My Exciting and Jam-Packed visit to San Diego

So as of right now, I am watching A Clockwork Orange at 12AM. I have always wanted to watch the movie because it is a cult classic, but here I am writing my blog because I feel like I need to, I have the urge to write at this very moment. It is pretty funny because after my flight landed at around 6:30, I was extremely tired and wiped out. Now, I am full of energy and I have no reason as to why that is, but I guess I could talk about my weekend!

On Friday I was waiting, very impatiently, for the time to come for me to leave to the airport and get to San Diego. I was ignoring a few of the messages that I had because I was so nervous and excited to fly off to my mini getaway. Eventually, when I did get to my text messages, I found one from my old neighbor and family friend, Jennifer. She said that she and her daughter got me some stuff for my trip and that they wanted to stop by and see me. I was thrilled, I have known them for literally my whole life and grew up with them. I believe at one point or another they were my godparents too. So I texted back at about 3pm, leaving me two hours to hang out before I would have to pack up and shower (I am the queen of procrastination). I was drying my nails, which are now a lovely, bright shade of orange with white lines across them, and decided to let Jennifer and Molly come on over. I was so glad when they did arrive, I had not seen all of them since the wedding back in July I think. I did not get irritable at all during their visit and completely lost track of the horror movie that was on the TV- i was engrossed in the conversation. It was like a step back in time, but at the same time, we all got to see how grown we were and were able to have adult conversations and reminisce about childhood. When my mom got home, Jennifer realized that she had to leave soon as her mother was in town and she would be waiting to go to dinner. But she stayed for maybe another twenty minutes to catch up with my mom, as they are lifelong friends from the baby-sitting coop. All of the members of the baby-sitting coop, the parents and children, are like a family to me and I know they would move the world for me and that they are always there for me, if just in spirit. I guess you could say if someone ever really messed with me, they would be missing with pretty much a mob family. I am lucky enough that I did not have those problems, and I have to say that those who did not mess with me are lucky too! Now back to the Alexanders (Jennifer and Molly). Before they had to leave to tend to prior promises, I had to open the traveling gift. I found a Starbucks gift card, a Jamba Juice gift card, candies, chapstick, and other goodies that would come in handy for my trip.

My dad picked up my mom and I to go to the airport and we got through security and everything really smoothly. My dad does not have the same fascination with tattoos that I do, so I decided that it would be beneficial to the whole party that he would stay home. I knew he would not enjoy the whole experience as much as I would, although I believe he was excited for me to be knocking this off of my bucket list and that I had done more than my fair share of research for the trip. Now, some of you may be a little concerned about my getting a tattoo during treatment. I can quickly reassure you about all of your worries! I had good blood counts, including hemoglobin, platelets, and white blood cells- you could say I was pretty healthy in a sense. I also got clearance from one of my doctors because my counts were good. I also was going to be starting steroids anyways because it could possibly help with my fluid buildup in my body, so that would be beneficial for me. Just in case, I was prescribed antibiotics to give me the one-up on a possible infection. Now that everything is cleared up, I will continue with my journey!

My mom and I landed at the San Diego airport at a bit past 10pm. We picked up our luggage and our rental car and were off to our room in Embassy Suites. My mom got us a two-room hotel with two beds and a separate living room so she could get ready or go to breakfast without waking me up. How thoughtful (really)! I was hoping that I would have enough time to hang out with Egor that night (he is stationed a few miles away from the hotel) but I was too exhausted to stay up for a long time. So my mom and I went to bed and woke up at 9am so we could go downstairs and eat breakfast while it was still being served in the hotel.

After breakfast, my mom and I got ready for our long day out on the town. We picked up Egor at the Starbucks across from the base that he was stationed at and looked for a place to eat lunch. Since it was now 12pm, I was pretty darn hungry and I narrowed it down to a Mediterranean restaurant literally less than a mile away from where we were. Oh my goodness was the food amazing! I got a falafel appetizer for us to share because I have always wanted to try it. I thought it was good, so did my mom, but Egor was not a fan. I got a gyro combo plate, which was way too much for me to eat. It felt light and healthy and after we left we decided to head down to where the tattoo shop, Wylde Sydes, was located near Imperial Beach. Just to be sure that my phone had given me the right directions, we drove by it and then decided to go to a beach to hang out before my appointment. It was not a very warm weekend, so I was not too happy being on the beach with all of the trade winds and the cold breeze. We stayed on the beach for literally less than five minutes before I got cold and decided that it was time to go. We snapped a few pictures and went on our way. We stopped by Coronado go get some souvenirs and Christmas presents for my Grandma. We went inside a few shops and we were very impressed with what they had. I picked out a cute, sparkly shotglass for my soon-to-be 21st birthday. I also got a fabulous, fashionista, black lace scarf for myself and an umbrella with a cat print on it. Oh, and I got a nice business card holder for the business cards that I designed to get my blog more publicity. After we were done shopping for little knick-knacks, we stopped by to get some gelato to hold our stomachs over for what we knew was going to be a long tattoo session. 

