Stamps Of Survival: Stories Of Overcoming Illnesses And The Tattoos They Inspired.

One day Sue Pustay, a 57-year-old mother of three from Hamilton, New Jersey, decided to get a tattoo. However, this was not going to be just any tattoo, this tattoo was going to be a permanent mark of Pustay’s strength and triumph over the scariest and most trying and experience of her life.

 Ten years ago, Pustay was diagnosed with stage-two breast cancer in her right breast. She underwent a mastectomy, in which the full breast was removed, in order to sever the cancer from her body and save her life. After her surgery and then a six month chemotherapy treatment, Pustay decided not to get her amputated breast reconstructed at that time. Pustay was eager to get back to her normal life, back home, and back to being a wife as well as mother to her two young sons and young daughter.

It was not until seven years later that Pustay decided she was ready to undergo reconstruction in her right breast. Rather than have a nipple tattooed on her new breast, however, Pustay chose a more unique and personal tatoo.

“I wanted my own little survivor statement. Something pretty,” recalls Pustay.

She found a tattoo artist who tattoos 3D nipples, as well as other breast cancer related tattoos, who came to Pustay’s doctor’s office where she had her reconstruction done to create the personal tattoo . Sue now has an original design of a pink ribbon, the symbol of hope for breast cancer research, with a flowered vine stretched across the scar on her right breast.

“One of these days, after I’ve had a full life and I’m dead on a table, they’ll see my tattoo and know that I’m a survivor,” Pustay says, “It doesn’t remind me that I had cancer, it reminds me that I’m still here.”

Pustay was able to get back something that was taken from her and gained a new outlook on life from her experience and her tattoo. But a few towns over, another New Jersey native almost lost something that would have changed his life forever.

Shane Scherholz from New Egypt, New Jersey is a 22-year-old film student at Temple University. Scherholz has a passionate eye for film, but it was not long ago that both of his eyes were nearly rendered useless.

In 2010, Scherholz was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease that affected his vision and his doctors told him that he would go completely blind within months. The devastated young film student had to go on a steroid regiment, wear thick glasses that offered little help, and get a special phone with larger buttons and screen characters. 

“No one who hasn’t been through what I had can understand what it’s like to wake up one morning and not be able to see,” Scherholz recalls.

Just when Scherholz’s vision was at its worst and predicted to continue to deteriorate, the illness began to reverse and his vision returned to normal in a few months. Scherholz considers himself very lucky and so he felt compelled to have two tattoos inked onto his then un-tattooed body. The first tattoo is on the back of his left calf, which are song lyrics from “Given Flight By Demon’s Wings” by the band Shai Hulud which read “I am not simply strong.” Scherholz felt these lyrics sum up how much it took for him to push through his experience. His second tattoo is on his right forearm which bears the date of his diagnosis, April 14, 2010, in Roman numerals. 

“It’s something I can say I overcame every day,” Scherholz says about his second tattoo. Since his first tattoos, Scherholz now has a love of them and has six tattoos to date.

Courtesy of Shane Scherholz

courtesy of Shane Scherholz

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Gemma Aymar
    Mar 06, 2012 @ 12:00:30

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