Overcoming Many Obstacles and Extraordinary Loss

Philip August Lantz IVPhilip August Lantz IV
~For my mom, Adrienne, and my brother, Tristan

My mom and brother passed away, tragically, when I was 12 years old within one month of each other for different reasons. I got this tattoo to commemorate my mom, Adrienne, and my brother, Tristan. They were my world and I loved them dearly. They both passed away tragically, and I love them dearly to this day. I hope they know I love them and I’m doing great now. I’m in college. The tattoo is on my right leg on the outer side. My brother was three years old and he found a fun at my mom’s friends house and shot himself above the left eye. They said when he got to the hospital he was still breathing, but shortly after he passed away. My mom, exactly one month later, with continuing abuse from my step-father at the time, committed suicide by overdosing. I have overcome many obstacles to get where I am today, but I’m a very successful person from it. I now have a full-time job and I’m going to college full time. I’m only 18 and I have never felt more alive and successful than I do today.


Never Say Never; A Permanent Reminder

Jill Feldman

~for my entire family; past present and future  hope

Never say Never… Admit it; we have all declared at one time, in some way, “I will never…!”  I know I have. There are many things I said I would never do that have been refuted, but one thing I said I would never, ever do is get a tattoo. I didn’t judge people who had them, but they weren’t for me. Tattoos are a lifelong commitment and unlike bell-bottom pants and baggy sweaters, tattoos cannot simply be thrown in a giveaway pile and be forgotten about!

As we all know, life is all about change, and I’ve had some life-changing experiences that have led me to a change of heart about tattoos.  In fact, one of the things I didn’t like, the permanency of a tattoo, is what led me to getting one…actually, I got two tattoos ~ Go big or go home!

The first time I thought of getting a tattoo was five years ago, when I was diagnosed with lung cancer. I would casually mention it in conversation, but I wasn’t committed and didn’t even know what design I wanted to get. And then, not by choice, I got my first tattoos in May, 2013. They are boring, ugly, and not what I would choose – they are tattoo markings for the radiation I had on one of the cancers in my lungs!

I am ok with the radiation tattoos, the scars I have from surgery and the marks left on my skin from Tarceva (the targeted therapy drug used to fight my lung cancer) — I earned every one of them and wear them proudly, but they weren’t my choice. Lung cancer, indirectly, created them.  My defiant-self decided that the next marks on my body were going to be my choice; what I want and where I want. I was back to thinking about getting a tattoo.

Fast forward to last May. I was at LUNGevity’s Hope Summit in Washington DC where over 100 lung cancer survivors came together to learn, have fun, provide support and share hope. Hope is a word that I never used to associate with lung cancer because in my experience there was only false hope, or no hope at all. But as LUNGevity has grown and advancements in research have been benefitting patients more and more, I have started to believe that there is hope and I have started using the word more.

Hope Summit 2014 really opened my eyes and my mind to hope, and it came at the perfect time. I was finally in a good place accepting that my Stage I lung cancer had evolved into a Stage 4a diagnosis. I looked around the room in awe as I listened to survivors tell their stories, I watched the interaction among survivors and caregivers, I heard about the latest advancements in research, I felt the virtual (and often real) hugs and I embraced the support — I experienced hope for the first time. Hope had a whole new meaning to me.

Hope is a powerful force.  Hope means different things to different people at different points in their journey.  The hope I saw transpire in that room was real. It wasn’t about wishing for a miracle or dreaming of a cure. It was hope that lights the way during dark times. Hope that means being realistic but not giving up. Hope that means having faith and believing that nothing, even cancer, can defeat the human spirit. Hope that provides the strength to get up every morning and face each day. It may not sound like much, but after what we have all gone through, it is a lot – Hope is everything!

So, at Hope Summit I started thinking more seriously about getting a tattoo — a tattoo about hope. As long as I’m realistic, there is always hope, and I never wanted to forget that feeling. A tattoo that simply said hope, with the ‘e’ being the cancer ribbon, would be a permanent reminder, and a bold, positive response to the physical and emotional marks lung cancer has left on my body.

I also started thinking about a second tattoo — the tree of life. I wanted to incorporate my mom, dad and aunt (whom I lost to lung cancer) and Jason, Jack, Shae, Meg and Maya (my husband and kids) –  all of whom inspire me to fight every day. Like a family tree showing deep roots and branches that connect to me, with a symbol (a leaf) for each person, this tattoo would symbolize love and eternal life.tree-o-life

My kids are 17, 16, 14 and 11 so I thought about what their response would be (you would never approve of us getting a tattoo…) and the message I would be sending them. When I got the response I suspected, I simply said that they were right; I would not approve of them getting a tattoo. I told them that they are far too young to know what they would want forever or to understand the impact of a permanent decision.  I explained that at my age, with my life experiences, I know this is something I want for the rest of my life.

