Sunday, May 6, 2012

Survivor Tumor Tattoo

Cancer survivor tumor tattoo based on perspective of Ewing's sarcoma disease“What is it?”

“My tumor about to get fucked up.”

After testing different renditions to explain my tattoo at a party last night—hours after getting inked—that seemed the easiest and most popular, especially with Jose Cuervo involved. But that is an injustice. The backstory…

I was wasting away Journalism II on Microsoft Paint. Not that we ever learned anything useful in that course, but this day I had little interest in thinking. I had been diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma one week before, and would begin chemotherapy two days later. Drawing on a library computer seemed fitting, though PepperoniNip was doing the same and he did not have cancer.

Cancer survivor tumor tattoo based on perspective of Ewing's sarcoma diseaseI plugged away on my picture. I had lost my artistic talents years earlier, but drawing shapes and blotches was easy enough. I printed my finished masterpiece and showed PepperoniNip. “What is it?” he asked, a now-common question.

I drew my perception of my tumor, as an ugly blob with spikey hair and blue spots (Ewing’s sarcoma cells are blue and round). Ewing displayed a terrified expression. His eyes glanced up at two nuclear missiles descending on him, from Israel and USA. Ewing was about to get fucked up.

I have now been cancer-free from Ewing’s sarcoma for 10.5 years. I’ve earned a perspective that is everlasting, but like my memory of that tattoo picture that I since lost, perspectives fade. Months ago my perceived rejection by Sec-Z-Bec led me to lose my way more than any other moment in a decade. I became no different from friends who used to share with me their girl problems, first warning me not to compare them to cancer. I fear that, ten years post-cancer, I now need motivation external from myself to stay grounded.

My lost work of art has been replaced by something beautiful thanks to my tattoo artist, Allen. Ewing has returned in permanent form (though without nukes) to remind me every day where I’ve come from. I hate Ewing. I love Ewing. I need Ewing.

I thought about this for over a year before pulling the trigger. The content is thoughtful; the placement vain: Ewing creeps around my corner and stares up at me in the mirror from my upper ribcage. If my ribs are no longer visible around Ewing then I know to slim down, making both my perspective and leanness permanent.

I hope this tattoo concept catches fire among survivors, replacing the ribbon. Our disease is defined by its name, like Ewing’s sarcoma, but it is different in each of us, because it is us. Our perceptions differ, too. At sixteen years old I knew I would fuck my tumor up. My Superman complex demanded that of me. I recently heard a story of a young woman with breast cancer who darkened from her illness and became consumed by it. Had she survived then her tumor tattoo would not be Breast looking up at a warhead. I now know that is ok.

Related story: Inked