Guest Blogger: Kim Friedman Landau
I spent my 62nd birthday lying on a tattoo artist’s table getting needles stuck into my abdomen. It took only 45 minutes for me to get inked and have a permanent tribute to my breast cancer journey. My body shrieked in pain from the artist’s first touch to the last, yet I spent every one of those moments with a smile in my heart along with the tears running down my cheeks.
Tattoos had always seemed to me to be evidence of a drunken sailor’s misadventure. When my teenage son begged for permission to get a tatt, my evolution began from being a horrified mom to someone who understood that body art had become an accepted form of self-expression. With each tattoo my son’s got, my discomfort dissipated a little more. During that exact same time span, I went from being a scared breast cancer patient, to a strong and healthy survivor.
As I approached the end of 10 years of active treatment, I started to become reflective on what it meant to me. I wanted to celebrate my journey and survivorship, honoring my body and my personal growth. What better way than to get an awesome tattoo?!! I had a design in mind and was feeling ready when fear took over. What if such a bold act would curse my good health? Imagining the cancer returning right after I got the tatt, I freaked. Upon the advice of my friend, I waited a year when all superstitions had faded and the time felt right to act.
I found an artist I was comfortable with and she and I worked on the design together – its meaning and the accompanying poem speak for themselves.
Why on my abdomen? First, it was important to me that I could always see it, but that it was hidden from others. It should also be somewhere not too embarrassing to reveal when I chose to. Second, part of my treatment was to get hormonal injections into my abdomen every three months for five years. Every one of them hurt and literally left a mark upon me. The tiny scars scattered around my belly represent the fear AND the hope. I wasn’t looking to cover them, but to have my celebration live beside them in peace.
What was the experience really like? Crazy that it was on my birthday, but it was the first date available and I grabbed it! Getting the tatt was more painful and stressful on my body than I had anticipated; yet, more empowering as well. This was a pain I CHOSE, not one medically inflicted upon me. This pain was born from gratitude, not dread and fear. Both my sons cheered me and helped me after with tips for healing. I look in the mirror every day and see my power, strength and all that I am capable of.
Tattoos are clearly not for everyone. Take your time, weighing out what it could mean for you and trust your inner voice. My next one is already planned; it will be much smaller and more fun, yet with its own significance. I will be donating my body to a local medical school after I die. I wish I could witness the looks on the students’ faces when they see my old, scarred and beautifully adorned belly in their anatomy lab!!
About the author:
Kim Friedman Landau is a 63 year old retired medical social worker who lives in Boston. She is an avid bicyclist, walker, crafter, cook, volunteer, partner, mother, sister, friend and now writer. After having cancer at age 51, Kim decided that life was a journey to be treated as an ongoing series of adventures. She is having a blast trying new things and exploring new ways to grow as a person. Blogging about what she is always learning is her latest joy.