A Hendersonville, NC couple, both diagnosed with cancer, has found a way to support each other that few other have done: with matching cancer awareness tattoos.
On Sept. 6, 2012 Joni Brezenoff learned she had stage-4 breast cancer.
“I was told if the treatment didn’t work, I’d have 12-18 months to live,” Brezenoff said.
She went through a multitude of treatments including a radical mastectomy and having 13 lymph nodes removed from her right side. Some treatments put her in the hospital including one that almost killed her when she developed sepsis.
Through it all, her husband, Doug Gordon, was by her side providing encouragement for a cancer that will never be cured nor go into remission. Her cancer has mestasized into her bones and surgery is not an option.
She likes to say she is not a cancer survivor, but a victim.
Her husband has his own saying. “I like to say, ‘Although she will never in remission, we have beat the cancer into submission,’” Gordon said.
Brezenoff’s doctors said that as long as treatments are working, as the oral chemotherapy she recently started seems to be, she could live another 20 years.
And while Brezenoff can count on her husband’s support, she has found herself being his supporter after he was diagnosed with slow-moving prostate cancer in 2016.
“We don’t know what we would have done without each other,” she said.
So far, Gordon, 56, has been fortunate.
“I need to get my numbers checked every three months, but so far it hasn’t done anything crazy,” he said.
Brezenoff began considering a survivor tattoo four years ago.
“I like the cancer ribbons,” she said. “But I was going through so much physical stuff at the time, I couldn’t do it then.”
After Gordon’s diagnosis, his daughter, Shantee Williams, an artist, drew matching butterfly cancer ribbons.
“I saw a picture of butterfly, and it had a quote attached, “She thought her world had ended, then she turned into a butterfly.”
Brezenoff said that since starting oral chemothapy recently, she has felt much better and her cancer numbers have showed significant improvement. The couple went to an area tattoo parlor on March 30 and had the butterfly ribbons inked on their left forearms.
Brezenoff’s tattoo is a butterfly with a pink ribbon with blue tips. Gordon’s butterfly has a blue and pink ribbon. The response from others has been, “that’s so awesome.” It is a permanent reminder of their support for each other.
Now the couple is planning a weekend celebration for Brezenoff’s upcoming 60th birthday.
“It’s going to a crazy weekend,” she said. “We’re planning a big get-together. We can’t wait.”
This article is intended to convey general educational information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.