The Girl With the Cross Tattoo

I'VE ALWAYS WANTED A TATTOO.

When I was a freshman in college I would draw tattoo sketches in a spiral notebook in my dorm room. I never really took any of them too seriously, but they all fit a common theme: some sort of cross with the words “walk by faith” woven in.

I couldn't tell you exactly why I had never acted on my urge to get a tattoo. It wasn't that I was afraid of needles or that my parents said I couldn’t, and it certainly wasn’t that I hadn’t ever had anyone special or anything meaningful enough in my life. I just never really pursued it.

INSERT CANCER DIAGNOSIS, DECEMBER 19, 2015  

Well hello, "meaning." 

I told myself this was it. This is what I would get a tattoo for. When I was in Arizona for treatment, I would kill time during my long IV’s looking up meaningful bible verses and Christian song lyrics and illustrations of teal ribbons and courageous quotes. I again sketched out some ideas… But nothing ever stuck. I had a variety of creative, meaningful and empowering pieces that I truly loved. One of my friends even came to visit me at treatment and got a tattoo on HER body... in MY handwriting. What?! 

I ordered pieces of jewelry on Etsy of the design I wanted, just to see how I like carrying that phrase with me constantly, and I loved it. I thought for sure when I was done with treatment I would go get that permanently marked on my body. But again, I never did. For some reason my heart still held out for something more.

I THINK THERE WAS A PART OF ME, SOMEWHERE DEEP INSIDE, THAT KNEW MY STORY WASN’T FINISHED YET. I left cancer treatment in Arizona March 24, 2016 and two years went by, still no tattoo.

FAST FORWARD TO MAY 3, 2017: EXPLORATORY PARTIAL HYSTERECTOMY + STAGING SURGERY

Tri 5 of chiropractic school, two weeks before finals, a routine gynecology appointment somehow spiraled into a major abdominal surgery leading to immediate surgical menopause and 8-10 weeks of recovery. (You can read the story under my "cancer healing" blog). 

Now, If you would've told me a year ago that I would ever agree to take the most invasive route possible, I’d tell you you're absolutely nuts. BUT, I've let God guide this journey from day 1 and we have a pretty good track record together so far. 

One of my favorite things about Him is His sense of humor. He tends to lead me to decisions that REALLY don't make sense to people who know me. First it was choosing holistic treatment in 2015 for an EXTREMELY rare aggressive ovarian cancer at 20, next it was 2017 opting to undergo an extremely invasive surgery to remove the very parts of my body that could make me a mother some day and those that preserve my vitality as a woman. But, God is just so good like that. He gains closeness with me by literally rocking my boat so hard that I can no longer guide my own ship, and calls me to decisions that bring me to my knees in surrender.

So I had the surgery. (If you want more details, refer back to my previous blog).

Surprisingly, my hardest day post-op wasn’t the day after surgery, being forced to get up out of bed to walk, and it wasn't getting my epidural or catheter or IV's out... 

IT WAS WHEN THE FLIPPING BANDAGE HAD TO COME OFF, MAN.

Let’s just say nurses legit about had to sedate me just to get the clear bandage off. They pushed some serious pain pills prior to attempt #1 at removing the bandage and got virtually no where. They gave me a free pass and said they would be back to try again later that morning. I was sweating bullets of anxiety and fear. Attempt #2 consisted of stronger pain pills, but the same game. My instinct was to fight anyone who came near my abdomen, not out of intent, but literal reflex. I would hit, kick, jab... Anything. (If you know me at all, you know I am arguably the least violent person ever and would not be successful in any form of fight... So you can about imagine how out of character this was). They gave me plenty of grace, bless their souls, and said, “Okay, what we need to do is give you some “woozy” drugs in combination with some anti-anxiety meds AND pain pills to effectively get this off without your interference." Oh wow, what a lovely trio huh? At this point my insides were officially FREAKING out. As the nurse walked out of the room I word-vomited an idea without thinking, “Hey, would it be alright if I took the bandage off myself?” (WHAT?!)

*Insert sweat, tears, and nausea as I tried to get the bandage off myself in avoidance of the lovely sedation trio they had on deck.

Little by little, in between bites of hospital apple sauce and sips of ice water, I got the bandage off. It was a long, drawn out process, and I couldn’t bring myself to look at it as I was peeling the clear tape off of such a tender wound. I couldn’t stomach it quite yet or connect to what actually lay beneath the gauze and clear tape.

Once I finally got the bandage off (sigh of relief), I gained some out-of-left-field courage to check out the incision. I used the little button on the side of the bed to raise the upper half of my body to an angle just high enough to look. I was scared to look, really, really scared to. I lifted the blankets about an inch and peeked down my body. I immediately put the blankets back down when I saw my incision.

TEARS. 

LOTS. AND LOTS. OF TEARS.

Not because it was gruesome, which it was. Not because it was a very big incision, which it was. Not because I was in pain, which I definitely was. Even though all of those things were completely accurate that was not why the involuntary stream started pouring down.

I GOT MY TATTOO.

  • December 15, 2015 – Horizontal Incision across my pubic bone removing what they thought were benign ovarian cysts (this surgery lead to my diagnosis). 
  • May 3, 2017 – Vertical incision, starting at the belly button and going down, through the original incision just about an inch past, removing my ovaries due to suspicion of cancer recurrence (which there never was any cancer in my body, praise the Lord)

 These two occurrences make a perfect cross on my body. What I was longing to create myself, God already had in the works. I just didn't see it at the time.

On my abdomen lay the most meaningful, beautiful, intricate cross. 

It wasn’t in thin black perfect lines, complete with a catchy quote or bible verse. No, it was a thick, jagged line. It was scarred skin. It was somewhere between a bright red and a deep, bruised purple color.

It wasn't something anyone would walk into the tattoo shop and point to say, "Yep, give me that one." But it tells His story. It is a display of His glory. It is marked by God, the ultimate physician himself. Its a sign of His almighty healing power at work in my body, His endless grace, His unfailing love, and His new mercies that are ready for me every day. It’s a tattoo of meaning, of courage, of bravery, of strength, and tested faith.

It was expensive in more ways than money could ever buy. It has cost me a lot of what I’ve always dreamt of. It cost me what I thought my life would look like. It cost me the illusion of control I use to love so much. It has been very difficult to see my body change so much in such a short period of time. But, as this  journey has officially come full circle, I see why so many things I've wanted or wished for haven't worked. I see why I never got my version of a cross tattoo. I see why I never got my own sketches, permanently etched into my skin. Because just as my plans for this life seem beautiful, and just as my sketches for my body seemed wonderful – this was all the proof I needed, His are always, always better.

This post is meant to be a transition. As one chapter of life closes, another begins. And this mark on my body is symbolic of that new beginning, full of life and full of the purpose God has laid upon my heart.

While I won't be writing about my cancer journey any more, I want this website to continue to provide as inspiration for those fighting their battle. I want my cancer healing" blog to continue to be a shining light and resource for those who feel defeated in the face of a diagnosis.

You are beautiful. You matter. You are not alone. Your story is not over yet.