Tag Archives: #siblings #growingup

My sister, spaceship tattoos, and cancer

Laura was ten years older than me, and she was my idol.  When I was 18, she and I shared an apartment at the start of the school year.  Her boyfriend Ron started off with us also in that apartment but then moved out and on with his life a couple of months later.  So Laura, her dog Shiner and I fell into a rhythm  ~ we were both taking classes at the local university, she was working as a waitress at a bar/ club.  I was searching for myself and dating lots of guys, going out and dancing and enjoying my youth.  Laura was working but also enjoyed dancing and just hanging out. Living with Laura was always an adventure.  She was protective, yet wouldn’t hesitate to tell me to get off my butt and stop whining.

Laura and I both had our own bathrooms and its funny but many of our conversations took place in one of our bathrooms. Our conversation about her tattoo was no different.  She was in her tub when she told me she wanted a spaceship tattoo.  She wanted to have either people or an alien waving from the inside of the ship.  This was back in 1982 before tattoos became mainstream.  Laura explained she was going to go up to Chicago and make a trade with some tattoo artist.  I am not sure if she was planning on exchanging beadwork or what really.  I don’t think she knew either.  I was not happy about this idea at all.  I felt that tattoos were for other people, not my beautiful sister.   I begged her not to do it.  But she did, that January, she got a spaceship tattoo over her left breast.  It was about 2 inches wide and about an inch and half tall. It was colorful and had a little person on the inside waving or maybe I just imagined that part.  She didn’t make a trade but paid cash for it.  She said she drank some whiskey to help with the pain when she was getting it.   Great now I had a sister with a tattoo~ a spaceship tattoo.

Fast forward~ almost 20 years. Laura was living with her husband and her dark-haired beautiful daughter when she found out she had breast cancer on the same breast as her tattoo.  I had lost a best friend a couple of years earlier to breast cancer so I was very nervous and upset to hear this news.  Laura being the big sister that she always was ~ wanted to reassure me that, she was going to survive this and not to worry.   So Laura started having the talk with her doctor about her plan of action.  Living in the Boston area she was fortunate enough to be surrounded by excellent doctors and proven cancer treatments. This was some reassurance but still, I had not only lost a close friend recently but I lost my father to cancer when I was 13.  And my sister was now my best friend I couldn’t bear the thought of losing her.  So Laura opted for standard traditional western treatment with a few eastern treatments as well.

Surgery would be the first treatment.  I made plans to fly out after she returned home to help take care of her and her daughter.  So her husband could continue working and supporting the family.  I would sleep on my niece’s top bunk.  I fixed meals, did laundry, and cleaning.  And I helped Laura take a shower.  Laura opted for a lumpectomy so they only took part of her breast.  Laura wanted me to really look at her scar and pointed out to me that she still had her spaceship tattoo.  I had to laugh.  Yes, Laura you still have your tattoo.  She told me this was one of her concerns she was told she had cancer.  Seriously sister?  You were concerned about losing your tattoo?  She told me she asked the doctor if they had to take the skin with the tattoo on it.  She wanted to keep it.  Yes, keep the skin with the spaceship tattoo. She said, and she told him she wanted to put it in a jar so she could still keep it.  I guess it was lucky for all of us that the surgery only took part of her breast.


I was fortunate enough to be born into a family with siblings.  I have 2 brothers one older, one younger and I had an older sister.  There was 10 years difference between my sister and me.  But she was my best friend, my protector, safety net, and voice of reason. Growing up my younger brother Roger and I shared a bedroom.  We had bunk beds.  One of our first real arguements I remember was over who got the top bunk, then  my older brother Randy took Roger out in the hall and whispered something to him. Roger came back into the bedroom and told me I could have the top bunk.  (Many years later I found out what Randy said to Roger to change his mind.)  Randy told Roger if there was ever a thunder storm and lightening hit the house it would hit me first because I was up higher than everyone else in the house.  For the most part Roger and I got along well~ I would do little things like trade all the good Halloween candy from his pumpkin to mine when he wasn’t around.  Regular sibling stuff.

My sister Laura was the oldest, she looked very much like my mom the way she was built small framed, dark hair and dark eyes.  I on the other hand looked like my daddy broad shoulders, tall, blond and blue eyed.  I was the only blond, blue eyed one of the bunch.  Well Roger was blond when he was little thanks to Sun In my mom put in his hair.  Laura could sing, dance, play piano, act, she was loud, could and would laugh at anything and everything.  She was my idol.  We lived together briefly my first year in college, she moved back to the midwest from CA. We had a great 2 bedroom apartment with 2 bathrooms.  We would have long conversations about music, boys,laughing and tattoos.  She wanted one.  I asked her repeatdly not to get one.  She knew exactly what she wanted.  A spaceship over her left breast with a little alien waving.  She got it overspring break when I wasn’t around.  *That tattoo later is part of a great story. When Laura was around everything seemed to be more fun.

After Laura graduated from college she decided she wanted to live in the New England area so back to Boston she went.  We still talked on a regular basis, but it was different with her being so far away.  She would come home for visits and I would go out there to visit her.  I knew I wanted to be closer to her.  Just the beginning….