My Tattoo Reminds Me to Put My Right Foot Forward and Keep Moving

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by Jennifer van Amerom |

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Tattoos have always been a form of expression. Throughout history, tattoos have been used to convey love and grief, depict religious symbols, and even serve as a form of punishment. The oldest known tattoo was found on “Iceman,” a mummified corpse who lived 5,200 years ago.

The art of tattooing continues today, and each tattoo can be its own elaborate story. I’ve always been fascinated by tattoos and knew before I was even legally allowed to have one that I’d want one. My mother has never approved, because she believes my body isn’t a canvas, and that it’s perfect just the way it is. I love her logic, but the ability to express myself permanently was too tempting.

While I always knew I’d end up with a tattoo, I hadn’t planned on what I’d get or when I’d get it. As it turns out, I ended up with a small tattoo on my right foot, which I got on a whim while traveling through Europe.

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I was in my early 20s when one of my best friends and I were going through particularly tough times in our lives. So, I did the only logical thing: I quit my full-time, permanent job, took out a line of credit, and convinced my friend to do the same and join me on a tour through Europe.

Over the course of three weeks, we drowned our emotional wounds in what felt like a bottomless glass of random cocktails. While we were in London, we visited one of my old colleagues, and I managed to secure a job offer! It was at that moment that I stopped feeling sorry for myself. We were in England, the home of so many of my favorite artists — Radiohead, Coldplay, Oasis, Arctic Monkeys, the Beatles — and I was there with one of my favorite human beings. Plus, I had secured a job while I was on vacation!

My disbelief toward my good fortune inspired me. So, we took a subway into Camden, a borough of London known for its musicians, artists, and sprawling markets. I marched right into the first tattoo parlor on Inverness Street and said, “I’m a Libra. That will never change. I am ruled by justice and karma, and I must believe it eventually catches up to everyone. So, I’d like to get the Libra scales of justice tattooed on my right foot. That way, I will remember to always put my ‘right’ foot forward in life, no matter how tough things get.”

I sometimes look back on that moment and chuckle. If I had only known what was to come next.

My body started to fail me on this trip. While we were in Rome, my skin suddenly felt like it was on fire. We had walked quite a bit in the middle of the July heat, so I assumed it was a sunburn. My friend bought me a large tub of aloe vera, but no matter how much I smothered onto my arm, the burning did not go away. It was shortly after that trip that my symptoms really flared, and then a few months later, I became paralyzed from the bra line down. Before the end of 2009, I would be diagnosed with neuromyelitis optica.

It’s during tough moments, usually with my head hung down and tears streaming down my face, that I see my tattoo. “Just put one foot in front of the other. Do the right thing and keep going,” I repeat to myself.

I sometimes wish for more of those carefree days — when I had the entire world to discover, and the opportunities were limitless. But I know those thoughts help no one. So, I focus on what’s right in front of me: my family, my friends, my career, and the reflection that stares back at me every morning. That woman is still capable. She’ll still get to see the world, even if she does so with one foot in front of the other.

Tattoos aren’t for everyone. I’m terrified of needles, but somehow I found the courage to sit still for as long as I did. And tattoos are sometimes discouraged by medical professionals, so anyone considering getting one should be sure to check with their doctor before getting inked.


Note: Neuromyelitis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Neuromyelitis News, or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD).


Lelainia Lloyd avatar

Lelainia Lloyd

I have 4. Zero regrets.


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