Between traveling, getting tattooed, and cancer treatments, Don Caskey was kind enough to share how his Celebration of Life project came to be.
On December 2019, Don Caskey was diagnosed with stage four kidney cancer. After having his kidney removed, Don learned that the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes making it clear that his situation was terminal. After his diagnosis and surgery, Don got a tattoo of a dying pine tree with a cancer ribbon proclaiming "I'm still standing", which inspired him to embark on his current journey of getting matching tattoos with strangers around the world. He explains, “That tattoo is a memory...and all I can take with me when I die is memories."
Matching tattoos have often been used as one of those sacred moments between friends, and Don has fully jumped on board in the best way. He describes the beginning of his project a little bumpy. "I started asking random strangers around the world...if I could get a matching tattoo with them. Most of them looked at me like I was crazy." Finally Don found someone who was willing: a bartender on the first day of her new job. "We got matching butterflies...and from there it just snowballed."
Don has now traveled from his home in Toledo, Ohio, to many different states and has gotten tattoos with over 250 people. Some aren't even from the U.S. "I'm not a household name by any means, but...to have people reaching out to me from around the world..like, this girl in Italy today and this other girl in England...it's got to be one of the most overwhelming and humbling experiences." Don even has a matching tattoo with a woman who lives in Kenya, South Africa. But it's not only tattoo collectors who are showing some love; many tattoo studios are completely supportive, as well. Don stated that he hasn't paid for a tattoo in months because artists simply want to share in the moment.
While some of the people Don Caskey has met through this matching tattoo project have also been fighting cancer or going through similar adversities, these tattoo shop encounters still involve many shared laughs and smiles. "I believe everybody's got something in common and that 'something in common' is what these tattoos are bringing together with me." And although Don admits that when he was younger he never wanted tattoos, he's glad that his opinion changed. His story is the epitome of what tattooing, and tattoo culture, is all about: coming together and self-expression.
We've, perhaps, all had the thought...what would we do if we were diagnosed with terminal cancer? How would we live out the remainder of this precious life we've been given? In Don's case, he's not only making the most of his days, he's inspiring others to do the same.
If you're interested in getting your own matching tattoo with Don, make sure to hit him up on Instagram or Facebook. And, if you haven't already, check out the full interview with him on the Tattoodo Podcast.