Tag Archives: Melanoma

Daily Prompt: Tattoo….me?

On Dec 1st, Krista posed… “Do you have a tattoo? If so, what’s the story behind your ink?
If you don’t have a tattoo, what might you consider getting emblazoned on your skin?”

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As a teen/young woman, I never seriously considered having a tattoo – “nice girls” didn’t have them (Only the girls who made their lives fun, I would wistfully, silently argue my upbringing.) However, it didn’t stop me staring at women’s tattoos –even going up to total strangers and asking for a closer look.
I liked the flowers in bud or full bloom, but not adorned with scrolls of wording.

In moments when I was mad at the word, I’d admire the blood-dripping-from-a-blade styles, but generally, I had neither the money to pay for a tat nor the guts to face-down my mother by getting one.

But now I can say – I have Two Tats! Both life savers at that. You see, when you have melanoma in the whole cluster of lymph nodes in your groin, which have to be surgically removed, there follows Radio-therapy. And to be sure the radiotherapy is aimed “spot-on” (forgive the melanoma gag there, folks) the lab nurses prep you with careful measurements, then tattoo you with two little dots.

When they gave me my two dots they offered to draw five petals around each to turn them into flowers. Sadly, the radiologist popped his head in and said “No time for that today, girls, we have a backlog.” So two dots it’s been, for years.

A few years later, though, the melanoma metastasised to the T6 vertebrae and I fought it off with radiotherapy (no tats that time for some reason), chemotherapy and immunotherapy (clinical trial of low dosage interferon aka Roferon to be self-administered over about three years) – and then the oncologists apparently quietly told each other I’d be “gone” by Y2K…

Some years past Y2K, I was with my GP and he said “time to check all your moles”.
I’m on the examination bed and his eye spots the dot tat six inches below the panty line.
He freaked! “What sort of mole is that?” and stepped out to get a senior nurse to bring in a medical text on skin oncology, and they’re flipping pages like crazy…

I asked what had got them in a tiz-waz– and they said “We’ve never seen a navy blue mole like that before.”

“Haven’t you?” I asked, enjoying their consternation.
“I’ve got another one up here,” and I showed them the second tat,
nine inches higher up, on my lower abdomen.
I waited just long enough for them to take it in and turn back to the text book.
But I couldn’t keep the humour quiet any longer.
I burst into laughter and reassured them – they were looking at those radiotherapy tattoos for lining up the machine.

They both sat down with a Thunk on their chairs. He stared at me, she glared at me, and for a while they said nothing. In the meantime I was chuckling out loud, which didn’t help their mood – I’m guessing a mix of relief and frustration?

…Well here I am thirteen years past That “use by” date, and so I am thinking –
“why the H- not?”

Always different ever time I draw it, but always recognisable as “Mrs S’s Owl”

I have two designs I want. One is a signature I used to mark or sign all my property that followed me in to classrooms I taught in – a stylised owl, always different, but recognisable to all the students/pupils who would always return my “found” pen, calculator, folder…

The other is a logo I made for one of my online alter-egos, by taking a MS clip art from 2003 and recolouring it to match my moniker “Red Penn”.


And maybe, just maybe, I’ll get the dot tats added to, to create the little flowers the nurses offered me back in 1992.


This inspired by a Daily Post starter, at
Describe a moment of kindness, between you and someone else — loved one or complete stranger- Photographers, artists, poets: show us KINDNESS.

Through years of enjoying success and satisfaction as a teacher, I suppose I’ve carried out many acts of kindness without actively thinking of them as such – just doing my job for kids in need. But I recall on two occasions I went out of my way to offer a kindness to strangers.

The first was back when my son was in critical care at hospital as a car crash victim, when we nearly lost him. The hospital had a sort-of hostel for the families of patients not living in the city. While at the hostel everyone automatically made friends with other families under similar  strains. I enjoyed the company of another husband and wife there to support their adult som who was suffering from leukaemia, but who was frightened enough of cancer to believe it was inevitably fatal, and therefore no point in accepting the therapies offered. The Mum and Dad were beside themselves – their young man, a parent himself, was slipping downwards every day.

That night I sat in my room and wrote him a letter. In it I “growled” him for letting his children see him give up. I growled him for letting “these microscopic evil little cells” beat him without a fight. I told him how I had survived melanoma, from the source cell through eight metastases, the final being to a vertebra. I told him I had had radio therapy, chemotherapy and immunotherapy (which required me to subcutaneously inject myself in the stomach wall with Roferon three times a week for three years). I told him that although my oncologist had appparently thought I would be dead in seven years, here I was ten years later still living a good life. I remember writing something like “How dare you give up and let your children see you are too afraid to fight for them.” I wrote the equivalent of an A4 page, I think.

His parents read the letter, and next day took it and read it aloud to him. He apparently held onto it, and must have read it through over again. When they visited him the followingmorning, he had just returned to his ward bed from his first chemotherapy session. Over the next few weeks, they reported, he continued his therapies, began eating better meals, and “started the fight”. They told me that my letter was always with him.
If it did help him fight back. my letter did what I wanted it to achieve.

The second time, I was in a hospital bed as apatient. Across the room was a young mother who was being taken into self-protective custody and detoxification after trying to commit suicide while on an alcoholic binge (one of many; alcoholism was her demon). We who shared her room were so pleased when she finally agreed to go. I asked my hubby to buy a pretty greeting card without a message – I wanted to wite a personalised message for her, to build her up for what would be a life battle. I still have the scrap of paper on which I scribbled out what I wanted to say on behalf of we three women who were saying goodbye with hope.

“Dear V.,
When times feel bad, remember
the spirit of the Lord flows deep within us all;
take a pause,
and draw up that spirit
from the well within.
God bless you and give you the strength
to always let your children see you
“fighting” for a complete and fulfilling life
as a strong and healthy mother and woman.”

Looking back now, it seems a bit “corny”. But that evening the other two women in the ward asked if they might sign it too. When V. read it, she wept, and so we all had an excuse to hug and hold her, to encourage her to stay strong and win her fight.

It was her only card she took away with her to the rehab ward.