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Why I Tattooed a Symbol of My Lupus On Myself Forever

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I’ve always been fascinated by tattoos. Why people get them, what each piece of art on their skin means to them, or if it’s important at all. It’s hard to choose something to emblazon on you skin for the rest of your days and I had yet to come across something I thought would remain permanently significant.

But then lupus came along.

It’s taken many tears, much frustration, lots of pain and persistence to reach where I am right now, and there’s never been anything in my life that was worth documenting more.

And this is only the very first chapter in my encyclopedia of life.

I’ve been marked with a wolf and I choose to see that as neither a positive or negative, but something that just is.

I don’t believe this illness was given to me for a reason necessarily, but as it nonetheless has been given to me, it’s my job to take every opportunity presented to benefit as many people as I can.

Being given the chance to voice both my experience and my opinion through writing has given me not only an avenue to reach out to others in similar situations, but has aided me in my personal healing process.

I know I’ll never be able to change the fact that I have lupus – I’ll live with it forever – but there are things I know I can do to help others, both those with and without my illness.

One of these is to encourage conversation about lupus and chronic illnesses. The more we open up and speak about it, the more we can educate the general population and begin to remove the stigma that surrounds them.

I’ve had a wolf tattooed on the inside of my left arm for two reasons:

  1. To act as a constant reminder of all that I’ve been through and remember that no matter how hard it felt at the time, I made it through and came out the other side – smiling, as always.
  2. To be a conversation-starter and an icebreaker for a subject that is incredibly close to my heart, and about which I’m very comfortable speaking.

Every time someone asks about the significance of my tattoo I help break down the misconception that chronic illnesses don’t affect those who appear young and healthy.

Every time someone asks about my wolf I can start a conversation about what lupus means to me as someone who has been diagnosed.

And every time someone admires the piece of artwork I’ve had permanently etched into my skin, I know it’s doing its job.

I’ve already had comments from some who don’t understand the logic behind placing something on my body forever. I have to say that, with all due respect, I don’t care.

Most people will never truly know what it’s like to go through all I have and will over my lifetime. They may not need a continuous reminder to be strong no matter what life throws at me, and proud of all that I’ve accomplished. But I do.

And each morning when I wake up and see that little wolf looking back at me from the inside of my arm, I acknowledge my lupus and start my day strong.

I didn’t get my tattoo out of rebellion or to piss off my parents; I got it because lupus has changed my life – just as it has millions of lives – and I won’t live with it for the rest of my life in vain.

With or without this tattoo, lupus was always going to be my cross to bear. The only difference now is that I wear it on my sleeve, literally, for the world to see.

If you’re curious about the significance of the wolf in relation to lupus, feel free to check out my blog on Lupus News Today! 

This post originally appeared in Kristiana Page’s column “The Girl Who Cried Wolf” on Lupus News Today.

Lead photo by Thinkstock Images

Originally published: January 6, 2017
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