A Tattoo and a Bulldog: How One Family Coped with Cancer

By Cindy Coyle

My husband Bill was diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma in January 2012. Needless to say it was a great shock to us and our three children, Billy, Sasha-Lee, and Jimmy.

Looking back, I realize how two unlikely events guided us through his treatment and recovery: a tattoo and a bulldog.

When Bill completed his six rounds of chemotherapy at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, my daughter and I decided to honor him with a tattoo that we could share. I have always wanted a tattoo, but just never had the nerve to get one. For my daughter, this would be her second.

Cindy and Sasha-Lee's tattoos
Cindy and Sasha-Lee’s tattoos

As we were deciding what to include in our tattoo, I knew I wanted to have the lime green ribbon to recognize lymphoma. But the tattoo needed something else. We chose the words “hope” and “faith,” which sit above and below the ribbon.  Hope that a cure would be found for Bill’s cancer and faith that in the end, everything would be fine. Sasha-Lee, who is 21, chose to have the tattoo on her ankle, but it is not the spot that I wanted. I finally decided on a place where I felt that, if times were getting tough and I was having a bad day, I could quickly see the tattoo to find my hope and faith. The tattoo would be on my wrist. We had it done before Bill’s stem cell transplant in 2012.

I can’t say how much I love this tattoo and how much it means to me. To know that I share the same beautiful symbol with my daughter means that much more. I remember that first night after I had it done and Bill said to me, “Thanks for getting a tattoo in my honor.”

Bill and Dana
Bill and Dana

Bill had his stem cell transplant in July and he did wonderfully. His doctor, Caron Jacobson, MD, told us that Bill was her first patient to make it out of the hospital so quickly; he stayed only 18 days. After the transplant, Bill was home for 100 days recovering and getting stronger. During his recovery, he had mentioned he wanted another bulldog, as ours had passed away the year before Bill was diagnosed. So, just after Christmas 2012, we surprised Bill one evening with a litter of puppies for him to pick from. After spending a very long time with them all, Bill finally found the little guy he would call his own.

The Coyles' bulldog, Dana
The Coyles’ bulldog, Dana


Of course, there was only one name that we could call this new pup, the love of our lives: Dana. Named in honor of Dana-Farber, every time we look at Dana we realize how lucky we are to not only have him and Bill, but also the wonderful care at Dana-Farber that saved Bill’s life.