My mom, Egor, and I arrived Wylde Sydes Tattoo shop a little after 4pm, because I had been notified by the shop owner that they were running a little late because the client before me had a tattoo that was taking a little bit more time than they had imagined. Just in case, my mom and I put on our emla cream (numbing cream) on the areas that were going to be tattooed. While waiting for the stuff to sink in and take effect (the other client was still getting his tattoo when this was happening) the shop owner and I looked for good scorpion design for my tattoo. We eventually decided on Bob, a scorpion that had great detail and positioning. Bob was originally brown, but with a little help from saturation and color-changing, we got him to the perfect shade for the black and grey tattoo. When we were done choosing my dream scorpion, we then waited for my mom’s tattoo artist, Jesus, to arrive. Once he did, we went straight to looking for examples of a heart-shaped locket and keys to go with them. We mixed and matched a few, and decided that instead of having a color tattoo, that black and white would look better. Jesus Sanchez is a master of intricate, detailed, and small tattoos, so he was perfect for doing the job for my mom. I would say it was about 6pm by the time my mom started getting her tattoo, as Jesus had to make a stencil for the tattoo and also let the stencil sit on the skin for a while to make sure that it would not wipe away with the excess ink from getting the tattoo done. You could tell by her wincing that she was in a bit of pain and I thought that she was just a big softy. I was just a little wrong about that.

Around 6:30, my artist, Jorge, finished with his other client’s tattoo. By then, my numbing cream was on for far too long, and I should have known better and taken it off after a while, but I didn’t because I was nervous about the pain. I guess my skin really absorbed it, as it was so hard to take off and I guess there was still extra on my skin, because after my stencil was put on and had set for about 15 minutes, it started coming off along with the excess ink. This made me extremely nervous. Jorge knew that he could not keep tattooing like that and that we had to start fresh. After liberal wiping and cleaning of my back/shoulder area, we managed to get all of the stencil off along with my numbing cream. Poor Jorge had to draw the stencil AGAIN, and the original was so ornate and perfect, but of course the second one was just as clean and well-placed. So we started again after being sure that the stencil would stay on (we did not need to make the job harder than it already was!) and he got straight to work. I must say, getting a tattoo smarts. It is different than the pain that I am so used to, I am used to a dull and very strong pain that is deep, but this is more like a wound that keeps getting irritated in the same spot, over and over again. Like rubbing dirt in an exposed spot, so you could say it is not something that I relished the feeling of.

 My mom got to chat with her tattoo artist and sit in the chair and watch the TV, as well as her tattoo being drawn on her skin. I also got to watch that for a bit as we were dealing with the complications of my tattoo, well more of the complications of my skin (I have said way too many times that my body hates me!). Egor also got to hang out and watch my mom get tattooed, as well as talking on the phone to his girlfriend, Aiyanna, his mom, and his dad. I have to say, there was something in his smile when he was talking to Aiyanna that made me very happy for him. It was a kind of glow, it was the sweetest thing! Anyways, enough gushing about that.. hehe.. My mom’s tattoo took around two hours I would say, which was more time than I had expected, but there was so much detail put into it to be sure that it was a fantastic work of art, not just a jailhouse tattoo. 

I, unfortunately, had to sit kind of hugging the chair that I would be tattooed in due to the location of my tattoo. There was no way that I could sit normally, I had to keep my back exposed and I was aware of that. I would say I was doing extremely well for the first two or so hours, then my anxiety got a little bit bad and I had to take an Ativan to kind of calm it down. I get so worked up when I have planned things and put so much time and thought into doing something. I assure you, I should have not been nervous, because I knew that my tattoo would be fantastic (and it is!). I also took some pain pills that would not make my blood thin, it also helped to calm me down and keep me nice and relaxed. I was given a pillow to rest on as I got the rest of my tattoo done. My mom was finished by the time I was halfway through my four and a half hour long tattoo. I got to see the fantastic work, the lines were clean, there was so much detail, and her locket and keys looked so real. I knew I had picked out the right shop for the job.

