My custom tattoo sketch

I got a tattoo!! Why? I’ve always considered getting one but it never seemed to be the right time or occasion. Now was the time and my 25th Cancerversary was definitely the occasion.

How did I choose my artist (because he is certainly an artist)? I’d seen his beautiful work on IG and he’s the son of my friend Travestine. Slim was an easy decision. I sent him photos of my idea and he adapted the above image for my celebration. It’s beautiful and an accurate representation of what I wanted.

My tattoo was the kick-off for anther celebratory weekend. I’d already gone North, now it was time to head South and West. Slim explained everything he was going to do and I felt completely comfortable and confident. He cleaned my arm, shaved it, then cleaned it again. I knew not to use oils or lotions on it so I tried to be as prepared as possible. 

Slim transferred the template to my arm and got to work. He looked like a surgeon, gloved up, and ready to go. He told me there would be discomfort, but I know everyone’s pain level is different. I think mine is pretty high consider the number of surgeries, radiation, and chemo I’ve had. It was uncomfortable, not unbearable. 

We chatted about jazz (Brubeck vs. Desmond) and agreed Donny Hathaway’s genius ended tragically too soon. We talked about our travels and I told him he had to try Melanin Cafe in Opelika, where I’d just had the most amazing made-on-demand chai!

Outline of my tattoo

We laughed about our kids and lavished praise on his wonderful mom and my great friend. And suddenly he was done, telling me it was time to look in the mirror. And there it was, a culmination of my request and his artistic genius: my custom tattoo!! 

I have had to endure countless cuts, pricks, bruises, and all-out war on my body in my fight against cancer. I didn’t have a say in their sizes or their locations. I used to refer to myself as “the bride of Frankenstein” because I’ve been stitched together in so many ways all across my body. This tattoo was MINE: my idea, my decision, my desire, MY CHOICE. It’s a small thing to remind my body she belongs to ME and I get to decorate, imprint, and adorn her however I’d like to. 

Completed tattoo!

Is a tattoo on your celebration list? Here are a few things to know:

  1. Check with your doctor for approval if you have any health conditions that make getting a tattoo unwise.
  2. Chose your design, the size, and consider where you want it placed.
  3. Arrive on time and with clean, non-moisturized skin, you skin will be cleaned and prepped by your artist.
  4. Relax during your tattoo and remain still. What does it feel like? Like tiny needles drilling into my skin.
  5. Be patient, tattoos take the time they take.
  6. Follow the after care instructions including using anti-bacterial soap and a non-fragrant moisturizer as often as you’re supposed to. 
  7. There may be some discomfort afterwards and over-the-counter meds should take care of that.
  8. Try not to sleep or place too much pressure on your new tattoo. 
  9. Once your tattoo has healed, take care of it! Protect it from the sun with sunblock
  10. Should you get a tattoo on your mastectomy arm? That’s a question that should be discussed with you and your medical team. We survivors are cautioned not to get cuffs or sticks in that arm but I’m 25 years out and only have a bit of lymphedema in the summer. I decided to tattoo my left arm because my right arm is a weak from overuse. It was the right decision for me.

Reach out to Slim here if you like his work and want to hire him. Would I get another tattoo? Yes, a full-chest mastectomy tattoo. I have an idea of what it should look like but need to let it percolate more before I consult with Slim.

Thank you Slim for your artistry, patience, and tenderness with me. See you again soon!!!

I LOVE my tattoo!