A Slightly Altered Me

At the age of eighteen, on the eve of starting college, my parents made one thing very clear…”No tattoos or piercings or no tuition for school!” A decade and four years later, give or take a few days, I broke the rules. Yesterday, I broke all the rules and made a decision. The kind of decision that is a no turning back sort of decision. The kind of decision that could be a really good one or a really bad one. The kind of decision that I’ve been trying to make for a long time and finally made my choice. I chose, for better or for worse, to alter my body. I put a great deal of time and thought into it before I got it so that I would have no regrets.

For me, a year and a half out of cancer treatment, I am left with the daily physical reminders of the grueling Radiation I went through in order to beat the odds. Everyday, when my mouth becomes dry due to the lack of saliva, or I can’t find anything to eat that tastes halfway decent because of my altered taste buds or when I’m still consciously aware of every single swallow I take, praying it goes down the right way, I’m reminded of the journey behind me. Most days I think I do a pretty good job of realizing it’s just going to be part of who I am for the rest of my life, but other times, I’m overcome with frustration and sadness that this is my forever reality. That’s when I came up with the idea of combating the negative physical reminders with something that is a positive reminder of how far the Lord has brought me through my life and what a blessing He gave me by giving me another day, faulty taste buds and all. I began to draft a picture of what I would like to see everyday that will encourage me to keep going and continue a path of thanks to God for those blessings.

I’m learning that most are not aware of the fact that there is a different color ribbon for every type of cancer out there. While pink is the most well-known cancer ribbon as it symbolizes Breast Cancer, mine is red and white in honor of Oral Cancer, one of the fastest and most “up and coming” cancers around these days. So, I paid tribute to myself as a survivor, not because I personally did it, but because there is a God who gave me the strength to get through every moment of my fight. During my year battle, I quickly identified with the words, “Live, Laugh, Love” as my motto to live by. It is my sincere belief that without an abundance of laughter and love, one is not truly living or experiencing the meaning behind life. To laugh with abandon and to love without boundaries…that is a beautiful existence indeed. And finally, I chose purple tulips, inspired by a very special person in my life. My amazing friend, closer than a brother for sixteen years, Mark. While I was in the hospital during the time the doctor removed the tumor, I was sent to recover in TCU, an area the hospital would not allow flowers. Mark called my mom several times during my stay, hoping to have flowers sent to my room. They finally decided to wait until I arrived back home and the day I returned, there was a beautiful bouquet of purple tulips waiting for me. Mark has been a very special part of my life since high school and we have walked together during many difficult moments. We have forged a friendship that is rare these days and I am so thankful for the love and support he showed me during my sickness. In my tattoo, one of the tulips is blooming, which signifies the trials God has already brought me through to date…the ups and downs, the disappointments, the illnesses and heartbreaks, the joys and the accomplishments, the beautiful milestones of thirty-two years. The other tulip has yet to bloom and is an illustration of the life and path I have yet to live.

For me, I am able now to look down and see beauty and a constant reminder of a God who loves me in such a way that He made a choice, a no turning back choice, a til death do us part choice…He chose to forever alter his body by dying on the cross for me and for you in an attempt to illustrate His love for us all.