AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A tattoo from nearly 10 years ago might have saved an Austintown man’s life. The art is also a tribute to his youngest daughter and a way to raise autism awareness.
Austintown Township Park Supervisor Todd Shaffer has 16 tattoos. But the one he got nine years ago on his right leg is extra special. It is an autism ribbon for his youngest daughter, Kasey, who was diagnosed with the disorder at 18 months old.
“There was one spot that wasn’t healed. A couple weeks after that, the spot started to grow rapidly,” said Shaffer.
A biopsy discovered squamous cell carcinoma (skin cancer) at the site of the tattoo.
“They had to cut the leg open quite a bit to ensure that they got all the cancer that was in there. That way, it did not spread,” said Shaffer.
Tattoo artist Jeremy Caughey said Shaffer’s tattoo acted as a catalyst for the tumor to be discovered.
“They said if he never would have gotten the tattoo that tumor would have never come to the surface, and basically anything could happen,” said Caughey. “It is a pretty crazy story.”
Caughey remembers doing Shaffer’s tattoo at Artistic Dermagraphics in Boardman. Tracy Beule just happened to be there Friday getting her first tattoo; an autism ribbon in honor of her son, Jake.
“People are going to see it, and they are going to question and I can educate them a little bit,” said Beule.
Ink runs deep with Todd Shaffer’s family. His older daughter, Kendall, just got her first tattoo as well; a heart with Kasey’s name in her own handwriting.
“I knew my first one I really wanted it to be something with autism,” said Kendall Shaffer.
Beule and the Shaffers are all walking, breathing billboards for autism awareness. Not just for the month of April but the rest of their lives.