I have a similar tattoo. It’s four dots — not six — one centered on my chest about an inch below my sternum and three running hip-to-hip below my belt-line. I was given the tattoo for a similar purpose.
I was told there would likely be side-effects — that I would feel nauseous and fatigued for a few months — but that, with the proper medication, it would be manageable.
At the end of six weeks, I was given a certificate, congratulating me on successfully completing the treatment
The thing is, it didn’t feel like I had “completed” anything. The certificate felt less like token of my achievement and more like a “participant” ribbon — you know, the kind every kid gets at the science fair, even the one who puts a slinky on a ramp and labels the display “Science.”
You see, there were no side-effects, at least none I noticed. They told me I was going to feel nauseous, and I remember having a little stomach trouble on a couple of occasions, but no more frequently than I normally suffered, given my suspect dietary habits.
They told me I was going to feel fatigued, and during that time, I remember feeling rather tired. But the Princess was also three months old at the time — and I think having a newborn baby in the house may have also played a minor role in the whole “being tired” thing.
They told me I was fortunate to have had a child before the diagnosis because who knew what kind of irreparable, reproductive damage the treatment might cause. Ha.
No side-effects. No suffering.
It was four years ago this month that I was diagnosed with cancer. But I was spared the Cancer Experience. Spared the poison. Spared the marathon treatments. Spared the roller-coaster of recovery and relapse. Of course, not everyone is so fortunate.
The Experience is supposed to become part of your life. The Fight is supposed to become part of your identity. But there was no Fight — just a single, preemptive, precision strike. Clean. Sterile. And above all, surreal. Like a dream, it all ended as quickly as it began. And in the four years since, the unthinkable has happened. I’ve forgotten.
There are occasional reminders. I’ll read, or watch, or hear something, and the memories will return.
Sitting in the waiting room, annoyed because the Jilb and I can’t get the Princess to stop crying, then being called in, getting the news, and returning to the waiting room, giving a thumbs-down to the Jilb, not certain if the Princess is still crying, not hearing a single thing.
Moving through Hagg Sauer hall, on my way to teach my first class of the semester two days after the surgery, playing up the limp that was there a day ago but left me in the night, making certain that the limp — real or not — is seen because how will people know I’m being Brave without it?
Playing basketball a few weeks later and being grateful that the Professor has the good sense to crack as many jokes as possible.
There will probably always be the sudden reminders — like the comic I stumbled upon this morning — but there is no longer any violence in them. They’ve become less a gut-punch than a faint and distant tingling.