wide-eyed at 4am

To the Final Progression

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It’s all a progression and I’ve finally taken the last step in it.

I remember back in the early days of the journey when I was checking in at my plastic surgeon’s office…a lady about my age was checking in too. I heard her say that she was here to get her tattoo. My initial thought was that it would be forever until I reached that point.

But here I am. I can’t say that it seems like just yesterday because there has been lots of mileage since then. However, surgeries, treatments, procedures and therapies keep you so busy that the time has seemed to go by more quickly that I thought it would when I was first diagnosed.

I’ve been looking forward to this because it’s interesting and it’s an unknown world for me. I’ve no previous experience with tattoos – and particularly not medical tattoos.

I think I was actually a little nervous going into this procedure. I haven’t been “nervous” about anything in a while – probably since my initial radiation appointments.

I didn’t know what the appointment would include, how long it would take, how long the recovery would be and what the results would look like.

What I learned about the process is:

That it includes matching shape and color to the other nipple, prepping the skin with lidocaine and epinephrine before actually applying the tattoo.

The process takes 2 hours.

Cover and treatment with Aquaphor must continue for 7-10 days.

The jury is still out on this one but I’m beginning to see the similarities in the existing and tattooed nipples.

My amazing experience with CMC Cosmetic and Plastics continues. They’ve truly made this finishing touch very positive and esteem rebuilding for a patient who has likely been through the ringer.

Here’s a little background. This tells you a little about how “all about the patient” this group is.

Initially CMC Cosmetics provided a nipple tattoo in a stamp process. Apparently, the results were less than desired by the patients and the services providers. CMC Cosmetics sought out a new process. They found a medical tattoo artist in Asheville and referred patients to her. But that wasn’t the best option since it required patients to drive to Asheville for this final finishing touch. And these folks wanted that experience to happen in their offices. (I would feel this way too since I’m a little control freaky.) So they brought the Asheville medical tattoo artist in to train a couple of Pas who had volunteered to acquire this skill. Training with her fo 2 weeks, the Pas learned everything they needed to know about size/shape, color decisions and techniques for mixing inks and applying the tattoo on healthy, radiation treated and scarred skin.

Now CMC Cosmetics offers this service in-office, using their PAs who put their training to work to get great tattoo results. They use the same type tattoo gun, ink brands and colors as their Asheville resource. I was not charged additional fees for this service,

Back to my experience:

My PA-tattoo artist spent several minutes discussing the procedure and how we would go about it. The main concern is that you achieve appearance that you’re pleased with and can be comfortable with.

Then the shape determination began. They had silicon examples in various sizes. We “tried those on” until we found the one that matched “me” the best. We saw that my reduction scar had actually drawn my existing nipple (actually it’s the areola) down into an oval more than a circle. So my “artist” determined that she would follow the basic size of one particular example and then extend the bottom to match up the two sides.

She then drew the outline of my new areola shape with a pen (pretty much a flesh-toned sharpie).

Next was color. I had already examined the choices (which were quite a few) and thought I had an idea of what she would use.

She painted test patches next to my existing nipple so many times that we practically created a daisy. But after mixes pinkish tones and sandy neutral tones, we found 2 that would match my existing colors pretty dang closely.

Next was numbing. Just as when I prepped my port for chemo, she applied the prep gel to the area when her “work area” and then covered it with plastic wrap. I had to wait at least 20 minutes for numbing to take place. I’m not really sure that this was necessary since I don’t have feeling in my skin there, but their experience is that sometimes people do feel this – and there is an agent that reduces bleeding – so they apply the gel every time.

Next comes the tattoo. The main thing I felt was vibration of the gun and her quickly applying the needle. I had never thought about how much force it takes to do this. They have to penetrate the skin. My best comparison is when you get a shot in your arm that is applied straight into your skin – not intravenously. They have to sort of “dart” it in. That’s what she had to do thousands of times to create the solid color of the areola and then to tattoo my nipple color onto the newly created skin flapped that my surgeon created during my November surgery.

I noticed that the only discomfort I had was over on the side almost under my arm where my drain scar is. She noted that you almost always have a “sweet spot” where a nerve will connect to a place where there is feeling. Apparently there is one of those from my nipple area to that drain scar. It was so uncomfortable that post-process, I couldn’t take in a deep breath without pain. That sensation was gone the next morning.

Stiffness and tightness did extend through my breast area around my implant, under my arm and into my shoulder. Day3 and I’m still not quite over that. I think (because of my lymph node situation) that anytime things get disturbed in this area, I will have this sensation. It just takes recovery time and massage to get through it.

So on Day 3, I’m still doing the nonstick gauze and Aquaphor and I’m on the lookout for scabbing – which I cannot touch. Picking at scabbing can pull the color pigment from my newly tattooed skin.

What is cool, is that I can go back to CMC Cosmetics in a few weeks, a few months, a year, a few years to get touch-ups as needed (at no charge).

I have a follow-up with my plastic surgeon in May at which time my PA/artist wants to come in and check my tattoo. She noted that – if she sees a need to tweak me at that point – we will schedule a touch-up.

I think this is totally cool. I felt very cared for. It’s above and beyond to me that they provide this in such a thoughtful and compassionate way.

But then – everything they’ve done has been this way. In fact, every experience that I’ve had in this journey has been that way – from initial examinations, diagnoses and plans to all surgeries, hospital stays, treatments, therapies and consultations. It has been amazing. It has helped me and Dennis get through the part of this journey we’ve survived so far.

I’m anxious to see my post-scabbing/healing nipple/areola tattoo results – about 7 or so more days to go.

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Author: jillpurdy

A few months ago I wasn't but now I'm a statistic. That doesn't define me. I'm a daughter, a sister, a wife, a step mom, a grandmother, a friend and a Christian. I will continue to love exercise, music, cooking and food, and my family and friends. I'm stubborn, energetic, giving and too OCD for my own good sometimes. And I'm going to stay this way - despite cancer and the treatments that it takes to give it the royal beatdown.

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