P.Ink Day

Women Finding Beauty in Tragedy: p-ink.org

So, after talking to a tattoo artist, it seems that the design I wanted for nipple tattoos is a bit too intricate for the size I want. I’ve gone back to the drawing board and created something simpler. I haven’t had them done yet, because I haven’t had the money yet. However, a friend shared the above article with me today, and I’m intrigued enough to have emailed p-ink.org to see whether they might have any events happening close enough that I could get to one. In any case, it’s a very cool thing to do, and I wish them much success!

Tattoo or Not Tattoo, Continued

celtic knot for tattoocircle_2inches

The research continues into what is available and what has been done in the area of alternative nipple tattoos. This site (http://www.whitetigertattoo.com/medical/other.html) is one that does excellent work, and is providing me a bit of inspiration. Sadly, they are not in my area. I hope to talk to some more local artists and see if any of them have any expertise in this area.

I did design something that I rather like (see pictures above), just in case I decide to do alternative tattoos, but I’m not sure if it’s too bright. I’ve never had any sort of tattoos, so anything (other than just darkening the “areola” area will be different from what I’m used to. Of course, all of this depends on getting the doctor’s blessing (and the money)…

Tattoo or Not Tattoo? That is the Question…

I have an appointment on the 20th with my plastic surgeon, to discuss having nipple tattoos, among other things. It’s been 3 months since my last visit to him, and at the last one I told him I’d want to see photos of his work to help me make my decision. Most of the redness from the last surgery is gone, and my “nipples” are closer to the same color as the rest of my skin. Eight months after the original surgery, I’ve almost forgotten what my breasts originally looked like. I know the new ones are smaller and perkier (in that they ride higher on my chest than the old ones). They’re still pretty well numb, except for some phantom feelings. At least I assume it’s phantom feeling. They’ll feel itchy, but when I go to scratch, it feels like I’m scratching someone else’s body. The right one, texturally, feels pretty much like a “real” breast, but the left one, the side from which I had so many lymph nodes removed, is still very edemic, hard and swollen and…thick, for lack of a better word. I know from looking at photos of other cancer survivors that I am exceedingly lucky to have such a great surgeon. My breasts look way better than most of the photos I’ve seen, even some who had implants. But, I can’t decide what to do about the nipples.

I had a bit of a notion to have tattoos done, but not the ones from the surgeon–from a tattoo parlor. Celtic knots, or hearts, or something. I’m not certain I’m really That Girl, though. I think part of my indecision is from loneliness. I just ended a “friendship” with an old friend who seemed to want to be more than friends, but all of a sudden decided that his alcoholic, coke-using, abusive ex-girlfriend was a better choice than me. I had all sorts of imaginings going on about him; one being that he might help me decide what to do about the tattoos.

Anyway, here I am, trying to suss this thing out. I’m probably stressing over it a bit more than I should, but those things are FOREVER, dammit. Anybody else going through, or been through, the same dilemma? I’d love to hear your thoughts…

Under the Red Dress

Under the Red Dress

NOTE: NUDE IMAGES. This article speaks to me, especially, because I’ve had some of the same procedures as Beth. Fortunately, even though I’m on Medicaid, I have one of the best reconstructive surgeons in Kentucky and my scars are not quite as bad as this. But they are there. And they are there for more women than you might think.

I can haz nipples!

So, once again, it’s been too long since I’ve written here. I really should do it more often. Yesterday, I had my second surgery, mostly nipple reconstruction, but with other things thrown in. Dr. Rinker also ‘revised’ my belly scar, to make it more pretty. I had had one spot sort of pop open during the healing from the first surgery, and it made for about an inch of bigger, less pretty scarring. He also trimmed off the ‘dog ears’ at either end of the belly scar so that the little bumps there will be gone. As part of that, which I didn’t know was gonna happen until he started the sharpie art on my torso, was BONUS LIPO on both hips. Now my butt and hips look like I’ve been beaten. I bruise more easily than most people, I think, but the bruises generally heal faster, too. Sleeping on my side, my favorite position, has been a bit tender, but nothing I and the drugs can’t handle.

And the nipples. I can’t wait for the bandages to come off so I can see what they’re gonna look like. I go in Monday for a followup, which seems soon, but I’m cool with that. At least maybe I won’t have to wear the surgical bra until it stinks, like last time. I did take a peek at my breasts, even though I can’t actually take the bra off. The bandages are the weirdest I’ve ever seen. It actually looks like they’ve sewn the bandage to the nipple area. It kinda freaked me out at first because I thought at first glance that that WAS my nipple, and it was huge! I guess that’s all to keep everything in the proper shape while they heal.

