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My first tattoo

Neither artistic nor expressive, unless perhaps expressing “fuck cancer.”


I have three, one high on each thigh, and one center front of my pelvis. They’re all just dots: the hint of an X is the shadow of the Sharpie lines that positioned them. The tattoos will help get the radiation beam lined up, and if I ever need radiation again will permanently mark the location where I’ve already received it.

I went in this week for a quick CT scan and the tattoos. The information obtained goes to the physicists, who will calculate the best angle for the radiation, to target the tumor but miss as much healthy tissue as possible. I also now have a custom-fitted lower body form to keep me in the right position and as still as possible. Precision is hard to obtain when working with human bodies, but they come as close as possible.

They’ll start zapping me sometime next week: x-rays and a linear accelerator. This is some serious science. Every weekday, probably for 28 treatments. It only takes about fifteen minutes, I’m told. Likely side effects include diarrhea, skin burns, and fatigue. The first two should be manageable with medication, and the third by the frequent application of nap-inducing felines.

The radiation will be accompanied by oral chemotherapy, 7 days a week. Xeloda metabolizes into 5-FU in the body, and increases the effectiveness of the radiation. Chemoradiation shrinks the tumor before surgery, but more importantly reduces the likelihood of recurrence at the primary tumor site. I’m all for both of those.

The Xeloda is normally given five days a week along with the radiation, but my oncologist said, “Oh, you’re young and healthy, you can take it on weekends too.” Ugh. Though I do appreciate his aggressiveness. The most likely side effect is a lovely thing called “hand and food syndrome,” not to be confused with foot and mouth, thank you very much. The skin on your hands and feet peels off, painfully. This can be reduced somewhat with B vitamins, lots of moisturizer, and avoiding heat. That’s right, I have a medical mandate to not wash dishes because of the hot water.

So that’s next week’s fun, and more weeks thereafter. To wind up last week’s fun, my gyn-onc says that sometimes a polyp is just a polyp. Okay, she didn’t phrase it that way, but that’s the upshot. No uterine cancer, and unlikely to have Lynch Syndrome rather than plain old garden variety colorectal cancer.

Because this is radiation set-up week, I didn’t have chemo. This is the longest I’ve gone without poisoning since February third. I’m starting to feel pretty good: today I did yoga, worked all day, took the boxer on a two-mile walk, spent 20 minutes mowing the lawn, then cooked dinner and cleaned the kitchen. I’m tired now, but not unduly, and this was very much like a normal day, except that I drove to work instead of walking.

I’m very glad to get a few more days like this before I’m on to the next thing.


  1. Laura says:

    Really, having a mandate to avoid washing dishes is INSUFFICIENT COMPENSATION. At least in the short term, because in the long run, a clean bill of health is definitely worth it. I know that at least you will enjoy the application of felines.

  2. Carol Reed says:

    For once, somebody is actually getting tattoos for a truly necessary and legitimate reason. I highly approve. You might want to consider, once the medical reason is no longer in effect, having one (or more) of the dots converted to your current mantra. *That* would be an excellent secondary use, I think.

    (I hope, through all this, that you are still going to have the energy to post here periodically. I’m going to go nuts waiting for updates.)

    Oh, and Fuck Cancer!

  3. Tamie says:

    I am campaigning for some interesting enhancements of the tiny tattoo dots at some point. maybe numbering them for a connect-the-dots game? or I saw these bizarrely creepy 3-D tattoos on the web (but that has got to be way too painful).

  4. The good news is somewhat hard to find in there (though I did find it).
    I hope that you can get those tattoos morphing into something nice at a later stage. In the meantime, I hope they bloom into quick and not too painful recovery.
    Hugs and napping kitties.

  5. Ruth says:

    “Oh, you’re young and healthy, you can take it on weekends too.”

    Ahhh, such memories. I was young & strong (age = 37) when I had my chemo. I was slated for 2 years of it–2 weeks on/2 weeks off. At about the 10th or so month, I went to the oncologist and said, “Enough is enough! I’d rather be dead than keep going with this.” “Oh,” he replied, “we’ll just reduce your dosage, allow your hair to grow back,… you’re young and healthy, so we just threw the largest safe dosage at you for as long as you could take it.” But, of course, they didn’t tell me that’s what they were doing.

    Anyhow: fuck cancer. It’s all more than 40 years ago, and I’m still around to bitch about it. May you also be around in 40 or more years to tell war stories of your time on chemo.

  6. Sarah says:

    Ruth, thanks for the encouragement.

    I’m so glad my oncologist is up-front with me about what he’s doing. I would be rather angry if I’d had your experience. And at least with mine, it’s a very limited time period, and there’s the option to switch to 5-on 2-off if it becomes unbearable.

  7. Mari says:

    “metabolizes into 5-FU in the body”
    I keep trying to come up with something witty and keep ending up with just plain old profanity. Ah well. I’m glad to hear that suspected “oh no” turned out to be “meh”. Hoping the very best, and keep up the snark.
    Hugs all ’round.

  8. Janiece says:

    DUDE. You TOTALLY need to convert the dots when all this over and you have a clean Bill of Health (whatever that means).

    I’m thinking of one of those gang-banger tattoos with the blocky letters, except instead of saying “Rivera Kills” or “Satan’s Few,” it should say “Fuck Cancer” with depictions of the kitty brigade and Trygvi romping around. Alternatively, you could get one of those new “anatomy” tattoos, except it could show where the wurst used to be with a bunch of little workmen digging it out with rock-picks and such. I’ll even go with you!


  9. I totally love Janiece’s idea. You could also incorporate the surgery scars!

    (Says the woman who has wanted a tat since she was 16, has known precisely what she wanted, but has never gotten a tat. Because I’d rather spend that money on books.)

    I hope you’ll find the radiation much easier than the chemo. The people I know who have had radiation therapy were mostly able to work right through. The only one who had difficultly had throat cancer, and got radiation and chemo in tandem. And he still made it to work most days.

  10. Lora says:

    ya, Fuck Cancer. And it’s encouraging to hear how you are doing so far, although I will be wishing you the best through hand and foot syndrome. I had a friend on taxol, who said she could tolerate everything except that her nails lifted – that was more painful than anything else! But anything to get out of washing dishes!
    Sending good wishes.

  11. vermin says:

    If you guys wanna take a little vacation sometime, I’ll hook you up with a better tattoo… I’m not saying you have to jump in with both feet and go for a dragon on the neck, but I’ll do something cool….