Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the tag “anxiety”

My First Tatoos

If you read my page “U. R. Sharpe,” I think I have made it perfectly clear where I stand with needles.  Only during chemotherapy, could I get passed the anxiety of the of five to seven attempts of hitting the first vein seen.  But once the chemo was done, I went right back to my phobia.

Up until my 23rd birthday, my skin surface had remained unblemished from tattoos.    But with the amount of radiation I was going to receive, every detail needed to be exact, spot on, or risk of spreading the radiation to areas not meant.

Before radiation therapy could begin, the linear accelerator would need to be lined up the same way for every treatment,  The cross bar on my chest would have to be lined up perfectly.  The only way to assure that, was to place a dot at the nape of my neck, a dot on each the balls of the shoulders, and the final down in the middle of the abdomen.  Surprisingly, this did not hurt.  The needle is so small, and the process was so quick, just a small dot, which I still have today.  So there is now a constellation on my upper body in the form of a cross.

Years would go by, and the only times that you would hear me talk about needles, was going for blood tests or procedures that required anesthesia.  But following a family vacation many years ago, both my father-in-law and brother-in-law each came home with tatoo.  My father-in-law had a Porsche tatooed on his leg, my brother-in-law, the Harley Davidson insignia across his shoulders.  The artwork was very nice, though I wondered what the motive might have been for a 70 year old, and a major upper manager for a world-wide company.

It was the next year, they went on vacation again, and came home with yet another tatoo.  This time, my father-in-law with the symbol for The Saint (a television show in the 60’s) and my brother-in-law, a number 4 inside of a baseball in tribute to Lou Gerhrig.  Earlier that summer, my brother-in-law had been diagnosed with Lou Gerhrig’s Disease (ALS).  He was only a couple of years older than I, and now we both faced an uncertain fate.  He was looking at a very grim future with a disease that would leave him unable to physically function at all, or communicate.  His mind would work 100% as it always had, the cruelest thing about that disease.

Myself, I was still coming to terms with learning about the world of late effects from cancer treatments, and how all of a sudden, some of these issues could pop up, but also how some could take time to develop.

Finally, it happened.  I got why Mike had started getting the tatoos, and now I wanted to get one as well.  For me, it was going to be once and done.  I just wanted one tatoo, and of course, it would probably be the most expensive, most time consuming, but clearly the most beautiful tribute I could ever give my daughters.  It would take up at least 1/3 of my upper left back/shoulder.

A couple of years prior, while on a family vacation for our wedding anniversary, my wife had stepped aside to do some shopping, something my children and I try to avoid at all costs.  An opportunity came up, to have my daughter’s photos taken without my wife knowing.  I say it like that, because when it comes to posing the girls, it is probably one of the more stressful times for our daughters.  But with me, I like a natural photo.  And I was able to pull it off with our daughters.  I simply told the photographer what I was going to do, and he had literally two seconds to do it.  I did not care about shadows or lighting, I wanted the pose.


I had this picture made into an oil painting which now hangs above our mantle.  Now if I can just tolerate a few more needles, they will be immortalized forever.  This will be my first “artistic” and meaningful tatoo.

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