I had also asked Dr. Rinker, since he was ‘under the hood’, if he could lipo my left breast a bit to make it the same size as the right. The right is just the right size, but the left was ‘running over’ in my bras. I think he actually might have done a bit of lipo on both sides, since I’m sore under both armpits. All these questions will be answered Monday, I guess.

Once again, my church family and friends have come through for me. My pastor and his wife were my drivers, staying in tag-team fashion during the surgery. Poor Trudi got the ‘full monty’, as she was there while Dr. Rinker did his pre-op artwork. She was a real trooper, though, and took it all with her usual humor. It’s a real friend who will offer to take a nekkid picture of you and post it on the Internet for you. (She didn’t, actually. Just offered.)

Oh, while he was at it, Dr. Rinker also did a ‘lift’, yet another thing I’ve wanted for some time. When he was explaining that part to me, I told him not to go crazy with that, because at 53, there’s only so much lift that people will believe anyway. I actually got a “that’s funny” out of him at that. 🙂

I’m restricted from driving for the next week, which puts a bit of a cramp in my job search, but it’s just in time for an ice storm anyway, so I suppose it all evens out. Also, I can do freelance from the couch, so maybe I’ll get some of that to carry me through. I got a big jewelry commission, for Christmas gifts, so that will fill my days (well, a couple of them) as well.

Doctor, Doctor, gimme the news…

On Tuesday, I had an appointment to meet with the surgeon about my breast surgery. What I thought was gonna happen was that I would sit down in an office, much like Dr. Wilson’s in House, and that the doctor, my parents, and I would discuss when surgery would happen and what sort of surgery would be needed. You know, about a half hour in the meeting, then on with my day. But no.

What actually happened was that we got to the CBCC and I signed in, at which point they told me that I was scheduled for another ultrasound session. Apparently, more sites lit up on the MRI I had last week, and the surgeon wanted another look before talking to me about surgery. So, I went back, donned the fashionable gown, and waited to be called back for the ultrasound.

My tech this time was Sheila, a lovely woman with corkscrew hair and a light yet professional attitude. The ultrasound took about an hour (or maybe it just seemed that way), and then I was ushered into an exam room while a nurse went to get my mom to be with me for the consult.

First, though, Amber, a nurse with attitude and sense of humor like mine came in and took my history. Again. Never mind that I’ve given my medical history several times since this whole thing started, we must do it again. Then a resident came in and looked over my history and made sure nothing was left out. Then the surgeon came in to give us the news: due to the additional sites found in the MRI, the best option for me is a bilateral mastectomy, with immediate reconstruction. I was given options for how reconstruction would be done, and the surgeon (Dr. Heather Wright–seems good luck to have a surgeon named Dr. Wright) left to call the plastic surgeon to have his look at me. In the meantime, they sent in a genetic counselor to see about me having the BRCA test. I agreed to the test, even though it seems unlikely that a gene is involved. (NO ONE in our family has had breast cancer before–I’m a trailblazer…) The reason I agreed is that the same genes that, when mutated, increase risk of breast cancer, also increase risk of ovarian cancer. If it should come back with a mutation, they will talk to me about having my ovaries removed. I’m pretty well done with them, so that won’t be much of a hardship for me, but I’d like to know one way or another. Also, I have a niece for whom the information might be useful.

After they drew the two vials of blood for the test, the genetic counselor left, and I waited for the plastic surgeon. At this point, we had been in the clinic for close to four hours, and I knew my dad would be getting antsy. I arranged for someone to come pick me up, and sent my parents home (they live about an hour’s drive away). The plastic surgeon, Dr. Rinker I think his name is, is a nice fellow, gentle yet professional. We talked about the options for reconstruction, implants vs. TRAM flap.  (EDIT: I have since confirmed that it will be a free TRAM flap, which is much less scary-looking than the pedicled TRAM flap.)

After hearing the pros and cons of both procedures, I have decided on the TRAM flap. It is a more natural procedure, and more natural result, and I will leave the hospital with fully reconstructed breasts. It does mean a longer hospital stay (a week instead of one night), but there are fewer follow up visits than with the chest expanders and implants. The only question was, would I have enough excess abdominal tissue to create an adequate reconstruction? I undressed enough for the plastic surgeon to have a look at my abdomen. It is oddly reassuring, and a bit surreal, to have a doctor pinch your belly fat and proclaim, “I think you definitely have enough here for a nice pair of C cups…” I knew I was growing that for a reason…

In all, I was there from about 8:30 am until about 3:30 pm. Seven hours. By the time I left I was hungry (thanks, Andee, for stopping at the drive-thru on the way home), I was tired, but I was strangely energized. Now I have answers. I have a plan. Surgery is set for two weeks from now, so now the game plan is to get all my ducks in a row (get my sh*t together, if you prefer). Housework, outstanding artworks with deadlines, all need to be buttoned up NOW.