In late October, IHadCancer partnered with Nice Tattoo Parlor
in Brooklyn, New York, to provide discounted cancer-related tattoos to the NYC IHC community. Here are a few of the survivors who got the opportunity to get a tattoo and opened up about their story and what their tattoo represents to them.
Alex, Breast Cancer Survivor
I was diagnosed at 24 with ER+/PR+/HER2- breast cancer; genetic testing did not show any BRCA/other gene mutations and I had no family history - ultimately it was just a case of bad luck. I was unfortunate in my diagnosis however I could not have been any luckier with where I was working when it happened - I've been with Memorial Sloan Kettering for 5 years, 3 years at the time of my diagnosis, and had access to the best care in the world. The physician I was working for at the time (after I simply asked how to schedule an ultrasound) pressed me for more information and ultimately got me seen same day. That was a Thursday in early April, and by Monday morning I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I underwent a double mastectomy in May followed by 8 cycles of dose dense ACT chemotherapy, which concluded at the end of September 2015. I had 2 more reconstructive surgeries, and will be on Tamoxifen until I am ~35 but my prognosis is good and I'm hoping to have many more years in "NED".
I celebrated 2 years in remission the week before this event - I had 9 tattoos before this and I love that I can point to each one and tell you what was going on in my life when I got it done. Some are better tattoos than others, but they all serve as "snap shots" and reminders of what's happened in my 27 years (hence I hate the questions about "won't you regret that when you're older?"). I think tattoos are especially significant when considering what cancer does to a person. After everything unpleasant I've had mark my body because of cancer, it seemed only fitting that a year and a half after my last surgery I marked it with something beautiful embracing all of that.
I chose the tattoo I got because I liked the simplicity of it - it can be very difficult sometimes to maintain hope when even after your treatment is over, you're still taking a slew of pills every day to keep the cancer away and to deal with the side effects of those drugs. There's also the fear of recurrence, which in my case is even more likely given my age at diagnosis and the aggressive pathological features. Regardless, I choose to maintain hope and believe that the "cancer" part of my life is behind me - since finishing treatment I've run a marathon, traveled to 7 countries, gone to 4 concerts, met my first nephew and get to see him grow up. I plan to continue doing things that I probably wouldn't have before this and hope that one day we'll find a cure for those men and women still fighting and so that no one else has to be told "I'm sorry, but unfortunately it is cancer".
Kiku, Breast Cancer Survivor
I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma in my left breast, one month after my wedding. It was pretty crazy, but when I finally decided to come clean, we wanted it to help others, and not just be whispers of gossip in the community.
I love tattoos. They all mean a lot to me and when I heard of this event, I hoped something would speak to me. The heartbeat, placed under my "Ninja", represents the fact that mine is still ticking! Every day is a gift.
As a board member of #Cancerland, and an original member of the "cast", I want to help carry on Champagne Joy's legacy of advocacy. She always inspired me to be loud, to not accept the "awareness", because we're all aware. And, we're aware that there is no cure, but the public only sees cute pink ribbons! They need to see reality, and I won't shut up until it happens!
Glori, Thyroid Carcinoma Survivor
I had just turned 40 when I was diagnosed with Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma. Truthfully, my cancer experience wasn't anywhere near as difficult as most others but neither was it "the good cancer" that all my doctors said it was. I had a total thyroidectomy, and one treatment dose of radioactive iodine. I finally heard those sweet, sweet words "you are in remission" about 4 years later.
I had always wanted a second tattoo and the I Had Cancer Tattoo Party was the perfect opportunity. While I have always considered myself to be strong, cancer led me to discover a level of "Strength" I didn't know I had and I wanted to commemorate that with this tattoo. I do all the recommended screenings and have had some scares in the 6 years since my thyroid cancer diagnosis. And now, I have this tattoo to remind me that I have all the strength needed to handle whatever is in my future.
Shari, Breast Cancer Survivor
I️ was diagnosed in 2012 with Breast cancer at the age of 31.. I️ then proceeded to have chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and radiation.
I️ chose the heartbeat tattoo as a reminder to live everyday to the fullest and that I️ am alive at this very moment. Having dealt with cancer, I️ am reminded constantly that someone’s life can change instantly in the blink of an eye.
Learning to live after a cancer diagnosis is one of the hardest things to have to do, so I️ chose this tattoo as a reminder to really live life to the fullest and to remember that my heartis still beating and to take advantage of my renewed lease on life!
Do you have a cancer-related tattoo? Share yours in the comments below!