I got my tattoos two weeks ago. I went with some of my cousins and nieces, but my biggest supporter, who was by my side the whole time, was my 16-year old daughter Shae. I was nervous about the pain, but every time I brought it up Shae would remind me of the worst pain I have ever felt — having the chest tubes removed after my first lung cancer surgery. She also reminded me that lung cancer has caused me a lot more pain over the years and that is the exact reason I was getting the tattoos!

The hope tattoo on my inner left wrist  is my anchor; it reminds me that hope, faith and the love of my family and friends got me through those darkest moments and will do so again when I need strength and courage. I was going to get this tattoo in a place that could be easily covered, but doing so would have taken away its significance.  The tattoo is a statement that I believe in to my core. I want people to ask me about it so I can share my story and raise awareness about lung cancer. And for me personally, every morning when I wake up, throughout the day and every night before I go to bed I want to see that permanent reminder that there is always Hope!

The tree of life tattoo on my front hip is my rock, my strength. It represents the closest people to my heart, for whom I live for and fight for everyday.  It reminds me of where I came from, where I have been and how far I have come. It is especially comforting to know that my mom, dad and aunt are always with me.

I am still a little surprised that I actually got ‘inked’, but I don’t regret it one bit. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  I love my tattoos.  The stories and meanings behind them are connected deeply to my heart, so much so that I actually marked my body with them — something I thought I would never do. Never say never…

My dad’s signature inscribed on my foot forever

tattoo2Cassidy Ann Sandoval
~for my Dad

When I was 9 years old my dad was involved in a fatal motorcycle accident that took his life. Almost exactly 1 year prior to the day he died he gifted me with a book of scary stories. His scary stories were the best and I was always begging him to tell them to me. One day he came home with a book of stories and on the very fist page he wrote a beautiful inscription and signed it. When I was 18 I got his signature (taken from the book) tattooed on my foot on what would have been his 50th birthday.

My brother got it on what would have been his 52nd birthday this year.


October 22nd of 2011 is a date that has impacted my life forever.

behindtheinkJTJame Timm
~In loving memory of Gina Alyce Giancola

The tattoo on my left collarbone in roman numerals is the date I lost a close friend and teammate. 10- 22- 2011. Gina Giancola was at the tender age of 15 when she lost her year-long battle with depression and took her own life. I have never met a more internally and externally beautiful soul. She was talented, driven, spunky. The loudest laugh in the room and someone who always had a smile on. My biggest competitor, a running buddy, and someone I felt comfortable to confide in.

October 22nd of 2011 is a date that has impacted my life forever. I got this tattoo as a reminder of not how Gina left this world, but what she managed to accomplish in her short time here on earth. Gina’s memory has guided me to wake up every morning and remember to always always always cherish life- To embrace every feeling, experience as much as I can, always try something with the best intentions, and most importantly- embody a positive mindset.

Suicide is 100% preventable, if you or someone you know is suffering from depression or having thoughts of self harm- I can’t stress it enough that you should tell someone. You don’t have to go through this alone!

In loving memory of Gina Alyce Giancola.

Dec. 6, 1995- Oct. 22, 2011.

Her life was colorful and bright…

IMG_1578Lindsey Grad

~for my dear friend, Skye Miller

I have never written about her now that I think about it. We wrote a small speech for her funeral, but even then we could not come up with the words to describe our dear friend. It seems that words cannot do justice to the gracious gift that was Skye Miller.

We all knew we were lucky to have known her, even if it was only for a short time.  In her short life, she was able to spread more light and inspiration than many will ever be able to give. Even the pain she experienced was felt with honesty and dignity. Her life was colorful and bright and she held her head up high as she danced her way through this lifetime.

I miss my dear friend and still feel her presence all around me. I honor her on my arm with a beautiful sunflower, they were her favorite. I cannot pass one without being overwhelmed with love and gratitude toward her.

The power and lessons of the moon

DSC07068Cheyenne Gonzalez

~A tribute to the moon 

The story behind the phases of the moon for me came from many directions. I have always had a spiritual and soul connection to wolves and feel the power of the full moon re-energize me. I see the moon as something to comfort me and keep me connected to my true self as well as the beauty of its own transformation that it holds. I enjoy keeping my tattoos simple but within that, they hold great meaning to me.

