“So take the photographs and still frames in your mind…hang it on a shelf in good health and good time. Tattoos are memories and dead skin on trial…for what it’s worth; it was worth all the while”
-Green Day “Good Riddance/Time Of Your Life”
I once read that the world is divided into two kinds of people: Those who have tattoos, and those who are afraid of people with tattoos. I don’t know where the quote originated from but I must say I categorically disagree. Really, who could fear little ol’ me?
I love a good tat; always have…even before tattoos became mainstream. I absolutely look at it as body art and I think that most are fantastic. I always knew, if I got a tattoo, it would be a shark. I’ve always been fascinated by them thanks to my dad, the movie Jaws, and Jacques Cousteau. So I often indulged my inner badass and fantasized about what my tattoo would look like, what it would mean, and most importantly, where I would put it. A tramp stamp is great but they just don’t age well.
I wanted one when I turned thirty but was so bleary-eyed as a young mom with my two little ankle-biters clinging to me 24/7 there was never time. Back in those days I was lucky to get a shower, never mind finding the time to go to a tattoo parlor. So I pushed it off until I was thirty-five…by then, I was heading back into the work-force full time and the timing was just off. I made a promise to myself-when I turned forty I would finally do it and at forty I did. But at forty it meant more, because now it was at the top of my bucket list. It was more important to me then because I HAD a bucket list. It was more important to me then because I was one year out of my cancer treatment. I’ve always known life was short but now the reality was that MY life was short…and I had better start living because you never know if there will be a tomorrow.
What my ink says about me. Well, there are no cutesy hearts, flowers, or cartoon characters. Mine are inspirational and a testament to my toughness. I tend to put them on the areas of the body that are considered the most painful to tattoo; a tribal black shark curled around my left anklebone is not just an homage to my dad, sharks have always survived, thrived, and adapted for billions of years. Running the length of outside of my left foot is the Latin phrase “fluctuat nec mergitur” which translates to “she was tossed by the waves but she did not sink.” It’s an old naval phrase, the motto of the city of Paris, and a true reflection of all that I have survived. And last year, on the inside of my right wrist I put a modified set of wings with a looped ribbon laced between them. I always said when I made my fifth cancerversary, I would get my ‘wings of freedom,’ and I thought I had…until about nine months ago.
Now, as I come up on my new first cancerversary I have decided to do something more reflective. A line from the Beatles song “Let It Be.” So somewhere on my body, during the month of October I will have 'There will be an answer, let it be' etched permanently. It’s a song I always loved and I line I frequently thought of during my treatments. I’d like to believe that while I may not understand right now why I am going through this, someday I will.
I’m proud of, and often amazed by, how well my body has healed. In saving my life, my doctors have left behind many scars. Markings I never asked for nor did I want. “Tattoos are memories” and it became very important for me to put marks on my body that I chose. And while I agree that “scars are tattoos with better stories” I feel more empowered sitting in the chair listening to the droning buzz of the tattooing gun than I do knocked out cold on an operating room table. My tats have become a roadmap of my life-reminding me of where I have been, how far I have come, and where I’ve yet to go.