|'Nipple-palooza' was a family affair.
Is this an anxiety attack or hot flash? Beads of sweat are forming on my brow and I may or may not have just tinkled in my pants. (Oh, who the hell am I kidding? I definitely wet my pants. Thanks, hysterectomy.)
Call your husband and get his input, Amy suggests. But he's down the street at the toy store, trying to keep our kids entertained. Her suggestion will involve him dragging our children back -- no small feat -- and you know they'll have their own ideas about the nipples Mommy should get. No doubt Nora would recommend getting Elmo-shaped headlights, while Fiorello would favor something pirate-themed -- perhaps some spirited Jolly Rogers.
No. Not an option. Right now, the only other member of my family present is my son's hermit crab, Pincher, who came along on our vacation and is sitting calmly in his cage on the floor of the tattoo studio. That son-of-a-bitch is of no help, so I'm on my own.
After much deliberation and some concerned looks from Amy on my indecisiveness, I manage to settle on a color selected from her vast collection of client photos. She prints out a picture of said nipples, cuts them out, and has me hold them to my chest, trying to gauge my reaction. "That's it, although maybe just a little browner," I say way more confidently than I feel.
Time to get started
I'm fairly certain I won't feel this, given the extent of my DIEP flap procedure -- aka, "the nerve slayer." Heck, you could mistake me for a Holstein and try to milk me, and all I'd feel is some pressure. However, apparently what goes on at the surface is much different than what lies beneath.
Most women don't feel the tattooing. However, I'm not one of them. "Oh yeah, I feel that," I tell Amy as she begins outlining the areolas. She asks me to rate the pain on a scale of 1 to 10, and I place mine somewhere in the area of 6. According to Amy, I'm a rarity who happens to have about 70 to 80 percent of the feeling of someone who hasn't had her boobs chopped off and rebuilt. Good job, nerves! However, it's nothing that some numbing cream can't take care of.
|Getting nipple tattoos is not as orgasmic as I make it look.
As Amy does her thing, my mind wanders to one of the choices that was easy to make: coming here for this final stage of my reconstruction. A lot of women talk about and opt for "a Vinnie," which is code for tit tats by Vinnie Myers in Maryland. The guy is unbelievably gifted at what he does. But I've seen Amy's name come up in my BRCA groups on Facebook, and for me, something just clicks. She's got a skilled hand and she's launched a nonprofit that helps women pay for post-mastectomy tattooing. I love that. Plus, her studio was recently blessed by some bad-ass Tibetan monks, so I'm feeling pretty confident going into this. It's kind of like my nipples are Dalai Lama-approved or something.
The actual tattooing doesn't take that long, and before I know it, I'm standing in front of a full-length mirror on the wall of the tattoo studio, admiring my new reddish brown nipples. They look way better than the originals, which had transformed into veiny flying saucers following pregnancy and breastfeeding. This was my one opportunity to get the nipples I had always wanted and I ran with it.
That's all, folks!
|Whoop! There it is! There's actually a lot of texture and variation
in shading, but my camera sucks so you'll have to use your imagination.
I had choices in how I wanted to go about certain aspects of treatment - whether I wanted implants or to use my own tissue to recreate the breasts. I was able to choose putting off chemo just long enough to enjoy Christmas that year. But in many ways, I never felt like I had a choice. I did what I had to do. So here I was, finally able to make a choice about the color and texture and shading of my new areolas, and I completely froze up. Guess I was wading into unfamiliar territory. However, I'm beyond thrilled with my nipple results. As I've said before, they're the cherries on top of the mammary sundae. (Bet you'll never look at ice cream the same way again.)
There's still one teensy detail I have to take care of: getting my insurance company to reimburse me the $500 I shelled out. Even though the Women's Health And Cancer Rights Act says, "Hey! Assholes! Cough up the dough for reconstruction," insurance companies still try to find ways out of it. I'll let you know how I make out. (I'm guessing I'll be using the words "Fucking mother fuckers" a lot.)
|The night before phase 2 of DIEP flap reconstruction
-- aka, nipple reconstruction and fat grafting.
At this point a wardrobe malfunction for me would mean ...
pretty much nothing. I come self-edited!
|Sweet holy hell, I look like a calico cat! The bruising is from fat grafting.
This is a few days after phase 2.
|About a week out from phase 2; the nipples were rebuilt
using the "origami technique." Eat your heart out, Martha Stewart!
|Approximately 6 months after phase 2. The one advantage of being
a pasty Irish mofo is your scars fade nicely.
|Immediately following nipple tattooing. If you stare at them long enough,
they'll start spinning and playing calliope music.
|The final product -- I love my new breasticles!
By a week out from tattooing, I was pretty much all healed.
Anyone know of a local strip club that does
an "Amateur Stripper/Mastectomy Night?"