Breast Cancer at 41 – The Bells and Whistles
Finally after a year and a half, the long road of my breast cancer reconstruction is finally complete. What you must realize, I have been extremely lucky. Unlike others, I have not had any infections. I have not had any complications. My surgeries and my recovery have gone to plan – knock on wood.
- April 2013 Lump found through self-exam
- June 21, 2013 Mammogram & ultrasound
- July 2, 2013 Ultrasound guided biopsy
- July 8, 2013 Breast cancer diagnosis
- July 30, 2013 Bi-lateral mastectomy with reconstruction (tissue expanders)
- July 2013 – January 2014 chemotherapy and gradual expansion of skin w/saline
- February 25, 2014 – Complete hysterectomy with breast reconstruction (permanent implants)
- August 1, 2014 Nipple reconstruction
- January 22, 2015 Areola tattoos
Nipple and areola reconstruction are the last stages of breast reconstruction and must be done after the implant reconstruction has healed. Although these procedures are purely cosmetic I thought them to be necessary to help give my breast a more natural look and to somewhat hide the mastectomy scars (ha, ha, ha – it’s pretty hard to hide scars that cut each breast in half).
I had my nipple reconstruction on August 1, 2014, five months after my implant reconstruction. It was an outpatient procedure where my skin was formed into a nipple shape and stitches were used to secure the form of the nipple. The recovery was easy and my only limitations were 3 weeks off from running and swimming.
Although my plastic surgeon had suggested me going to a tattoo artist to have my areola tattoos done, I couldn’t wrap my head around THAT experience and chose to schedule my appointment with my plastic surgeon in his office – heck I had met my insurance deductible January 2nd why would I go elsewhere? However, when the appointment finally came and the nurse told me the tattoo machine wasn’t working, I decided to change my plans.
Months earlier this story on Little Vinnie’s Tattoo shop in Maryland had been sent to me:
I decided to call Little Vinnie’s Tattoo Shop to schedule an appointment. Paul Bessette answered the shop’s phone, my questions and soon I had an appointment to go to Finksburg.
On Thursday, January 22nd I walked into Little Vinnie’s Tattoo shop. I was promptly greeted, filled out the necessary paperwork and soon it was time to get inked. Paul accessed the situation, used plastic nipples for placement and size, and Sharpied the outlines. After a quick artistic consultation with Vinnie, we were on our way.
Paul mixed the ink and we decided on colors. Then it was time to begin. Because my breasts were removed and replaced with implants, I didn’t feel the needle UNTIL he worked on specific areas – and the pain was NOT felt in the area being inked. And really the pain was nothing.
I cannot say enough positive things about my experience. Every single person I encountered at the shop was professional. Heck, they’ve seen it all. They were respectful and I know they felt they were actually making a difference in women’s lives. After my reconstruction, I felt like a nipple less freak. I didn’t feel sexy. I didn’t feel like myself. I felt incomplete naked. Having my nipples reconstructed was my first step to me feeling back to normal, but having my nipple tattoos was the icing on the cake.
As we began Paul said to me, “…I want you to look in the mirror and smile.”
When I was watching him work in the mirror and I saw the almost complete tattoo, my demeanor changed. I smiled. I leaned back into the chair and I got back my swagger.
And now when I look in the mirror at my naked reconstructed body, I smile. I smile through tears of joy.