Once again breast cancer is giving me the opportunity to experience something I never really knew I needed to experience. This time, I’m researching tattoo parlors.

Are they even called “parlors” anymore? I have clearly watched too many movies, because when I think of a place that does tattoos, I think of a dimly lit, smoke filled back room and a large man with a beard. Not exactly a setting that invites you to take your top off and bare your breast. Well, maybe in my younger days… Kidding! I’m only kidding! Sort of.

Anywho, two weeks ago, my doctor put on my new nipple and yesterday he proclaimed it alive! There is always a chance that the skin won’t survive the surgery and they have to do it again. That’s actually what happened with my mastectomy, so I was very relieved that my skin cooperated this time.

In two weeks I’ll be cleared to jog, in four weeks I’ll be cleared to sprint and in eight weeks I can schedule my first tattoo!

The process of reconstructing a breast comes in four parts: 1. Slowly filling the tissue expander pouch to stretch the skin 2. Surgery to swap out the pouch for an implant 3. A mini surgery to create a nipple and 4. Tattooing of the areola.

A person certainly doesn’t need to do any or all of these steps, but I wanted to complete the process for the book. My friend, Ann Fredricks, continues to take amazing photos of each step of the breast cancer journey that we eventually hope to share as a resource with women all over the world.

Tattooing is kind of a big deal to me, because it’s pretty permanent. It’s on my breast, so not a ton of people will see it (except for everyone who reads the book). If I’m going to have it done, I want to know that I’m not someone’s first try. It would be nice to know they have done an areola or two in the past. That is basically what I told my doctor when I asked him for references.

It turns out I’m not the only woman who feels this way! The clinic actually has a list of people who do this sort of tattoo. I do have the option of getting it done right at the clinic, but I’ve been told to go to a place with the best ink and the best equipment, so that’s what I’m looking for.

You guys should see this list. I’m sure these are all wonderful, kind, professional human beings, but I cracked up when I read, “Vinnie in Baltimore, Kelly a guy at the Tattoo Lodge, or Monkey who lives in Dayton.” I swear I am not making this stuff up! I do have some other options, but their names aren’t nearly as fun.

Saul and I laid in bed last night talking about tattoos. I told him I wanted to get the words “I AM” in teeny tiny letters next to the areola. I never should have said anything, because the conversation digressed quickly.

Saul: “I am” as in “I am nipple”? Huh…

Me: No!!! “I AM” as in GOD! Like “I AM the Alpha and the Omega…”

(I looked it up this morning and it’s from Revelation 1:8. The exact scripture is “I am the Alpha and the Omega–the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come–the Almighty One.” That would be a lot of words on one breast, so I thought I’d stick with just “I AM.”)

From there, Saul gave me lots of helpful ideas of his own. Most of them had to do with playing off the fact that my new nipple looks like the knob of a radio dial. It is amazing the amount of things we have found to laugh about due to cancer.

I used to think when people had cancer that I had to be somber when I talked to them. That no joy, no humor and no laughter were allowed. I see it differently now. There is a time to weep and a time to laugh and cancer does not get to dictate when we choose to do either one or where we go to get our first tattoo.