Reviewed by Dianne Woodman
Imagine being diagnosed with the frightening and life-threatening disease of breast cancer. Your entire world is turned upside down, and you are supposed to “patiently” wait until you meet with an oncologist to get information about your prognosis. This is exactly what happens to visual artist Tina Martel. She loses patience with the medical system and uses the Internet to read everything she can find about breast cancer.
Not in the Pink is a candid, heart-wrenching, and humor-laced account of Tina Martel’s personal ordeal with breast cancer. The memoir offers unique insight into a disease that strikes women without any prejudice or warning. Tina provides readers with a bird’s eye view of how a breast cancer journey is a roller-coaster ride with patients vacillating between periods of feeling upbeat about winning the battle and periods of feeling disbelief, panic, anger, anxiety, guilt, denial, frustration, and depression.
Tina Martel shares her long and difficult battle with breast cancer in a heartfelt and forthright manner. She does not shy away from sharing intimate details about her scary diagnosis and its emotional impact, the horrific side effects of the cancer treatments, her frustrations with both the idiosyncrasies of the medical community and the inconsiderate comments made by people around her. Key elements behind her surviving the nightmare of breast cancer is the unfailing support of family and friends, her practice of wearing temporary tattoos of a Chinese symbol for courage, her inner strength, her ability to maintain a sense of humor, and her documenting each grueling step in the journey.
The background images behind each page of text are comprised of paintings and photographs. This combination of artistic images and written thoughts is a powerful way to portray the realism of breast cancer. Tina Martel is a beacon of light and hope and an immeasurable comfort to not only women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer but also to the family and friends of loved ones who are battling this disease. No woman wants to receive a possible death sentence, and Tina’s breast cancer journey from diagnosis to survival is a beautiful story of courage and inspiration for breast cancer patients.
5 out of 5 stars
Reviewed By Viga Boland for Readers’ FavoriteNot in the Pink by Tina Martel is the most stunning and unusual memoir I have ever seen or read. Why do I say “seen”? Because when you read Not in the Pink, you actually SEE Tina Martel’s journey from her discovery of breast cancer, through to her chemotherapy and radiation treatments to her questionable recovery from both the physical and mental pain of the entire experience.The reader sees this journey because Tina Martel is an artist. The page backgrounds of her memoir are paintings and photographs that illustrate what she is saying or describing in the text. Readers find themselves poring over the details in the graphics while they read the words depicting her long and difficult battle with the cancer, the treatment, the meds and, sadly, the attitudes of hospital staff and others along the way. This is not a page-turner in the regular sense of the word because one feels compelled to explore the illustrations before moving on to the next page. The entire concept is brilliant, a visual and writing feast for the eyes that leaves the reader seeing and remembering Not in the Pink long after the reading has ended.According to an article published in 2014 by the Grand Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune, Tina Martel feels “there are many myths surrounding breast cancer” including that it’s not as difficult as other cancers. Well, she certainly debunks that myth in Not in the Pink. My reaction to what I was reading and after I’d finished was I hope I never have to go through what Tina Martel and so many other women do. There is nothing easy about breast cancer or the treatment of it. As Tina says, “It’s a profound and life-changing experience”. And yet, throughout the memoir, Tina has found moments to laugh at herself and her circumstances and share those with her readers.I, for one, will never forget Tina Martel and how she has chosen to share her memoir, Not in the Pink. Consider me a lifelong fan of this artist and writer. Bravo!
5 out of 5 stars
Reviewed By Rich Follett for Readers’ FavoriteThere are books a reader can settle into and get comfortable with; conversely, there are books masterfully crafted to prevent the reader from being even remotely comfortable. Not in the Pink by Tina Martel is most decidedly the latter, in the best of all possible ways. As its title suggests, Not in the Pink is an unflinching, achingly straightforward chronicle of the author’s journey through diagnosis of, treatment for, and recovery from breast cancer. Throughout the book, text is splayed at grotesque angles across gloriously unsettling images created by the author/artist from photographs, sketches, paintings and mixed-media montages. Unvarnished words come at the reader from all angles; sometimes the path is clear, sometimes not. The visual element of the narrative is stunning, in the truest sense. Martel’s writing has a raw, clinical, sardonic edge completely in keeping with her experience, interpreted as only a true artist can. Presented on their own, Martel’s images would distinguish any gallery; similarly, her words are visceral and chosen with an artist’s precision - together, they are an ekphrastic triumph.Tina Martel’s Not in the Pink should be mandatory reading for anyone - female or male - whose life journey has been unexpectedly rerouted by breast cancer or any life-threatening illness. Her courage, dark humor, and inconceivable honesty offer those facing cancer and those who will be in support roles a chance to look behind the veil of society’s obligatory platitudes and pep talks and see what they can realistically expect to face in the fight to regain wellness and a semblance of self and normalcy. Not in the Pink is a rare and powerful dose of absolute truth, rendered in wave after wave of sublime verbal and visual artistry.