So, yes, I did travel all the way to San Diego from Sacramento because I knew that this shop was the right fit for me. There are plenty of good tattoo shops here in Sac, but I knew that Wylde Sydes specialized in black and white and portrait style tattoos. I feel like in Sac there are more new school and traditional tattoos being done. I had to go to a shop that specialized in what I wanted in order to keep myself mentally sound. I always do a lot of research into things that I do, and it does not help that I have so much time to commit to my research. The owner of the shop knew that I had come all the way from Sacramento to get my tattoo done by that particular shop, and I have to say it was neat to see the surprise on the faces of the artists when they heard that I had actually done my research and had chosen their shop to create my dream ink. The shop was a lot more warm than the other ones that I have been to in the past, whether I had been with friends who were getting tattoos, friends looking at getting tattoos done, or at one of my few piercing shops. There was a board flashing (well not flashing, but nicely brightening up and changing colors) the piercings that they do and the costs of them, I was very allured by this. I loved the bright and beautiful colors, and I kind of felt comfortable. There were so many different colors of jewelry and kinds of jewelry that I could be looking all day and never get bored. Everyone was so professional that I knew I had done the right job in choosing this shop for my tattoo (and my mother’s). I honestly would not be gushing about this shop if they had not done a good job, and I have to get the word out that the place does amazing works of art. Ok, now back to my tattoo experience.

When my mom was done, she sat down next to me to kind of comfort me while I was getting the tattoo done. Luckily, I chose a spot that was not near any of my sensitive spots due to tumors. I was so thankful! Egor was extremely tired and was pretty much falling asleep because he only got four hours of sleep the night before. After a long time convincing him that it was okay for him to take a nap (and we had the tattoo chair that my mom was not occupying anymore for him to sleep) and he finally knocked out. What I thought was really cool was the fact that my tattoo artist, Jorge (or George, not exactly sure!), just happened to be a fan of scorpions as well. He even had a tattoo gun that he used that was shaped like a scorpion. You could say he was incredibly invested in my tattoo and connected with it, so I knew it was the perfect fit! He made sure that every single detail, every hair, of the scorpion was done well. While it did hurt really badly, I knew that the tattoo would look so great that I could manage to get through it. I was having a tough time by the end of the appointment, especially because I had been out and about all day and it WAS 12 in the morning. Yeah, they stayed open super late to get my tattoo done. By this time, the white ink was about to be put into my skin. I already knew that this would be the most painful part of the whole tattoo experience (I watch a lot of tattoo shows and read about them constantly, researching) because the white would be added to the areas that had already gotten the black/grey ink in it. Finally, at 12:30AM, my tattoo was finished. I was so relieved, and even more so when I got to see the finished work. Oh, my goodness, was I impressed! It was just what I was hoping for, I mean my skin was quite red, but I could tell all of the details that had been put into it. Four and a half hours spent on that tattoo, and it was so worth it. Egor was awake by now, and we were all taking pictures of the work. We were all so happy that my mom and I got the tattoos that we had planned on and wanting, the pain was lessened by the relief of getting this bucket list bullet off of my list! By the end of the whole session, we had gotten pretty acquainted with each other and had bonded through the experience. We ended our long visit with hugs and were off. Oh, and I forgot to mention, but I gave the owner of the shop one of my business cards so he could read my blog and hopefully spread the word about childhood cancer awareness, because he does get a lot of traffic through facebook. He ended up looking at my blog and pulling it up on the internet and then put my business card on a blackboard on the wall of his tattoo shop.

