MILWAUKEE - An Ohio man who went viral last year for getting matching tattoos with strangers came back to Milwaukee to get some more pieces of ink, all while facing the biggest health battle of his life.
"It’s always a pleasure when Don comes around," said Brandon Burks. "It’s always a party."
FOX6 News first introduced you to Don Caskey and Brandon Burks in December 2020. Burks, 27, is an independent contract tattoo artist with a passion for his career.
"He’s my brother," said Burks. "He’s more than just a friend."
Caskey is 55 years old from Toledo, Ohio. Fighting stage 4 kidney cancer, it is unknown how much time he has left.
"Doctors can’t guarantee how long I’m going to be around, but I am doing my best to be around as long as I can," said Caskey.
Caskey is making the best of his situation. His positive outlook went viral last year.
"My social media blows up every day," he said.
Hundreds of strangers across the country and virtually around the world were inspired to get matching tattoos with him. That is how Burks met Caskey.
"There’s still more great people in the world than there is bad, and he said it to me when we first met," said Burks.
After hearing his story, Burks also wanted a matching tattoo.
When FOX6 last saw Caskey, he was inching closer to 100 tattoos. Almost 6 months later, he has surpassed 300.
"Pretty much most of my legs, all my arms. I’ve got them on my hands now. Putting some on my knuckles next. My shoulders are covered. I’ve got a few on my back and a few on my chest, and I’ve got like 16 on my butt," he said.
Back in Milwaukee, he got a few more matching pieces of ink.
While his diagnosis has not improved, it also has not gotten any worse. Doctors are encouraging him to keep doing what he is doing.
"It’s the most amazing yet surreal experience I’ve ever had in my life," he said.
Someone sent Caskey a song by country artist Jay Allen called "Tattoos to Heaven."
"I sent his manager an email," said Caskey. "Next day, Jay Allen calls me up. That Friday I was down in Nashville getting tattoos with him."
He also went on stage with him. Now, Caskey is trying to pay it forward by starting a nonprofit called "Stranger Ink" to help families with funeral expenses. He says fighting terminal illnesses is costly and leaves little left for what happens next.
"Life is short and everybody knows it. They hear it all the time but take advantage of what time you got. Enjoy it," said Caskey.
For now, Caskey is persevering against all odds.
"Don’t live in a box and wait for life to take you. Take life," he said.
While there may be a lot of unknowns along this surreal journey, it’s certainly led to lasting memories.
"I’m taking them to the grave with me, and I’m on them for the rest of their lives," said Caskey.
It’s certainly led to lasting memories.
"Definitely, you’re with me forever, Don, most definitely," said Burks.