**Just a warning this post will have pictures of faux nipples and will show the before and after tattooing process, so if this isn't your thing then just move along**
I went ahead with the nipple/areola tattooing and after what has seemed like forever I am done. This has been a very long process for me to get to this point.
I tossed around the idea of not having it done while I was expanding out and honestly I would not recommend anyone to make any decisions while going through that. For one, your foobs look NOTHING like they will after the reconstruction. Mine were huge, awkward, rock hard and completely miss shaped. One foob actually sat a lot higher than the other.
After my reconstruction surgery I was not sure whether I wanted to have the nipple reconstruction. I was on the fence with it, especially being nippleless for 15 months, but after some thinking I opted to go for it. Why not? Anyways, my deductible was already met and I am a visual person, so even though they would not be real and would not serve any purpose when I have children, having them done, and once they were healed did amazing things for me emotionally. Every time I looked at my foobs all I saw was scars and cancer. I also did see that I was a very strong woman for everything I went through and all of the hurdles I have overcome, but I could not help but always be reminded of all the pain that my family and myself went through.
So, once the nips were healed I thought, do I tattoo? Do I just go plain Jane? Pasties? Again, I tossed it around, and around, and around then finally decided to get it done. Now by the time I got to this part I was excited. I knew I was getting to the end of this and was excited for closure, so the appointment was made and I got it done.
It was easy, I brought my friend Denise with me, which helped because when choosing the right color, it was good to have her help in the decision making process.
From there they drew a circle for the "areola" and this is where it is different then a normal tattoo. I was numbed up, which was nice then she took a swab and covered the inside area of the circle with the color we mixed up then went to town going over the area with a tattoo gun. The left side I just felt pressure...the right not so much....it was a stinging feeling, but nothing I could not handle.
I did run into a problem with the right side and the skin tearing slightly, so we had to stop tattooing in the area that the tearing was happening in. It was not anything extreme, but definitely something the nurse said she had not seen before. Once both were done, they were dark, really dark but lightened up a ton over the time that they healed, I had triple antibiotic applied and gauze taped over with special instructions on how to care for them and scheduled a follow up appointment for two weeks later.
The next couples days were a breeze, once a day take off the gauze, and if it was stuck pour water over it to have the gauze gently fall off, clean, reapply triple antibiotic and gauze. Bam. Done.
Then I started noticing the scabbing, which is expected, and once I was fully healed they were light. VERY light. Too light for me personally, especially since tattoos lighten up over time naturally. So at my follow up my doctor and I decided to have another round of tattooing done and see where I am at after that.
Round two. Same situation. Choose color, numb me up, apply the color, tattoo the area. This time around I have absolutely no feeling during the actual tattooing. I got about a gallon of triple antibiotic and a half ton of gauze and I am on my merry way. Over the week-ish I go through the same procedure, clean, dry, apply, cover. The scabbing started and once I was healed I noticed the right side was significantly lighter than the left. (This picture truly doesn't do it justice as to the difference between the two)
Once that round of tattooing healed, I still was not happy with the results. They were faded, discolored, two different sizes and I was afraid that if they tried again that my skin would tear to a point that I couldn't have it repaired to tattooed again. Like most things in life you go to a professional for services because that is their forte. I went to a plastic surgeon for my reconstruction because that is what his expertise is in and while I am beyond please with the results of the reconstruction, they are too new into the tattooing portion of the reconstruction that I think they really do not have a grasp on things, yet. So I decided to seek out a professional, a tattoo artist.
My husband and I got this arm piece done by Brock, from Rockstar Tattoo as a sign of what we have gone through. The Three Little Birds song by Bob Marley has a significant tie to my cancer and was a song we sang many times when we were overwhelmed or stressed, so why not put that symbol on us to remind us to: "Don't worry, about a thing. Cause every little thing is gonna be alright".
We were so impressed with his professionalism that once I heard that he was working on his portfolio for nipple/areola tattoos I contacted him and made an appointment to get mine redone. I was especially excited because I still did not have that closure I was looking for with this journey and there really is not anyone in the Milwaukee/Wisconsin area that does this type of tattooing, and/or does it well. I was so excited to have him be a part of giving me back a feeling of normalcy and femininity.
I am beyond ecstatic with the results. For the very FIRST time since my bilateral mastectomy, actually since I felt the lump, I feel like a woman again. Every time I would be getting dressed I had a constant reminder of what I went through, and while most days I am proud of my scars, there are other days where I just want to feel like the pre-cancer Emily and with the tattooing I am as close to the old me as I will ever be. It is like Christmas morning every morning for me!
Thank you Brock!
There are a lot of options for women going through this process, but this is what has brought the most peace to me.
So for a little recap:
Day before reconstruction, fully expanded out:
Post reconstruction (still puffy):
Post nipple reconstruction (still healing):
Healed up after nipple reconstruction:
First round of nipple/areola tattooing:
After round two:
Once Brock worked his magic:
I also went ahead and got my port scar covered up by an amazing lady, Beata at Waukesha Tattoo Company. It was my way of celebrating my two year cancerversary!
It was not terribly noticeable to other people, but I saw it every time, so why not get something beautiful over it. She did a beautiful job on it. Love.
**I am not being reimbursed/paid for any of this, I just want to let other women/men going through this to have the easiest process they possibly can, surrounded with the best people at their trade. If I find a good thing I want to share it with the world**