My mom, Egor, and I left the shop at 12:30am. My mom and I were extremely hungry, so we stopped by a burger fast food restaurant named Rally’s. Egor was driving because my mom and I were pretty darn tired after all of the tattooing! My mom got a nice, double cheeseburger. Egor got fries. I got mozzarella sticks and a bacon cheeseburger. Mom ate her burger on the way home, while Egor and I waited to get back to the hotel. I was so happy to get back to the hotel so I could finally eat. Egor and I had planned on staying up late and catching up and talking, but it was past 1am by the time we had arrived at the hotel, so we just ate, talked for maybe 10 minutes (unfortunately, some of it I did cry while thinking about my disease, and Egor simply hates when I bring it up) before I went back into the room with the bed (remember, the hotel room itself had two separate rooms, one with two beds and the other was a living room with a futon, where Egor slept). By the time my mom woke up and went to get me up (which as about 9am) she noticed that Egor was not in his room. She was not even sure if he had slept there or not, but I assured her that she did because he was falling asleep while I was eating my burger (I was eating incredibly slowly, probably due to the pain pills and Ativan that I had taken earlier). So I simply checked my phone, and saw that Egor had texted me apologizing for leaving early and not saying goodbye. I reassured him that it was no big deal and that he had to be at duty, and that I was relieved that he did not wake my mom and I up. My mom and I decided that we were not exactly hungry for breakfast and that we were so exhausted from the busy day we had yesterday, that we went back to bed. She woke up at about 11am and got ready and packed up to leave. She woke me up at 12:30pm (yes, I was that tired) and I took a shower, packed, and we left by 1pm. We got our rented car back from the hotel valet service and headed to a crepe place (Fabrison’s French Creperie Cafe) because I was craving crepes, which I found that I tend to crave when I am on vacation. I was so happy with my choice of a restaurant because the crepe I had was delicious. I got a lemon sugar crepe and a hot chocolate while my mom got a Baja crepe. She was equally pleased with her food. So when we finished, we got back to the car, which was a fair walk away, and while on the way to the car, we got to go through Little Italy and enjoy the sunshine. Then we filled up the car and took it back to the car rental agency. We got a shuttle back to the airport and were quite early, yet again, for the airplane to depart. My mom and I got something to drink and headed to an uncrowded area of the airport to read our magazines (well I read some articles and whatnot on my phone). We got early boarding due to my chemo, as I do get tired more easily than the normal person. I will skip ahead to my mom and I getting picked up at the airport by my dad. We stopped by Togo’s to get me a sandwich and got home. I was so tired that I thought I was going to go to bed early, and yet I am sitting here typing. Panda was very excited to see me and got all hyper and was craving attention. I missed him, even though I had only been away for a few days. 

So originally I was planning on heading onto the Bay Area today (as I am typing this in the early AM) but I decided that I could use a day to relax and recuperate. On Tuesday I will hang out with Susette and go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and watch movies and FINALLY meet her boyfriend. I am stoked about that, and it has been such a long time since I have hung out with her. On Wednesday, I will head back from Susette’s place and stop by at DVC to see my swim friends. I miss them bunches, so I am looking forward to this. I will then head back home as I have an echo appointment on Thursday. Even if my heart looks good enough to start my ICE chemo, I will postpone it until Monday or so. I want to live up this upcoming week! On Friday, I will head back to the Bay Area and hang out with some of my swim guys who have promised to take me out to dinner, movies, and have fun. Well I think it will be Friday when I do this, not quite sure. I swear, I have the best swim team ever. We all got so close and they have been so good to me. I almost cried when I got a group message “forcing” me to let them treat me to food and fun. On Saturday, my family and I will go to a benefit lacrosse game put on by DVC to raise awareness of cancer, putting my blog and name out there, and raising money for the American Cancer Society. I could not be happier with the support system that I have at DVC. The school is behind me in my fight that seems to be one that I cannot win, but they are still there for me. They know that I am doing my best to keep healthy (in my terms) to keep fighting and hoping for a miracle. If this cancer does take me out, it will only be my body that it takes out, I am way too stubborn and smart to let the cancer take over my thinking and my brain. I am no loser, so giving up is never an option no matter what. Luckily, I know that my body is strong enough to keep me going for a good while, and I am the best possible person to know how I am doing based on how well I am feeling. I have to say, that although I do cry very easily now, which is soooooo (x1000) unusual for me as I keep my emotions on a tight lockdown, that I am mentally stable and secure. I am also out and about, walking and hanging out, so that is such a positive. I guess it is human for me to cry, and sometimes it seems that my tears just flow and flow, kind of like a huge waterfall. It could be that since I have held in my feelings and emotions in and kept them to myself for so long, that they are now being released like a leak that won’t get fixed. I hate crying in front of people so much, but sometimes it is necessary. I can only hope that I can keep it together when I speak at the lacrosse game! I mean, the crying (which I will try my best to keep back) will only prove how passionate I am about raising awareness for pediatric cancer and show my will to survive. I mean, these are the two things that are really keeping me going. I have so much motivation in the world now, something has sparked with me.

