Tomorrow I’m getting at least six tattoos. I’ve never wanted even one.
This has been all I could think about since Friday night when I got home from work and my mind shifted gears from workweek to weekend.
I have numerous piercings – multiples on each ear, and one in my navel. I’ve always been okay with piercings because I figured if I ever got tired of them, I could take them out and they’d close up and disappear. Realistically, I’ve had some of mine for so long now, I could take my jewelry out today and they’d never close up as long as I live.
Still, I could see where a small hole (or even more than one) could easily be overlooked by a casual glance.
Tattoos are something else entirely. For all intents and purposes, permanent – forever – no changing your mind down the road.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not globally anti-tattoo. In fact, I find some tattoos, in some places on the body, on some people, very sexy. I’m talking drop trou in the middle of a busy street at high noon sexy.
So if you’re getting an anti-tattoo vibe here, it is solely about Tattoos and Me, nobody else. My generally applicable and very strong pro-choice stance extends to tattoos as well.
But I got breast cancer. And the size and type of my cancer allowed me to choose lumpectomy with radiation therapy instead of forcing me into losing my entire breast (or both of them) by mastectomy. So next up in my treatment program is radiation therapy, which requires tattoos.
The tattoos are there for a couple of very important reasons.
During therapy, mainly to make sure the therapy is delivered as close to identically each day (five days a week for 6-1/2 weeks, mind you), to simultaneously kill any remaining cancer cells in the area of the former tumor, and to spare as much healthy tissue as possible.
After therapy, they serve both as a roadmap to your prior treatment (should recurrence occur, or you change doctors, for example), and to mark off what I’m calling a future “no-fly zone.” After some casual internet surfing it seems to me that tissue is really only supposed to undergo radiation therapy once, so even if recurrence happens in the same area, the tattoos mark out the ‘no more radiation here please’ territory.
I have been repeatedly assured that these tattoos will be small – more (if applied by a women) or less (if applied by a man) the size of the head of a pin, or about 1mm (or so I’ve heard from a casual survey of the unbelievable number of women in my extended sphere of friends and acquaintances who have already fought the fight I’m in now – I Never knew how many people in my life had been through this deal until I entered it myself).
Still – permanent, never wanted one. Fucking Cancer!
Since they are (theoretically and ideally) very small, I suppose I could actually have them removed, or skin-color tattooed over when my radiation therapy is done. But anytime I’ve seen this on the net (on reliable websites), it comes with a clear warning to carefully discuss this your MOnc before having them disappeared, for the “after therapy” reasons spelled out above, of course.
Having resigned myself to getting and keeping tattoos I’ve never wanted wasn’t doing the trick. I was still feeling pissed off and unable to wipe this tattoo thing from front and center in my mind.
So, what is a girl to do? Go get a tattoo.
Wait, what? Sounds crazy, right?
Well, not in the world according to me. Here’s how things stand from my POV. Never wanted a tattoo. Got cancer. Cancer treatments require tattoos. Technically, I have a choice about doing treatment (getting tattoos) or not, I suppose. Realistically, I don’t have a choice (See “I’ll Take Red Please“).
I do, however, have an actual choice about whether to get a non-cancer-related tattoo or not. For all intents and purposes, there are really no consequences if I do or don’t (as long as I choose type, size and location wisely).
I could not let go of being pissed fucking off about cancer forcing me to get my first tattoo. When I “acted as if” the cancer tattoos were Not actually my first one, my mind and heart calmed.
So today I went and got my first tattoo. Here’s my new ink:
Um, yeah, that’s right. There’s no picture to show. I went to a tattoo shop in town that was recommended to me by someone I trust. I was told to see the owner – Dave. Unfortunately it appears Dave is on a tattoo hiatus. I asked my friend if he would trust my body to Molly and he said yes.
It just so happens that on this particular day, there was a once-a-year festival being held on the street directly in front of the tattoo shop. We made it in there, but the festival crowd was generally not the same demographic as the folks who get tattoos.
Maybe that’s why Molly seemed entirely uninterested in getting me what I wanted, or in the reasons I was doing this. Maybe she just didn’t care, period. In any case, I Do realize this is a permanent deal and chose not to do it somewhere and with someone I am not comfortable.
My first thought about this not working out as I had planned was – well, please see Rule # 0. So I just figured when I got the “on purpose” tattoo (vs. the “they’re required for treatment” tattoos), I’d just warp time and Decide it was my first tattoo. Hubby said, yeah, I could do that. I can construct this blog/site world anyway I want to. It’s all mine. He also said I could just have the “on purpose” one be the one I wanted, as opposed to the ones I don’t.
We’ll see what I decide to do (or not do). As of this moment, I have five new tattoos (it just so happens I have a freckle/mole just where one of my tattoos was going to be, so I didn’t have to get that one – who knew?), and this morning was just as hard as I was afraid it was going to be. Since then, I’ve cycled back to crying about every 20 minutes or so. And even finding a private corner to let the bawl out isn’t materially helping.
Remember that roller coaster analogy? Seems to me like today is one of those down days.