Healing the unconventional way

Dearest Liver,

I have a few topics that I’ve been wanting to discuss with you, but today I read an article about an org called P.Ink (http://p-ink.org/) that inspired me to talk about my tattoos as a weird/unconventional mental healing method.

P.Ink helps breast cancer survivors find tattoo artists and encourages them to take back control of their scars and bodies. Most of the women in the article seemed to be tattooing over mastectomy scars or getting something creative tattooed instead of the “traditional” fake nipples. I really like the concept and mission of the org.

While I’ve never used a tattoo to cover a physical scar, I’m definitely using them to help heal my emotional ones. When I was first diagnosed with metastatic disease almost 2 years ago my brain went into shutdown mode. As I slowly began to comprehend that everything “normal” in my life was about to be replaced with cancer treatment, sickness, worry, and unknowns I knew I needed to do something to find a sense of control. I decided to take the logo I designed 7 years before as a celebration of my “cancer free” life and use it as a badge of courage and strength to protect me from what was to come. And so I got Fuck Cancer tattooed to my ribcage. It’s probably not my mom’s favorite of my tattoos, but it makes me happy when I see it!

Over the past 2 years I’ve tried out a bunch of different drugs with different levels of success. I’m told that it’s just how metastatic cancer treatment goes. You use a drug until it stops working and then you find another one that does. When I was switched from oral drugs back to IV drugs it was a much harder hit emotionally. I didn’t think I would ever be back in an infusion center and didn’t like it. Somehow swallowing pills felt less like real chemo than infusions. Plus despite all of the tattoos (which are totally different), needles and IVs freak me out. My doctors discussed having my port put back in, and while I knew it would be much easier for me, I still wasn’t happy about it.

My response: I tattooed a keyhole around my old port scar. I figured if I had to have a port, I might as well make it fun to use. Now every time the nurses plug me in they have to go through the keyhole. I’ve been told by a few nurses that it’s the most fun port they’ve ever accessed. (The IR surgeon who had to go in through the old scar wasn’t as amused by me, but that’s another story for another day.)

For me tattoos let me take control and also help me make bad situations a little more fun. I guess I’ll have to wait to see what the next one will be…

Love and kisses,


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