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To Tattoo, Or Not Tattoo. That Is The Question

The tattoo one woman has decided to get.

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illustration of woman getting a tattoo
Jade Schulz
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I’ve wondered about getting a tattoo many times. There’s something so intriguing about them: the meaning of the designs and the permanence. A Pew survey showed that 69 percent of tattoo designs were to honor someone or something. Not everyone is pleased with their choices. In fact, 24 percent of Americans later regret their tattoos.

Despite the statistics, I would still get one. But what design? I have always loved stars and hearts, and they’re simple — so maybe one of those? I stood next to my niece when she got a pine tree tattoo on her shoulder, symbolizing her summers at camp. I asked my trainer about his many tattoos, which illustrate an interesting life story. A friend from work told me her daughter got a book tattoo under her arm. She said, “How could I get mad at that?” We both laughed. A book tattoo would remind me of my mother, who took us to the library every week when we were young. She was an avid reader, and I have many fond memories of her reading in the kitchen and at the Jersey Shore in the summertime. Or, I could get a music-related tattoo, like a banjo, reminding me of my father. He learned as a young boy and played throughout his life on the same banjo that I now have. He loved singing and music — the banjo in particular.

It’s been a few years since I thought about tattoos, but something happened recently that brought the idea back: I was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer.

After the surgery and before I went in for radiation treatments, I had an “opportunity” to get some tattoos, five to be exact, all on the same day. These weren’t tattoos I would have chosen. I somewhat hesitantly asked the radiation technician applying them, “Are these just temporary?” She replied flatly, “No, you’ll have these for the rest of your life,” then quickly added, “But you should be glad these are just little pink dots that can only be seen with a blue light. They used to be black marks.”

Now, I see the humor in this. I walked into the hospital only knowing that I was going to the first of two 30-minute “simulations” for radiation treatment. A few minutes later, I was deeply grateful and relieved for the five tattoos I never wanted that were strategically applied across my chest. About the size of freckles, these dots mark the corners of the area to be irradiated.

I could end this story there, but other unexpected things happened.

My boss gratefully suggested I take three weeks off to rest. A dear friend offered to let me stay at her lovely cottage, only a 10-minute drive from the hospital. It was such a peaceful home. I could sit out back, in nature with the birds and flowers, and take walks in the neighborhood. Other dear family and friends made kind gestures during this time, and my appreciation deepened for the demonstrations of love I have experienced.

When I arrived at the hospital for the first of 15 radiation treatments, I felt uncertain. One of the technicians walked me past a one-foot-thick door and into the room where the radiation was to be administered. Within a few days, to my complete surprise, I started looking forward to going to the hospital — not for the treatments, but for the technicians. The appointments were brief, but I enjoyed getting to know the hard-working ladies. By the time the treatments ended, these caring, thoughtful professionals felt like friends, and I wished we could keep in touch. They walked me out of the room, past the thick door for the last time, and asked if I wanted to ring the bell (a tradition). I rang it and walked out of the hospital, looking forward to many healthy years ahead.

It really is true: You never know what’s around the corner as you walk the path of life, what good can come out of a very challenging situation, and what a blessing it is to have supportive family and friends. I think I will get another tattoo, the “Tree of Life,” symbolizing unity, connection and strength. Perfect.

Do any of you have a tattoo? What is it? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Health