'Drawing on the Other Side' Amidst Cancer

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When my wife was going through breast cancer treatment, I started drawing with my non-dominant hand as a means of distraction and self-care.


Hi, my name is Mark A. Hicks

For almost 40 years I used my imagination as a freelance illustrator.

Then one day, the unimaginable happened — my wife was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer caused by a BRCA2 mutation.

Life was turned upside down.

Literally overnight, I went from the whimsical world of children’s books and magazines to the dark world of cancer. I was completely unprepared and horribly frightened for my soul mate and muse.

Although I was drawing as part of my job while my wife was battling cancer, I also often found sketching helpful in dealing with all the heartache, stress and concern in my new job as a caregiver. However, I turned to my other hand to do it.

I had sometimes doodled with my non-dominant hand for fun, but now I found drawing with my left hand was a good coping tool.

I accompanied my wife to all her cancer-related appointments. And my backpack always accompanied me. Stuffed in that backpack, in addition to the caregiver’s just-in-case necessities — painkillers, anti-nausea pills, gloves, etc., — was art supplies and sketchbooks.

From the many times waiting while she was having what seemed like 1,000 scans done, to anxiously sitting in the waiting room while she was having one of the numerous surgeries she underwent, I found drawing with the other hand calming.

Sometimes it was just an abstract doodle.

Sometimes a silly cartoon animal.

Or maybe just rain clouds or a bird I would see through the windows.

And during long waits, I sometimes would get out my phone and use one of the numerous photos of our cats as the subject of a more detailed sketch.

I never imagined I would ever be sitting in a cancer center or hospital sketching with my left hand. But I learned that it did help calm me so could focus on what I needed to do as a caregiver. It may be an overused term, but it was a form of self-care, and it was helpful as I faced the unimaginable.

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