Monday, October 5, 2015


I still have the photographs. You know, the photographs taken in the plastic surgeon’s office during that pre-surgical appointment. They are still in the same folder where they were placed nine years ago. There’s no need to look at them.

And I still remember my dismay over what I would be doing even though I knew then, and know today, medically, for me and my circumstances, I made the right choice.

I recall being told, "Women change their breasts all the time. What's the big deal?" This was well-intentioned, said to make me less fearful. Instead, I was irritated and annoyed, thinking to myself, "You can't seriously be comparing cancer surgery to breast augmentation???" Instead, I glared and I vividly remember saying just two words, "REALLY? Nipples." 

Not only is the image of my pre-mastectomy body seared into my brain, I feel as though I had an out of body experience on the morning of September 19, 2006. As I shared in my blog post on my "mastectoversary" I can see myself peering inside the shower. Watching my tears mixing with the water that was washing over my body, one final time before it would be forever altered, is somewhat surreal. The memory is vivid. 

I don’t recall looking at surgical photos in the days and weeks leading up to my surgery. I was so consumed with making the best medical decisions, the last thing on my mind was the cosmetic outcome. Now that I know better, the outcome, at the end of the day, has had a tremendous impact on the next chapter but while I was still in treatment, living with tissue expanders for over six months was challenging.

Oh how I despised those expanders. I hated the way they felt and I hated they way they looked. I deliberately avoided mirrors until I had was covered with some form of clothing. This is a pattern that would continue for well over a year. Long after my out of body experience when I still had the parts that I was born with, not ones that would be skillful recreated by the hands of a world class surgeon, I avoided looking down or glancing at a reflection in the mirror.

It could have been easier. It should have been easier. It would have been easier and one of those milestone hurdles I could have jumped a lot quicker. It’s all about the finished product and when the choice to reconstruct is made, the finished product includes the nipple. Technically, the areola.

Ruth Swissa is a professional permanent makeup artist and skin care specialist. The key word in that sentence is artist. Before turning to permanent makeup, Ruth studied many different art forms. She’s quite accomplished and her work speaks for itself.

Ruth transforms people and in doing so, transforms lives. Recently, she developed temporary areola tattoos. Like the kids running around the carnivals with tattoos that are applied using water, Ruth launched her line of temporary areola tattoos which are applied in much the same way. Not only do they come in four different shades, they are available in three different sizes.  Sensible, right? Size matters and we’re all different.

It’s a non-invasive option for those who are finished with all of the reconstructive surgery and may just be done with the whole thing. It’s an option for those who, like me, have tissue expanders in place for an extended period of time.

I saw my plastic surgeon for my annual follow up a few months ago. “Ick” was the technical term he used when he saw how faded the areola tattoos had become.  Yes, I’m well aware of the “ick” factor. I’m back to avoiding looking down and glancing past mirrors while I’m getting dressed.

However, I got over the “ick” factor when I purchased Ruth’s temporary tattoos. I had no idea what to expect. Clueless, I applied the temporary tattoos, admittedly with a bit of skepticism, and when I peeled the backing off, I could not believe my eyes. This was precisely what I needed. They lasted at least two weeks (I know it was longer but I can’t recall how much longer). It may be a good idea to order another pair since the “ick” factor is back in play. It’s time for real tattoos again but that’s a cold weather procedure. Maybe I should think about a trip to LA where Ruth’s offices are located??

For now, I’m ordering another pair. And the really great thing about that? My purchase will begin a chain reaction of good things. Ruth donates a kit for each one sold. I’m happy knowing another woman will benefit from my purchase. Ruth is just being Ruth, giving back. And some unsuspecting woman may find herself holding her head slightly higher, confidence elevated because sometimes, it’s the littlest thing that can make a world of difference.

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