I have had many people text me, facebook message me, email me, etc to get a hold of me and tell me how inspiring I am and how much they appreciate my words. I am able to touch people in a way that makes them kind of change the way they perceive their problems and think of their issues in more effective ways. I truly believe this is the reason for me being here, to help people and to spread awareness. The world needs to be a happier place, and by changing the way we think about problems can help. I also feel like if I can touch people, that they will help spread the word of childhood cancer awareness and to help bring the funds to get more kids cured and to make survival rates much higher- the percentages that they deserve to be. 

So, please, please, continue following and sharing my blog. I want everyone to know that children get cancer too and that the mortality rates and loss of years is much more than it should be. None of us have lived full lives yet. Some of them are much younger than I am and don’t understand this whole process. I don’t know if this is more of a blessing or a curse. I am fully aware of my situation, so I am emotionally afflicted by the stress. The kids just believe the chemo and treatments that they go through as a way of life. I am able to speak about it and explain just how the life of a cancer patient is, so I can speak for those who can’t. I can also preach to the people who do not know what having cancer is like, or what it is like to have a loved one be diagnosed with cancer. I am here to educate everyone on what it is like, well at least my treatments, and my emotions behind everything. I think this will help bring light to childhood cancer. So before I end up writing too much, I will end this blog entry with the reason behind my scorpion tattoo, although I have written it in another post, I will repeat myself in case someone has overlooked it.

The scorpion really resembles me. It may not seem like it, but I can tell you exactly why this creature embodies me. It is a creature of survival- it adapts to the harshest environments in the planet and they have been the same for thousands, maybe even millions of years. They are pretty too look at, all sleek and shiny, but they do have a dangerous touch to them. You do not go messing with scorpions. They will bite back (or sting back). Although my fighting back is more of with using my words, it still has the same stinging effect. So there you go. And now I will leave you with a few pictures!Image

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5 thoughts on “My Exciting and Jam-Packed visit to San Diego

  1. Omigosh the McCullough girls are all tatted up. they are really something! so beautiful. I am scared about the “elective” pain part. I think i want something California-ish i could show up wearing at my 40th high school reunion in 2015. This lady came into the counseling office with a kitchenaid blender and a wire whisk tattooed on her shoulder. I said WOW that is so cool and she said, “Well, i make pickles and jams and jellies for a living, but baking is my PASSION.” My daughter has my grandson’s name on her wrist and a couple on her back — one of which is a treble clef. She got the treble clef on her 18th birthday. she planned and drew for weeks. Just like you all did. She pierced her nose right here in the ladies’ room at LCHS. for the longest time she wore a band-aid on it and i thought it was a whitehead. I’m so gullible and clueless — especially after all the stuff i did in high school. You would think i would notice everything and be suspicious all the time. But i didn’t and i still don’t.

    you help my heart. You fortify me in my own personal struggles, But the art is so beautiful it’s very tempting. appreciate that. Love, Roberta (Gigi) Potter

    Anyway, I am happy to hear from you all again. You are so beautiful. those blue eyes!!!!! best wishes and love from Gigi at LCHS

  2. Awesome read Lauren…love, love, love your tattoo. Laurenstrong! What will you do next…I will look forward to your next entry. God Bless – love you.

  3. Hi Lauren,
    I don’t know all the facts about what I’m about to tell you, but I am former military guy who has lost friends and had a father who took his own life. So I try do what little I can.

    A friend of mine is a vegan and practices animal protection law, and she has done quite a bit of research about how a vegan diet is connected to cancer disappearing. She is absolutely positive a vegan diet would get rid of the cancer, I don’t know one way or the other, I’ve seen some online research supporting it, but I can’t say for sure one way or the other.

    You probably don’t want to hear any of this from a random person, but I saw your story on Facebook and it obviously made me feel for you, especially you being such a successful athlete and to have that stripped from you as well. The whole situation sucks. So I don’t know, maybe there are alternative ways get rid of cancer. Maybe you’ve already heard this, but after the people I’ve had in my life leave me, I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t say something who had a story that really sort of pricked my soul.

    My name is Russ, I’m sincerely sorry if this is uncalled for or inappropriate.

  4. I almost died at 40 from encephalitis. It left me disabled but appreciating every moment of life. You sound very ‘grounded’ and mature for your age. We Americans like to believe only the elderly die, which is not true. A great book is The Tibetan Book on Living and Dying, for you and family and friends.
    I am not rich but have access to vacations pretty much anywhere. I would love to give you a free stay for a week somewhere. Sincerely.
    Patricia Hopps
    pathopps@msn.com
    ( you can google me if you want:
    Patricia Kunke Hopps

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