Tattoo Tuesday

Senior’s tattoos commemorate family and friends who suffer from genetic disease

Kali Bowden | Staff Photographer

Julia Parus has a tattoo to honor her cousins with the genetic disease muscular dystrophy.

UPDATED: Jan. 31, 2017 at 10:52 p.m.

Julia Parus loves to talk about her tattoos. Ask her about the wheelchair on her neck or the Bible verse on her ribs, and you will quickly learn all about the disease that has shaped her family, her faith and the way she lives her life.

Muscular dystrophy is caused by a mutation in a gene that interferes with the production of proteins needed to form and maintain healthy muscle. Those who have it experience progressive loss of muscle mass resulting in weakness, and sometimes, loss of mobility. Parus, a senior child and family studies major, has two cousins who suffer from the disease, one of whom is the same age as she is.

“I’ve always been very close to my cousin,” Parus said. “I basically grew up with her. This disease is something my family and I lived with basically every day.”

Raised in a Catholic household, Parus struggled to understand at a young age why her cousin was born with muscular dystrophy and she was not. When Parus sought advice on the subject from her aunt, she recited Ecclesiastes 3:11: “God has made everything beautiful in its time. He has set eternity in the hearts of man; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

When Parus went to her first church group meeting at Syracuse University her freshman year, the same verse was used as the foundation of their discussion. Now tattooed on her rib cage, the quote continues to comfort her during difficult times.

“I love looking at that tattoo because I know that He truly does do everything for a reason. Every challenge in life is only to make you stronger,” Parus said.

A family friend inspired her other tattoo — the wheelchair on the back of her neck. Her friend frequently doodled the wheelchair, using a heart instead of a wheel, with the words “embrace,” “empower”, and “educate.” When she died of muscular dystrophy at age 18, Parus and her family were devastated.

“It was so real, because I knew that could happen to my cousin too. People with the disease typically aren’t expected to live beyond age 20 or 21.”

Parus and many of her family members got her drawing tattooed on their bodies shortly after her passing. It serves as a tribute to their friend’s life, as well as a means of educating and spreading awareness on muscular dystrophy.

“When I look at my tattoos, it brings me joy. I’m so grateful for my friend and cousin being in my life and making me aware of other people and their disabilities, as well as making me not judge people right off the bat,” Parus said. “These tattoos serve as a daily reminder of the lessons they’ve taught me throughout my life.”

CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, the quote tattooed on Julia Parus’ ribcage was misstated. The Daily Orange regrets this error.

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