Friday, March 16, 2012

The Tattoo Diaries (3.16.2012)

5:48 am: I didn't sleep well last night. Not sure why. Maybe it was the 2-hour nap after I came home. Just a little more tired this week. Sitting here in my fuzzy pink bathrobe and realizing that I've been waiting for this day for a long time. No one would believe -- unless you've been through it, that is -- that getting diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2010 means that you are still dealing with the shrapnel in March of 2012. At least for me, that's not any kind of awareness I ever had. Granted, I thought that two weeks after chemo I'd be ready to get back to my life in full. But its taken a little longer than that. And it still surprises me that I even talk about it, or at least write about it. I've decided that writing about it and acknowledging it are like a form of exorcism for me. And maybe that makes sense since it not only follows me wherever I go, but will never go away. Like the tattoo I am getting this morning, having breast cancer feels like another kind of indelible mark that never quite leaves you. But the fact that I am healthy, able to write about it and able to see Sam smile whenever I am lucky enough to be in the same room with him, makes me feel lucky on every count.

So this morning, I have a 7 am appointment to complete the final stage of my reconstruction. The pink icing on the cake, as it were. Because at 7 am, I am having a medical tattoo done on my new breast. (Or is it my old breast?) Whatever it is, it's still me and it still feels like the completion of a journey. It's the journey to feel like both a "girl" and a woman again. In a very healthy way, it's like cancer camouflage, allowing me to look in the mirror and feel whole, complete, maybe even sexy on my good days.

This will be my second tattoo. My first tattoo is on my right ankle. I got it on my 49th birthday at St. Sabrina's Parlour in Purgatory in Minneapolis. I did it for a whole host of reasons. I was newly divorced, and wanted to spread my wings with shenanigans suitably appropriate for a free woman. Most importantly, I wanted to celebrate my purely amateur career as a triathlete which was a passion for several summers. Irongirl it says in small script, above a blue and green hibiscus flower. I have never regretted getting it, which is part of the joy of getting a tattoo when you are old. Since most of my work career has been spent being more of a suit than a creative-type, it's always been humorous to me that people were shocked when they saw it. It didn't seem to fit with the heels and pearls. But maybe dubbing myself Irongirl was a more prescient statement than I could ever have imagined given my journey since then.

Back to the present. Time to throw on my jeans and see what the future brings.

9:07 am: I am back from the doctor's office after gaining some new color in my life and running a few errands. It only took about 30 minutes. The worst part was the injection of the Xylocaine -- not an area of my body I really want someone poking syringes into. The tattoo part wasn't bad at all. I've known the nurse (Kim) who did the procedure for almost two years. Right before the procedure started, Kim began looking for something in the cabinet mumbling something about wanting to make a marking of the general area and outline it. I said, "If you pull a quarter out of there it's gonna freak me out." Luckily she didn't. It was more of a small cookie-cutter shaped circle the size of a pfefferneuse cookie.

From there, it was pretty simple. The tattoo tool looked like a mini version of an orbital sander with six tiny needles. With colors, of course, custom-color matched to my other you-know-what. Kim gave me a chance to take a look midway and I was really astonished by the result. I mean, I should know, right?

Luckily for you, that's all I will say. And also lucky for you, I will not be posting photos. If I am lucky enough to meet the man of my dreams in the near future, that will be the only tattoo tour I will be giving. But suffice to say, it was good. It's all good. And God-willing I'm done. I'm really done.


  1. It sounds like you have been through a lot, and that reconstructive battle scar sounds as if it would be painful. Prayers for you. Ouch!


  2. Thanks for reading, Kathy. Now that I'm all put back together it's just nice to be able to move forward...little bit at a time. (And yes: a little ouch!)

  3. You are strong to a) do ironman and b) to be able to write through this all. I hope you're feeling sexy very soon. :)