When it came to selecting how I wanted it and where it should be placed on my body, I chose down my spine. The symbolic placement on the spine signifies the framework of both body and soul. The vertical placement of the moon phases is symbolic of the transformations I have gone through in my present life, emotionally and psychologically as well as in my past life as a wolf and the mental and instinctual transformations that I have to this day. One of the biggest things that change when the stereotypical human to werewolf transformation takes place is the spine so I thought it was even more fitting to place my tattoo there. Even deeper though, the phases of the moon represent the beauty of life and death as well. I feel that there is both good and bad to both death and life. There is a dark side to everything as well as a light side, not in a religious sense but in an energy-based sense. To see that life and death are connected, that you cannot have one without the other, I find to be beautiful and mystifying. The concept that, just like the phases of the moon in the sky, I too, as well as everything else, will live and die time and time again as we already have.

My sweet baby girl’s footprints…

Nikkia Tarrantpaityn-tatoo

~for my sweet baby, Paityn Rene

Losing my daughter Paityn Rene was by far the most devastating thing that has ever happened to me. She was only with me for 20 short days (May 29, 2009-June 18, 2009), but her life has forever impacted me.  It’s so hard to put into words how I feel. There is not a day that I don’t think of my sweet baby girl and I never want her to be forgotten.  I decided to have her footprints tattooed in a heart on my back so that she would always be a part of me. I chose this location because it can be as private or as public as I am comfortable with on any particular day. Her footprints will forever be etched on my body even when the ink on paper fades away. Even when I’m old and gray and may not remember my own name, my baby Paityn Rene will be identified and remembered through me.

My Mom’s Got My Back

Ella Pestine

~for my mom, who will always have my back. 

Before my sisters and I learned to sign our own names, our mom taught us how to sign her initials. So, by first grade I was signing my own permission slips and homework assignments. She was always bending rules like that, whether by taking us out of school to have our own field trips or by letting us have a “regressive dinner” once in a while, knowing we’d never get past dessert.

My mom got sick when I was just 12 and died three years later as I was beginning high school. Throughout my whole life and especially during her battle with cancer, my mom was my rock. She was always supportive of me and pushed me to improve myself and grow every day.

photoI decided to get her initials, JP, tattooed on my shoulder right before moving away from home to go to college. I was starting a new, scary chapter of my life and needed my mom there to help me through the transition. Every time I turn around, I remember that my mom has my back and is always supporting me. She influences everything I do, every decision I make, and ultimately the way I live my life. By having the constant reminder of her initials on my shoulder, I know that my mom always has my back.


My Bacon Angels

IMG_7267Nancy Bacon Meister

~for all of my angels

I had toyed with the idea of getting a tattoo for the last several years, but really never thought I would.  Being born with the surname Bacon was not easy for me (lots of teasing), but as I’ve aged and become passionate about researching my family’s genealogy, my birth name has come to symbolize life to me and I’m proud of it.  We are all the result of our ancestors; their lives, their loves and their passions.

My parents died first, and I’ve missed them greatly, but they both lived relatively long and good lives, so their loss was not easy but bearable.  But then I lost my younger brother, Don, to suicide in December 2013, leaving me as the last of my nuclear family.  I miss them all terribly, but the loss of my loving brother is still difficult and will always be painful.

Over the last few years, I’ve slowly assembled a collection of pigs to honor my Bacon heritage.  After I lost my sweet brother, I began imagining an angel pig that I could wear and look at every day to remind me of and memorialize my family, who I now believe to be reunited with my other descendants in heaven. The red star represents my mom’s birthstone ruby, the white star my dad’s diamond, and the blue star my brother’s sapphire.  Now I see my Bacon Angels every day on my forearm, and although my heart is still very sad and grieving, my tattoo makes me smile.  And it is also a reminder that I will see them all again someday.

“Family is all you need in life.”

Braulio MordanBraulio Mordan
~for my grandfather and family

I am a nineteen year old young man from a very large and loving family.  Family has always meant a lot to me.  After my grandfather passed away, I felt an emptiness inside me.  We used to do everything together.  The last thing I remember him saying to me before he passed away was, “family is all you need in life”.  After that, I decided to get “familia” tattooed on my forearm to remind me that family is, indeed, all I need in life and to remember that I always have them to run back to when I am at my lowest.

Copyright © behind-the-ink, Nancy Perlson