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Fighting cancer with 400 newspapers around the world carry the story of lisa's struggle
patrick fitzgibbons. New York

Falling during a touch football game in 1999 marked the opening chapter in
lisa moore's 8-year struggle with breast cancer, which will soon end as so
many other such battles do - with loss.

while more than 225,000 women in the united states are diagnosed with some
form of breast cancer each year and 46,000 die from the disease, lisa's case
has been unique. lisa is a character in a 35-year-old comic strip funky
winkerbean and her struggle with the disease has been watched daily by
readers of over 400 newspapers around the world.

this summer, following a second bout of cancer, lisa decided to stop
treatments and earlier this month, she and her husband, les, installed a
hospital bed in their home and called a hospice for help with the final
stages of her disease. in early october, she will die.

cartoonist tom batiuk said he decided to bring back lisa's cancer after he
was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006. he had a successful operation in
january and is now in the clear.

batiuk has been drawing funky and his gaggle of friends since 1972, when
they were in high school. while much of the strip has been funny, he has
also dealt with topics including teen pregnancy and suicide, dyslexia and
dating abuse.

but his decision to give one of his central characters breast cancer was
seen by many as a dangerous decision. "when i first started the lisa series
i got a lot of e-mails and letters about it," he said. "a lot of them
started off with a definition of what a comic strip should and should not

cancer advocates praise batiuk's handling of the disease. "twenty years ago,
your grandmother wouldn't even say the words 'breast health' or 'breast
cancer' and now we're saying that it's there and we can discuss it," said
jeanne rizzo, head of the breast cancer fund which raises money for

since the strip started, lisa and les have been central characters,
initially part of uncool crowd in high school but favourites with readers.
they married in 1996. lisa grew up to be a successful advocate lawyer and
les returned to their old high school as an english teacher.
batiuk first introduced lisa's cancer to the strip in january 1999. as the
strip progressed, lisa chose to have a mastectomy, went through a course of
chemotherapy and then was thought to be cancer-free. between then and
2006,lisa seemed in good health.

then, last year, a random blood test showed that her cancer was back. it is
not uncommon for breast cancer to return years after treatment. "most women
who get breast cancer are just waiting for the other shoe to drop," rizzo
said. "i don't think this has been manipulative at all. it's very
real." -reuters

Publication : DNA; Section : world; Pg :17; Date : 15/9/07