses from doctors. They are impressed with our DNA swastika and NYC subway circulatory system."
They've called the work intelligent and entertaining, he says.
"However, they let us know it's for an intended audience and wouldn't just offer it to anyone," Solo continues.
A chemochair that looks like a torture chair represents a panic attack Andres went through during treatment.
"The next page it becomes like Pee-Wee's Playhouse -- everything is fun and it goes into a musical," he says. "It shows how Kaylin used her mind to get through a panic attack and a tough moment. All of the other cancer patients and survivors Kaylin knows love the comic, but they are our demographic."
The two made many international contacts after their first successful Kickstarter campaign funded the preview issue, and Solo mailed free copies to cancer wards as far away as Australia and England. He has placed ads on Craigslist to offer complimentary copies to cancer patients. Their story promises to blow up even bigger when the two become a major focus of the next season of a popular documentary series that airs on a major youthful cable network, the names and details of which must be kept under wraps for now.
"For me, humor has always been my best coping mechanism," Andres says. "It's the great unifier in life -- you can literally make fun of everything. Everything has the potential to make you laugh, even cancer, even death. When I was going through treatment, making jokes was my way to process what was happening to me, a way to deal with the situation. By making fun of cancer, I was essentially taking control of it and how it affected my life instead of staying helpless."
Says Solo, "Cancer is a taboo subject and most people are afraid to talk about it."
Although their approach makes some people feel uncomfortable, he asserts, "it needs to be talked about."
He reveals that causing discomfort is part of the strategy.
"We're hoping to break down some of the taboos about cancer with this book," he shares. "When certain people react uncomfortably after reading it, we believe it is working. We're filling the void opposite to 'Livestrong' cancer types."
Says Andres, "The most serious things in life are often the most absurd, and therefore ripe for parody. I wouldn't say laughter is the best medicine -- but it helps."