5 out of 5 stars
Reviewed By Faridah Nassozi for Readers’ FavoriteHundreds of thousands of women die from breast cancer every year but there are others who live to tell the tale and, as any of them will tell you, it is the hardest battle they have had to fight. In her book titled Not in the Pink, Tina Martel narrates her battle with breast cancer. For her, this trying journey started at age 54 with a doctor who offered her no explanation and no direction. What followed was a series of frustrating waits, endless tests and doctors' appointments, gruesome treatments and nasty side effects. Her story shares how the diagnosis changed her life in an instant, her fears and frustrations, and the physical and emotional pain of the process.Not in the Pink by Tina Martel gave me a detailed and profound look into the gruesome journey that cancer patients travel. The cancer fight is a tough one and not many who survive it have the nerve to share their story, not even with their loved ones. However, Tina Martel managed to share her story in great detail with the whole world and this I found both courageous and admirable. Her story is very enlightening and deeply touching. I loved how she managed to present this compelling story of fear, pain, frustration and courage through her artistic eye. The images that form the background of every page tell a story of what her body and mind went through during this very trying time, from diagnosis all the way through the endless tests and treatments.
When visual artist Tina Martel started going through breast cancer treatment in 2011, she decided to document the experience with a range of artwork.
Now her pieces and writing are being featured in a new book, Not In The Pink.
“While I was ill, I documented everything. I took photographs, I took video and I drew in my sketchbook,” said Martel, who is also a Fine Arts instructor at Grande Prairie Regional College (GPRC).
“I collected the medical records. I collected all the letters and notes I got from people.”
The experience of creating the book will be featured in Martel’s exhibit, Not in the Pink: The Creative Process, at the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie (AGGP), which runs from Nov. 26 to Jan. 11.
“What I’m doing is showing the process of how an artist goes from an idea, a concept to the object,” said Martel.
Martel’s book will be launched at the opening of her exhibit on Wednesday Nov. 26 at 7 p.m.
In the exhibit, the page spreads of the book will be matted and hung on the wall. Martel’s book edits, including post-it notes and crossed-out writing, will be hung above and below it the page layouts.
Paintings from the book will also be included for a total of 200 pieces in the exhibition.
The idea of putting the book’s writing process into an exhibit came after Martel talked to visitors in her studio.
“Over the last few years that I’ve been working on the book, what seems to happen is every time somebody came in my studio, I would have all these things on the wall and people would start to become engaged,” said Martel.
The title of her book and her exhibit is a reference to not being healthy and the pink culture surrounding breast cancer awareness.
“I think, at the beginning, it had a lot of relevance but it seems to me now that a lot of people have jumped on board and it has become somewhat meaningless,” said Martel.
While Martel says supporting the pink ribbon campaign is fine for some people, it just wasn’t for her, a view shared by some of the other women she talked to when going through treatment.
“The symbol for me, having it in my face all the time, I started to get kind of resentful,” said Martel.
“I think a lot of us do but we feel guilty about being resentful. I think maybe we’ve gone a little too far with it. It needs to have meaning restored to it again.”
Martel says there are many myths surrounding breast cancer, including that is an easy cancer to have.
Through her book and her exhibit, Martel hopes to dispel some of the myths.
“What I wanted was for people to understand that it’s not just that you disappear for a few months and you come back and everything is great,” said Martel.
“That’s not how it works. It’s a profound and life-changing experience.”
Understanding breast cancer was also a process for Martel as she went through her treatment. After she was diagnosed, she read different books and websites about breast cancer.
However, Martel said the books seemed to have only two types of themes. The first was the idea of breast cancer being a spiritual journey.
“I’m not on a spiritual journey. I got sick. This was not my choice to walk down this road. This was thrust upon me, not embraced on any way, shape or form,” said Martel.
The second types of books were the “how-to” books.
“I don’t know how to have cancer. I’ve only had it the one time. I’m not expert,” said Martel.
After seeing those types of books, Martel decided she wanted to create a book describing what someone with breast cancer might go through, based on her own experience.
With mixed media, Martel could express her own story with writing and other art forms.
While Martel was going through treatment, she had chance to write often, which started after people who knew her started calling to check how she was.
“You don’t have the energy to talk to everybody so what I did is I put together an email list and I started writing updates,” said Martel.
“A lot of them were funny and dark and they made you want to laugh and cry at the same time.”
Martel’s friends suggested putting the emails into a book and then Martel decided to combine her writing and her visual art.
“It seemed to me a way of processing what happened to me and filtering it through that whole visual art process and being able to take that into a form I hope people will find moving, interesting and informative.”
“It’s pretty graphic. I don’t really pull any punches about what happened.”
Both a hard cover and a soft cover version of Not in the Pink, will be available at the AGGP until the end of the exhibit.
The cost is $30 for a soft cover copy and $100 for a hard cover copy. The hard cover copy comes with two postcard size prints not featured the book.
The official site for the book is notinthepink.ca.