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Hi Mom, I Got a Tattoo!

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This originally appeared on the Gather the Jews blog

Hi Mom,

Please sit so you don't keel when you read this, and remember to inhale and then exhale, in that order: I got another tattoo.

I know you thought my final would be the survivor tumor tattoo I received three years ago, or even the tattoo dots I received before my radiation 14 years ago. I know that you, Dad, and 10 percent of women like me exactly how I am. Please let me explain my tattoo and then you will love it like I do.

In Judaism, we use trees to celebrate holidays, weddings and births. I love consuming food and booze on holidays, and Mom, your other son just got married and maybe he'll have a child. (No pressure, JD.)

Rabbis debate the species of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden. One opinion is that the Tree of Knowledge was a fig tree and that after the sin, Adam and Eve knew they were naked and sewed fig leaves to make girdles, meaning they used the very object that caused their downfall to correct the mistake. The very drug -- Cytoxan -- that killed my first cancer caused my second cancer, and then killed the second cancer, too.

We attain wisdom by learning intellectually or through life experience. I hate myself when I make a mistake: make the wrong decision, say the wrong thing, fail to approach a woman because I fear rejection, eat a single chocolate when I hadn't planned to. The fig tree symbolizes that I can make a mistake and bounce back and grow from it. Very few mistakes cannot be reversed (besides getting a bad tattoo).

Trees clean the world by giving us oxygen; giving us life. I think that the best thing in life is health and when I feel clean I feel healthy; I feel alive. Water also cleans the world. I drink a gallon of water every day. I like to think that saturating my cells with water, along with watching Arnold Schwarzenegger films and eating greens, will prevent a third cancer.

Mom, when you and I walked out of the single hospital room I inhabited for 65 consecutive days after my umbilical cord stem cell transplant, we pushed the rotating door and stepped outside. The sky was overcast on that peaceful June afternoon in Minneapolis. We faced Dad in front of his beloved minivan ready to sweep me to safety, and we faced trees. Enormous trees with leaves so bright and beautiful and green. I removed my protective mask and inhaled deeply, held it, and exhaled slowly. That was the single happiest moment in my life.


Mom, I got this tattoo of a saturated fig tree dripping with the waters of health. It reminds me to live healthy and clean, that I wouldn't be human if I didn't err, and that I am resilient and can use my mistakes to improve myself. The tree is upright and strongest when I reach high, and so I will.

I bet you love it now. And if you don't, then JD, let's get that kid started ASAP.