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Patient Story: My Life is a Candy Bar - Nipple Tattoo Experience

This post is from a patient, she was generous enough to share her experience after breast cancer where she underwent reconstruction surgery here and followed up with permanent areola tattoos from a prominent US tattoo artist, Vinnie Myers.

Remember that 70’s commercial jingle?

“Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t. Almond Joy got nuts, Mounds don’t”

That’s me in a nutshell, pun intended!

After three long, sometimes painful years of post-op recovery I am ALMOND JOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

For those of you that are unfamiliar, here is the commercial:

Chuck and I recently returned from Finksburg, Maryland where I got Vinnie’d. Yes, I finally got my ‘nats’, that’s nipple tattoos, for the uninitiated. This is the last box to tick (please, please, let this be true) on my checklist of post-op procedures.

The journey to Finksburg was not easy, literally or figuratively. You’ve all read about my journey to now. January, 2015, I should have been getting my nipples tattooed but instead I was having another procedure done because one of my implants was ‘sloshing’ around. I’d have to wait another 5 months to let everything settle before tattooing. The Center for Breast Restoration in New Orleans said to call them in the summer for Vinnie’s schedule. We were away, and when I called in September, he was all booked up. He only works there 3 weeks out of the year so I’d have better luck in Finksburg, Maryland. It took three tries at calling before I could secure an appointment for June 13, 2016.

We flew in on Saturday and my appointment was on Monday. This allowed us to settle in and see a little of DC. I also happen to have a client who lives in DC. She invited us to a concert she and her housemate were giving. Unfortunately we arrived rather late and could hear what would be the last song from the stoop while we listened through the mailbox. On this amazingly warm summer night, music floated through the letterbox and filled the air. I had no idea how talented she is, or how she managed to fuse classical violin music with an accordion accompaniment. It shouldn’t work, but it did.

Sunday was one of the hottest days on record, a scorching 30’ c and 100% humidity. We had breakfast at Founding Farmers, a farm to table restaurant with emphasis on fresh and local.

To orient ourselves with the city we decided to do a Hop On, Hop Off bus tour. We saw many of the famous outdoor landmarks, like the Washington Monument, White House, Capitol Building, Lincoln Memorial, etc. We saw the McDonalds former President Clinton ate at almost every day and where Ronald Reagan was shot. Our other two days in DC allowed us to sit front row on the opening night of the Tony award winning musical, Kinky Boots at The Kennedy Center and hear some jazz during their Jazz Festival. We also managed to go to the Holocaust and American History Museums and eat at some really great meals as well.

Monday, June 13, 2016: the big day is finally here. I’m anxious, excited and nervous; it’s really going to happen, no more delays. We pick up the Fiat 500L rental car aaand, we’re off! With Google map in hand, Finksburg is about 75 minutes away. Here we go; breathe, just breathe.

We arrive early, so we wait at reception. Little Vinnie’s is not your typical tattoo parlor. It’s bright and painted a sunny yellow with a pool table in the middle of the reception area. Robyn, Vinnie’s wife, greets me. I fill out the form and while I sit and wait, I read the album of Thank You cards to Vinnie. I read each and every one of the cards, and became very emotional as I read them. Would I feel the same way? Are my expectations too high now? It makes me even more anxious.

I see Vinnie before I meet him. He’s as dapper as he is in his photos; dressed in a neat shirt and tie, skinny pants and a little fedora. And what a tall drink of water! I mean look at him, he’s head and shoulders taller than me! So, why is the place called Little Vinnie’s Tattoos?

Robyn calls my name, and I’m shown into a private room. I undress and wrap myself in a paper gown. In Vinnie walks, and it’s finally happening. We talk about what I’ve been through and I’m thoroughly impressed by his knowledge of breast cancer; the different types there are, the drugs prescribed, the affects of tattooing on radiated skin.

He brings out silicone nipples and puts them on me for the placement. We talk about colour and size. He measures. I let Vinnie know I’d prefer them to be on the smaller and paler side; that it must pass the white t-shirt test. And then he’s expertly, custom mixing my colour for MY areolae and nipples! I was impressed by the level of cleanliness and hygiene with gloves and alcohol wipes.

Then the buzzing of the needle starts and it begins. I expected to feel no pain. As with most mastectomies, your nerve endings are gone; they’ve been cut off. Yet I could feel the sting of the needle just a little bit and then more and more as the pigment was infused. Zzz, zzz, with each injection of pigment I can see an areola emerging! In some ways I welcomed the pain, as that meant I could feel. As I started to feel more and more uncomfortable, the nipple began to take shape and the more elated I became. The pain meant I had breasts and not just mounds anymore. Feeling pain meant feeling - period. Something I hadn’t experienced for years.

In less than an hour, I have *perfectly coloured and shaped areolae and nipples! I had lived so long without them, it was just something I accepted as my new normal. It truly was a transformative experience: from mounds (no offense to my incredible surgeons) to complete breasts. I can’t express the elation of having Vinnie completely surpass my expectations!!! Seeing Vinnie was the last step, the cherry on top. I feel like they are really real now. Vinnie made them real for me. It’s a terrible understatement to say: I looooooooove how they look! As Seinfeld would say: They are spectacular!

I am grateful and thankful I was able to go to Finksburg and have them done with Chuck by my side to share this transformative experience.

I am ALMOND JOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank you all for allowing me to share this journey with you. I cannot begin to express the depth of my appreciation and gratitude for your constant support. If I’ve learned anything from this experience, it is to try to always live in the present, recognize and appreciate joy, however fleeting it can sometimes be.

Wishing you all love, health, and happiness.

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