I’ve been thinking about getting a tattoo for about ten years. Several years ago I got a henna tattoo at the beach so I could see if anybody at the church where I worked would freak out about the “ink” on my ankle. Nobody said a word. My guess is that they didn’t notice. But I never did pull the trigger. It never felt like the right time.
Last year when I had cancer I thought a lot about getting one. At one of my post-chemo visits with my oncologist I asked if I could get one and she laughed out loud and then said, “Absolutely!”
I couldn’t figure out what to get. I wanted it to be symbolic of my experience with cancer and yet not a constant reminder. No teal ribbons for this survivor! So I waited, trusting that the right thing would present itself. And it did: I was reading Laura McInerny Purmort’s wonderful memoir, “It’s Okay to Laugh–Crying is Good Too,” in which she talked about her boyfriend being diagnosed with and treated for brain cancer which later killed him. She got the word “now” tattooed on her wrist the day before they got married. I knew that was my tattoo.
Ovarian cancer comes back more often than not. That thought is never far from my mind. It’s a struggle and it’s actually getting more difficult as I get farther away from chemo. I cry about it more often than I’d like. I think about it more than I’d like. I just got a book called “After Cancer” and it has a chapter on how to deal with the sword that’s hanging over one’s head. It’s really helpful and if you know someone who’s had cancer this is a book you should give to him/her. I’m going to put its suggestions into play. The tattoo “now” is to remind me to live in the moment and not worry about what I can’t control. I have zero control over whether the cancer returns. There is nothing I can do to change my fate.
I had no idea where to go to get a good tattoo, so of course I turned to Facebook. Three different people recommended Haylo Healing Arts Lounge (704-332-3377) and I called to make an appointment. I had to wait about six weeks, which gave me plenty of time to procrastinate on picking a font. I knew I wanted it to be cursive and not too large. I looked and looked and looked some more, printed out a whole lot of examples, and set about picking the perfect one. It’s a big deal! I didn’t want to make a mistake. I finally found the right one.
I wasn’t the least bit nervous. I was really excited. This is something most people wouldn’t expect me to do. I’m not the most daring person, so this felt pretty bold to me. It also felt really right.
My tattoo was done by a lovely young woman named Dani. She is a really talented artist whose paintings were hanging on the wall by her station. She made me feel relaxed and comfortable. She got all set, asked “Are you ready?” and I said, “Yes, I am!” I waited to see how much it would hurt and really all it did was sting. I don’t know what it would be like to have a big tattoo but this didn’t bother me at all.
In an interesting coincidence, today is the one year anniversary of the end of chemo. What better way to celebrate than by doing something hopeful? (Other than having champagne and chocolate mousse with my husband when he gets home from work.) I already love my tattoo and I’m planning the next one.