A Little Art World Turtle Day


I had a successful career in the arts long before a pathogenic germline mutation changed everything. So, for a little break from my hereditary cancer advocacy infographics that I've been posting here for the past few years, here’s a look at some of my Testudines illustrations for today.

The top left image was my first children's magazine cover, done as a 20-something just beginning my freelance illustration career. (Back in the days when getting a gig from an editor or art director a couple thousand miles away involved either a long-distance phone call or a snail mail letter. And when someone liked your work, you got fan mail!)

If you want to color a picture today, you can go here to download the Sulcata Tortoise coloring page.

Or here to download the Desert Tortoise coloring page.

The How to Draw a Turtle page is here.

The sleeping tortoises are from the children’s book, Coyote Claus: A Southwest Desert Tale, published by Sunbelt Publications. (BTW, I donate ALL royalties from the sales of the Coyote Claus book to help the hereditary cancer community fight cancer.)

You can learn more about World Turtle Day here.


Bringing Families Together to Prevent Hereditary Disease

ConnectMyVariant.org, Bringing Families Together to Prevent Hereditary Disease  ConnectMyVariant is an educational health-focused nonprofit organization that supports individuals and families that may be at risk of hereditary disease, such as cancer, in early detection and prevention efforts. Learn more at ConnectMyVariant.org Design and art by Mark A. Hicks as a volunteer advocate

Knowing and sharing family health history can be life-saving. The same genetic variant that may increase the risk of cancer or heart disease can be shared with grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins — even cousins several times removed.

Art created by me as a volunteer advocate for the ConnectMyVariant May newsletter.


The Importance of Telling Your Cancer Story Honestly

Incidence is increasing for many common cancers, including 6 of the top 10,” according to the American Cancer Society. But there has not been a lack of cancer conferences, walks, runs, and galas over the past couple decades. Something isn’t working. 

Maybe we need to look at preventing and curing cancer differently. Let’s start by being honest about cancer.

Read the entire CURE story here.


Share Your Hereditary Cancer Story Today

On June 26, 2021, my soul mate of 40 years died of hereditary cancer as I embraced her. Her nearly four-year struggle against metastatic triple-negative breast cancer caused by a BRCA2 mutation was an hellish nightmare. The cancer had spread to her spine, then to her brain.

Her cancer could have been prevented.

Doctors never took note of the history of different and deadly cancers in my late wife’s family during her regular checkups and mammograms. And relatives who were acutely aware of the mutation and the risk to other family members did not speak up and share what would have been life-saving information.

Current HIPAA privacy laws prevent doctors from sharing information about a patient’s positive germline mutation result with other family members without express consent. The duty to warn is instead left to individuals who are often incapable of sharing information about a complex medical subject with other family members. Individuals who either don’t understand genetics and the risk to others or are simply overwhelmed with being diagnosed with a pathogenic variant and the choices that they face. Putting individuals who are not medical or science professionals in the position of explaining germline mutations and the cancer risk to their genetic relatives is not wise, fair, or ethical.

1 in 279 individuals have a genetic mutation that puts them at risk of hereditary cancer. Yet, even with all the hype and bluster about preventing cancer, there is no medical requirement for gathering family cancer history and cascade genetic testing. Two things that are proven to help prevent cancer.

Through genetic testing, my daughter learned she inherited the germline BRCA2 mutation from her mother. A mutation that we now know goes back for many generations. Armed with this knowledge, my daughter has been able to take preventative steps to give her a good chance at a full life cancer-free.

Because I lost my beloved wife to cancer and our child inherited the mutation, I have become a hereditary cancer awareness and prevention advocate. Heartbreakingly, I continue to hear stories of hereditary cancers that could have been prevented but were not. Things need to change. HIPAA laws need to evolve as genomic science advances. And genetic testing should become a standard of care. Especially when there is any family history of cancer.

Nobody should die of a preventable cancer. Nobody!


A Little Art For Earth Day

Giving Pause. Painting of a jackrabbit looking out over an open vista and approaching rainclouds.
Having been born and raised in Arizona, I took for granted that the solitude and wide-open vistas I experienced growing up would always be there. But the wilderness that I loved so much -- what I call the beautiful quiet -- has all but disappeared.

I could share so many stories about the magic and wonder of nature and open spaces, but I’ll just leave you with one of my paintings. 

There’s more about me, my art, and the desert on another post.