Posts Tagged ‘tattoo’

Celebrating Remission!

June 24, 2014

Good news indeed. I was in remission! And the next step to putting all this behind me
was about to happen after a follow up visit with Dr. David a month later on February 20.
“Let’s get that port out of ya”, he said and we made the appointment for the following Thursday, February 27. Back around the time of chemo session #3 or #4, I had discussed with Dr. David about my getting a survivor tattoo when this was all done. I wanted his thoughts on when he thought would be a good optimal time when I wouldn’t be at risk for infection and together we had decided on around March and here with a week left in February, that was pretty good timing. So, after we left his office that day with my port removal appointment all set up, we headed over to the tattoo parlor and the date for that was set for the day after the port came out.

I was told I’d have to fast for the port procedure and of course that was a bummer, but then I got a phone call from the hospital the day before and the woman on the other end of the line said that if I was going to be put under I’d have to fast, but since I elected to go with just a local anesthesia, like I had when it was installed, I was good to go. I could eat. Yay!

It was the same team as before and they all remembered me, especially the poor nurse who suffered my insane screams of pain six months prior. And they were all astounded by how cleanly the incision had healed, even the surgeon, who recognized my Atlas tattoo. They got me set up like before. This is an IV just before they laid me down and covered me with surgical paper over my head, tented on the opposite side for ventilation, slathered some green-blue antiseptic stuff all up and down my chest and neck and numbed me up.

port removal prep

All was the same except now I was actually, for lack of a better word, enjoying this experience. The nurse and I talked again how she knew the girl who lived in my house, whose father built it way back in 1954 and the surgeon told me he lives just across the river from me. It was a fun bonding moment that went no further than the operating room.

It seemed like an eternity to get the port out, I kept hearing chatter like, “No, cut from this side”, “I think I have to go at it from this angle” and the like. Oh great, a novice port remover person. And squeezing and pulling and pressure. “You still with us, Mr. Sigley?”.  Then it seemed an equally long passage of time when they were closing me up and for the amount of time he was working on stitching me up, I half expected to have an embroidery sampler on my chest.

They allowed me to take a picture or two of the port (which I showed you at the beginning of this series) but I wasn’t allowed to bring it home as I hoped I could because it had tissue on it and for sanitary reasons I had to leave it behind. Alas! There was a spirited debate over it, between all involved, though.


Now all that was left was to get taken back to the “recovery” room where my clothes were and to have the rather enjoyable turkey sandwich box lunch they had ready for me. I had intended on stopping for a pork roll and cheese sandwich on the way home, but they wouldn’t let me leave until they saw that I had eaten and by then I wasn’t hungry for pork roll and cheese. And one of my fellow chemo patients from Dr. David’s was just coming in to have her port removed and she pointed out that I was the one who always brought food in during chemo sessions.

At the tattoo parlor the next day, I had an interesting conversation with the girl who did my work. Turns out, she lived in my old neighborhood and is friends with the daughter of the people that moved into our house in 1985. And she knows the kids of the kids I grew up with. We talked about some of the neighbors that no longer live there and some that are and decided that in every neighborhood there is at least one “witch” and in this case, we had “witches” for different sections of our street. It was a fun afternoon.  Dinner, of course, was the obligatory stop at Outback Steakhouse close by, our tradition whenever we get new ink.

I had the weekend to recover from both assaults.


I see the scar on my chest on a daily basis and I rub a finger across it. And of course, the green ribbon survivor tattoo on my forearm is out there for the world to see and at least once a day run my hand over it.

port scar survivor tattoo

These are my battle scars, reminders of how lucky I was and a smile comes across my face. These days that smile is not as hesitant as a few short months ago. They are reminders, also, that my case, by comparison to what some other people go through, was like a cake walk, but it was still my own hell, my own battle.

As I caress those two scars, never mind the emotional scars in my mind, it brings back the sounds of my first cries when I heard the words “you better get yourself an oncologist” over the phone, to the sounds and smells of the hospital. They remind me also of the feelings of sickness and pain and the thoughts of giving up and letting go. And there were the uncertain times such as not knowing whether the cancer was really being wiped out or whether I’d live to see another vegetable garden.

I am reminded also through my battle scars that I had a great support team; my family, my friends, my doctors and nurses. Words cannot express the gratitude I feel for each and every one of them. And then there is Ariel. I don’t know what my experience would have been like without him by my side, and thankfully I don’t have to wonder about that. I told him one day while I was in the hospital that I wasn’t going to let him live out the rest of our lives without me. And here I am. And I don’t take that for granted.

I wear my battle scars proudly.  And, oh, how I also detest them.


Editorial Note:

This past weekend I had an eye exam and upon asking how my general health was, I discussed with my eye doctor that since my last visit with her, nearly a year to the day (and really about a month and a half afterward) I was diagnosed with lymphoma and was now in remission.

Out of curiosity, she asked if I’d ever had mononucleosis. I did, more than 25 years ago. She mentioned how she’d read there is a correlation between mono and lymphoma cases so, later, after my exam, I looked it up. Some articles say yes, some say not so much, but still… something to think about.

By the way, my eyesight also improved slightly, I didn’t need as strong an Rx as I’ve been having in the past.
I don’t recall if there was a spot on any questionnaire I filled out during all that about previous illnesses and if there were, mono was never on my mind and certainly I was never asked otherwise I would have said so. I definitely will bring this up with Dr. David next time and see what he has to say about it.

In the meantime, here are two of the articles I found on the link between momo and lymphoma.
Article 1 and Article 2.

