My tattoo bears a navy blue ribbon in the center of the butterfly for Colon Cancer. I chose the blue Morpho Butterfly for it’s color, as well as a symbol of transformation. The “Fight Like a Girl” quote embodies my belief to stand strong against adversity.
Less than a week before my first chemo session, I decided it was time to add some new ink to the living canvas of my body. At this point I have somewhere around thirty hours of tattoos, but this new tattoo is incredibly significant. Not that my others aren't, each and every one of them marks a specific event in my life or belief. This one is just a tad more special to me.
It commemorates the most challenging battle I've had to face yet. This tattoo was inspired by something that has guided me to an inner strength I didn't know existed: being diagnosed with cancer.
When I was first diagnosed, I did so much research online. I wanted to know statistics, data, treatments, alternative therapy, holistic approaches, survival rate, support group info, the best oncologist, the best surgeon. I found a great website "The Fight Like a Girl Club" where you can link up with other cancer fighters, survivors and their families. It's a completely free website that allows you to blog and also read the blogs of others. More or less it's a community for anyone who knows anyone battling cancer of any kind.
Finding the website was great, but my first question was "What does it even mean to fight like a girl?" This is what I could find. And please, if you feel it means otherwise then, by all means let me know. This is just from my own perspective what I found it to mean.
The term Fight Like a Girl is heard being chimed out in the country song, of the same name, by the group Bomshel. In the song, the duo proudly exclaims that to Fight Like a Girl means to "hold my head high...never let it define...love yourself, give em hell..."
I'm honestly not sure which came first, the country duo singing it or the cancer community adopting it. But either way it's a motto--a mantra--that many cancer fighters, survivors, their family and friends have come to be familiar with.
My own personal take on what exactly this statement means? As someone battling Stage 3 Colon Cancer, it's at the core of who I am. I'm not letting this cancer define me. I'm not going down and I'm damn sure not going down without a fight.
It means that no matter how exhausted I am or weak, I will always always give my children the best I can give to them. I will not use my cancer as an excuse for not being able to turn in homework. If I'm legitimately tired from treatment that's one thing. But I absolutely refuse to become someone who constantly says "fill in the blank here...because I have cancer."
I truly believe that there is so much potential to be unlocked within the human mind. Staying positive and optimistic is one of the most important weapons that cancer patients have against kicking the disease's tooshie. Yes I said tooshie, I am a mom after all, it's a habit :)
The first response that people typically give you when you say you've been diagnosed with cancer is "I'm so sorry to hear that" or "That's terrible." Or any of the negative, "thank you for making me feel like a walking corpse statements." To which I usually reply "Thank you, I appreciate your concern but this is just another thing for me to overcome."
Everyone deals with these kinds of things in their own way. I think it's a very natural human response--when someone we care about tells us something devastating--to say that you're so sorry for them. It's just our way of showing empathy for what they're going through. Honestly, telling someone we love "I'm so sorry" really isn't such a bad way to respond.
But when people start to tell me how to live my life and that I'm pushing myself or in denial of my circumstance, that's where I very diplomatically have to draw the line. If you're not in this body, thinking with this brain, please don't presume to know what's best for me. I'm the only one that can make that judgement call.
There were many people that felt I shouldn't be making an overseas journey to Sicily with my travel writing class this past March during our spring break. Those people included my nurses, some family members, a few acquaintances, not so much my friends--who know that I'm going to do what I want to do regardless and that I'm strong enough to do it.
My mother was my greatest advocate, telling everyone that she thought it was the best thing for me. Before I even found out whether or not I was accepted into the class (there was a very selective application process), then once I was accepted--whether or not I was awarded the scholarship I applied for--my mother had already offered to watch my children so I could go.
As soon as everything was set into place financially my mother put her slip in at work to request the time off. She knew just how much I needed to go. Not only for my physical health but for the well being of my soul.
Going to Sicily was the healthiest thing I could have done for myself. The memories, the experience, the bonding time I shared with my classmates; I will never ever forget any of it. Last night I found Aranciatta Rosso at the grocery store and nearly jumped out of my shoes with excitement! It's a carbonated version of succco d'aranciatta, juice of the blood orange. The fruit is native to Sicily, extra juicy and extremely tasty. Opening the bottle and taking that first sip, I was immediately transported across the Atlantic Ocean, being reunited with the rest of my soul...which remains in Sicily until I physically return again.
So to me Fight Like a Girl means to never give up, never back down. To stay optimistic in the face of adversity. Be true to yourself, even when those around you may doubt what you're doing. Sometimes the ones we love can, unintentionally, project their own fears onto others in hopes of protecting them. Follow your intuition, it's a very powerful ally. And if you don't have keen intuition then get into the practice of quieting down your mind so you can listen. Meditation, yoga, Reiki, fill in the blank here, are all also great tools (not for everyone but extremely beneficial for those who are interested).
Fighting like a girl means you don't let your circumstance define you. You defy it, you empower yourself, you use the circumstance as an opportunity for growth and not as a casting call to play the role of victim. This doesn't mean you go completely numb. There are going to be days when you need to cry, you need to break things, scream, eat that bowl (eh hem, not pint) of ice-cream, call that friend or relative and tell them how miserable you are that things have changed in your life so drastically.
But then you get yourself back up. You affirm everything that is good in your life by giving thanks. Yes, your health might not be 100% or even 50% of what you want it to be. But if you sit down and really think about it, you will find that you have more to the thankful for than you have to complain about. Life is too short, it can still be beautiful in the face of adversity. After all, even when the most severe of storms hit, the sun is still shining if you get above the clouds.
Now I'm not usually a country music fan, but there's no way I could post this blog topic without giving credit to the women who sang this song:Advertisements