Nasopharyngeal cancer survivor: Why I got a cancer strikethrough tattoo
I was about halfway through my cancer treatment for soft tissue sarcoma of the nasal cavity — a type of nasopharyngeal cancer —when I decided to get a tattoo. The tumor in my head was shrinking, and my prognosis was looking really good. I wanted to do something to memorialize the experience once I got past it.
At first, I thought I’d get a rainbow in front of a storm cloud, because in nature, you can’t really have one without the other. But then, I saw a friend’s tattoo of Roman numerals running along her arm. And I realized that I wanted one like that, too, only with the day I was officially declared in remission: Sept. 13, 2019. I added MD Anderson’s cancer strikethrough logo to make it even cooler.
My nasopharyngeal cancer diagnosis and treatment
I was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer in February 2019, after a couple of horrendous nosebleeds prompted my parents to take me to the emergency room. I was only 17 at the time, so the diagnosis hit me pretty hard.
I spent essentially the entire second half of my senior year, the summer after I graduated, and my first semester of college in the hospital. I needed seven rounds of chemotherapy, plus 36 treatments of proton therapy to shrink the grapefruit-size tumor in my head. So, I didn’t get to do all the fun things that kids normally look forward to during that time, like prom and senior skip day.
But the people I met at MD Anderson did their best to make my life easier. They kept me as comfortable as possible and worked around my class schedule whenever they could, so I could graduate on time and at least take part in that ceremony.
One inspiration for my tattoo design: MD Anderson’s people
One reason I chose the tattoo design I did was because the doctors and nurses at MD Anderson are some of my favorite people on Earth. I don’t think there are enough kind words to describe them. Even when I knew I’d be feeling really crappy for the rest of the week due to side effects, just knowing I’d get to be around such awesome people always cheered me up.
For one thing, I’m cancer-free now, more than two years after finishing my treatments. And that’s the most important thing!
But I always knew that if I ever had kids, they were going to be adopted. So, I wasn’t concerned at all that I might not be able to have them naturally. I was given the choice to have my eggs frozen before starting treatment, but declined. I don’t need biological children when there are far too many here already who need a loving home.
I’ve also changed my focus in college to the study of forensic science. And from what I understand, not everything I’ll be working with in that field will have … shall we say, the greatest odor, so I look at my sensory issues as being kind of a mixed blessing. I may not be able to smell yummy food cooking anymore, or blooming flowers or scented candles. And my ability to taste things may come and go, depending on what I’m eating. But in the end, it’s not the worst thing in the world.
I’m still someone who’s ready to embrace new opportunities, and who tries to see things in a positive light. And I’d much rather have no eyebrows, a poor sense of taste, and almost no sense of smell than the nasopharyngeal cancer that might’ve killed me. That’s the main reason I finally got the tattoo a few months ago. Because I survived. And I owe it to everyone at MD Anderson that I’m still here — and healthy — today.