A New Beginning

March 4, 2014

This installment is dedicated to the memory of my friend, Sue Dillon, who lost her 15 year battle with breast cancer on February 13, 2014.


October 7, 1960. That’s my birthday.

January 22, 2014. That’s my birthday. Well, more like a second birthday. A second birthday after a most harrowing period of my life.

On January 22, I was reborn after a confirming phone conversation with Dr. David, my oncologist, that my Lymphoma was in remission.

I know I cannot possibly compare my case to those who have, have had or will have  much more serious conditions than I, but it was my own personal Hell to go through, a hell which really kicked into high gear starting with that damned late morning phone call on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 (“You better find yourself an oncologist“) and which lasted until a few short weeks ago.

It is my objective, during the course of the following weeks of reliving my experience that it not only be a continued exercise in healing but to reach at least one person who may unfortunately need some encouragement. I don’t want to use the word closure because, first of all, I don’t like that word, but to paraphrase the words of my doctor “with cancer…you never know about these things”.

A lot of people called me brave for going through what I went through, but I don’t consider myself that way. I was just doing what I had to do to keep from dying, which, as you can imagine, that thought had taken a firm stance center stage in my mind. And the one thing I know for sure is that I never really asked the question, “Why me?”. I was too focused on getting better. I was determined that Ariel would not finish out our lives together without me.

That’s not to say that I didn’t have my moments when I wanted to give up, that I felt like the suffering wasn’t worth it and I just wanted to be left alone. Fortunately, those moments were few and far between. And I had Ariel, who wouldn’t let me give up, even though he afforded me the time to get through my bouts of anxiety in my own time.

But even during the darkest of days there were some bright ones. There was a light at the end of the tunnel, though that tunnel at times seemed to stretch itself beyond belief.

This was a new experience for me, for us, and all we had to go on was the doctors’ say so as to the course of treatment, what the side effects would be–a time line of events from point A to point B–but none of that mattered to me. To me it was all gibberish, how could the doctor possibly know what I was going through? Well, except for maybe one or two truly minor speed bumps along the way, their predictions were on the money and some things even surprised the doctors and nurses, in a good way.

As you read this, I am currently nursing two fresh bodily assaults: one from having my Chemo port finally removed this past Thursday and two, my new constant reminder that I made it through–my new “survivor” tattoo I had done on Friday.

port     tattoo

I half expected the port to be a monster looking thing with valves dangling all over the place like an octopus but it was just this simple affair. I asked them if I could keep it, as a memento, but for sanitary reasons they changed their minds at the last minute but allowed me to take a picture of it. And whether it’s the way the lights are hitting it or it’s actually printed on it, the number 5 is definitely on there, and that’s my favorite number.

The green ribbon on the tattoo, of course is for the Lymphoma and the flowers are from a family artifact; a card from a bouquet of flowers I assume was given by my great-grandfather, JL Sigley (remember him?) to Elsie, my great-grandmother. We just reworked the positioning of the flowers to fit my design.

I thought for a while how best to present this story and those of you who know me, know that when I tell a story.. I tell a story! The best way to fully experience anything is to either be there in the first place, or get as detailed a description as can possibly be painted.

This story may get graphic at times but it’s that harsh reality that will put the stamp on it that needs to be there. Cancer is a shitty thing, to be sure, but, and I’ve said this all along, I think this cancer may have saved my life.

In the next weekly installments,  I will take you back to the beginning and we’ll work our way to the present. Depending on how long this series runs, I may be interjecting some present day reports as they come up.

I feel like this might be like a page right out of Dragnet, but while the story is true, I will be using assumed names for my doctors, nurses and most other characters.

Letting The Ink Dry

March 7, 2012

It’s done. I got my tattoos done on Monday afternoon. It was good to be back in the clutches of my tattoo artist, Dennis, hearing that incessant buzz, feeling that unwavering prickly jabbing, smelling the familiar aroma of antiseptic ointment. Knowing he’d called out sick several times during the set up of these latest ink spots, I figured that would lead the conversation, as I think I’ve finally left behind my own plague that had its grip on me since Christmas. What is this, March? But as it turns out, his calling out sick was for personal reasons and that lead to an entirely different dialogue, which included reason behind the motorcycle. I know he’s not reading this, but my best wishes go out to him and his family as they struggle with his grandmother’s illness.


Ever hear of the  phantom bridge in Hoboken, NJ?  It was the defunct North River Bridge, a mammoth effort that was never to be realized, outside of the eight foot tall cornerstone that was removed from someone’s Hoboken back yard with the inscription: Foundation Laid–North River Bridge Co.–1895.

Gustav Lindenthal’s crowning glory among his other bridge designs; The Hell Gate, The Manhattan, The Qeeensboro and The Williamsburg, was to be the North River Bridge, which would have dwarfed the yet to be built George Washington Bridge. It was to meant to connect Hoboken, NJ to New York City via 57th street. It was to be 6,000 feet long, 200 feet wide and soar 200 feet into the air. It was to carry 24 lanes of traffic, 12 railroads, and have two promenades.

Several roadblocks such as the coming of World War I, the revision of plans to accommodate the increasing popularity of the automobile and the ensuing traffic jam, the formation of the Port Authority who claimed the span would inhibit river navigation, the railroads deciding to tunnel and rejection of the of the secretary of transportation in favor of the Lincoln Tunnel which opened to traffic in 1937.

40 years later the wealthy Lindenthal continuted to speak of the plans for his bridge, even from his deathbed in 1935, on his 250-acre farm in Metuchen.