Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

My arm tattoo has me thinking

About the courage of those battling cancer

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I have a swell new tattoo on my right arm.

Prepare to be extremely jealous, because it artfully depicts a pink ribbon being pierced by a long-stemmed red rose.

It was airbrushed on by one of the charming artists from SkinGraphix Tattoos who volunteered their time Monday at the Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Pink Ribbon Ladies Golf Classic for Hope, the largest women-only golf tournament in the province.

"Do you want sparkles on your tattoo?" the artist asked politely after she'd finished airbrushing my hairy, sweaty limb.

"Did everyone else get sparkles?" I demanded, because, as a newspaper columnist, I am paid to ask the tough questions.

"Yes," she said, smiling. "Everyone got sparkles."

"Then I want them, too," I said, trying to sound as manly as possible under the circumstances.

I am pretty sure all the women golfers, of which there were 160, and all their male caddies, of which there were 40, took a few minutes before teeing off to get a temporary pink ribbon sprayed somewhere on their exposed skin.

Most of the guys caddying at the tournament -- which has raised more than $528,000 for CancerCare Manitoba's Breast Cancer Centre for Hope in the last 17 years -- were sporting electric-pink golf shirts.

But the only ones sporting pink hair -- at least initially -- were myself and my buddy Bob, who is also the publisher of this newspaper. This was thanks to a spray-can of pink hair colouring my wife bought a few years ago.

As the day wore on, however, a gaggle of female golfers and tournament volunteers literally begged me -- that's my story and I'm sticking to it -- to spray their locks a fluorescent shade of "Lynx Pink."

The pink hair colouring, thankfully, faded pretty quickly due to excessive exposure to sweat.

The pink-ribbon tattoos, however, are supposed to linger for at least a week.

Which is nice, because I like looking at it and remembering. I remember talking with my dad, who we lost to two types of cancer a few years ago.

I remember the smiling face of my buddy Jon, who was also the beloved photo editor at this newspaper and refused to give an inch to the lung cancer that eventually claimed his life, telling everyone within earshot: "There are only good days and great days!"

And I think about the women I know today, longtime friends, courageous women who are living each day with breast cancer and doing it with amazing grace and courage.

Pink Ribbon organizer Penny Berntt proudly told me that every cent from the tournament goes to CancerCare Manitoba's Breast Cancer Centre for Hope.

She also told me something she believes may surprise you.

"Breast cancer does affect men, too," Penny said. "Men can get breast cancer. It's kind of a little-known fact."

As I punch these words into my computer, I'm feeling a trifle sore. This is only partly because I spent six hours Monday retrieving lost balls from the woods, fetching cold beverages and running in and out of squishy sand traps on behalf of my foursome, the Twisted Sisters.

My muscles are giving me grief mainly because of another cancer fundraiser, the annual Safeway Father's Day Walk/Run in support of Prostate Cancer Canada, which was held in Assiniboine Park over the weekend.

Before the five-kilometre walk began, I was compelled to join perky instructor Debbie Lewis on the Lyric Theatre stage to help lead the crowd in 10 minutes of something called Zumba, which is a torturous form of dance exercise that should be illegal at public gatherings of sane people.

It was painful, but it was worth it to hear Len Bueckert speak. Len is a 66-year-old retired federal auditor who has beaten colon and kidney cancer and is now dealing with prostate cancer.

Getting straight to the point, Len told all the guys it's time to get off their butts and get their (bad word) prostates checked. Sharing that blunt message is what Len does with his time these days.

He was badly shaken when he received his third cancer diagnosis. "I wanted to find out more about prostate cancer and I wanted to give something back," he explained.

"I don't have a whole lot of money, but I can give my time."

The point is, there's lots to think about. I know my pink, sparkly tattoo will fade and disappear. I hope the memories never do.

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 19, 2013 A2

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