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The Virgin Pores

I’ve never considered myself a “tattoo guy.”

First off, I don’t like pain. I spend most of my life avoiding uncomfortable situations, so voluntarily getting stuck by a needle for the better part of an hour never seemed to make much sense.

Then there’s the intimacy. Getting a tattoo appears to be an incredibly intimate experience to have with a complete and total stranger. A stranger who looks at the human body and thinks, “I want to modify that.”

Not that I have any room to judge a person’s profession. I walk on stage and bear the intimate details of my life. I realize that’s a bit odd. But the canvas of a tattoo artist is skin. Human skin. I think what I do is slightly less strange.

I’m also not a huge fan of forced small talk. The kind that I have with my hair dresser. The kind my Uber drivers thrust upon me. I imagine getting a tattoo to be the peak of that kind of small talk. Or maybe not. I don’t know. I just can’t imagine which would be worse: making small talk with the person giving me a tattoo, or sitting there in awkward silence as he or she permanently alters my body.

And considering the fact that so many people have tattoos now a days, I feel like not having a tattoo is an edgy choice. There just needs to be a cool name for it. “Inked up” sounds so intense. Maybe those without tattoos could be called “Blanks.” Or “Virgin Skins.” Or…

I’m going to need some time to work on that.

As of a week and a half ago, I’m not longer part of the “Virgin Skins.” Or “Pure Pored.” No. That’s definitely not it. I got three tattoos in a single day. Three little dots, one on the middle of my chest, and one on each side of my body. They look like little ink drops. It’s for the radiation therapy I start tomorrow morning.

For the next three weeks, at 7am, I’ll have radiation beams shot at the two lymph nodes that still have colon cancer. The tattoos help them line up the machine so they can shoot the beams at the same place each time. The radiation will kill the cells in the lymph nodes, with the hope that only healthy cells grow back.

I’m excited. I know that seems like a strange thing to say about major cancer treatment. But after 22 rounds of FOLFOX they could tell me they were going to slam my head in a door for three weeks in a row and I would say, “As long as it isn’t chemo!”

I’m also excited because they think it might work. I’ve been so lucky that the cancer has stayed confined to these lymph nodes, and my doctors seem to think they can eradicate the problem. Or at least beat it back for a good look while.

Who knows. I’ve gotten out of the prediction game. All I know is that tomorrow morning my doctor will line up the machine with my new tattoos and this phase of the process will begin. And since I’m no longer part of the “Pure Pores” or the “Inkless Wonders” I’m thinking about getting a tattoo for real.

The words Vita Brevis, Ars Longa.

“Life is short. Art is long.”

Here’s hoping the radiation makes life way longer.

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