I never knew nipples were such a big deal. Actually, it’s not the nipple, it’s the areola that’s causing all the problems.

When I stand in front of the mirror, I notice two things:

1) The tattoo I had on my reconstructed side has faded and lost pigmentation in some spots. The tattoo artist told me this could happen and offered to let me come back in for a “touch up.” He is 2.5 hours away from my house. I’m no longer interested in driving long distances to make my breasts look good, so I figured I’d just live with it.

2) The areola that was reattached after my native breast was lifted is a little misshapen and has a distinct circle of scar tissue outlining it. Again, I could go back for more surgery, but that seems awfully compulsive of me.

Neither of these things are a big deal. I don’t stand around looking at myself naked and fret about them. But when the opportunity arises to do something, I take it.

Have you ever had one of those times when a word or phrase or message randomly popped up again and again over a short period of time? That happened to me with Ellie.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, so it seems a little strange that now of all times people keep asking me if I know a nurse named Ellie.

It turns out Ellie is a cosmetic and paramedical tattoo specialist. She does permanent makeup on lips and eyebrows, but she is especially passionate about women who have gone through breast cancer.

She works about 10 minutes from my home, so I thought I’d call her.

“Hi Ellie! You don’t know me, but I keep hearing your name. You do areola tattoos, right? I’m a survivor. I’ve had a tattoo but it needs a touch up. Also, I’m writing a book about reconstruction so I’d sort of need to bring along my photographer who will document the whole thing. Do you mind?”

Ellie was in!

I sent her a photo of my right breast (the one that was lifted) so she would know the size and color when she worked on creating a match on the left side.

She messaged me back immediately and gently said, “You know, I could do a little work on that breast too. Maybe soften the scar lines and even out the shape?”

And that was how I ended up getting a tattoo on both of my breasts.

Ellie spent four hours mixing colors, measuring sizes, and tattooing my breasts while Ann took photos and I tried not to flinch. I couldn’t feel anything on my mastectomy side, but I definitely had sensation on the other side, even with the numbing gel. There were maybe 5 or 10 minutes where I thought I might go through the roof, but looking back, it wasn’t terrible. I did go home however and eat ice cream for dinner. Being brave for 4 whole hours is exhausting.

Now some of you reading this might be thinking, “Why would Nicole go and desecrate her body like that? It’s not Biblical.” How do I know you’re thinking that? Because some of you have said that to me. I understand your concerns, but please, please hear my heart on this…

Cancer isn’t Biblical. It doesn’t play by the rules. It doesn’t follow God’s plan. It comes in and tries to kill us and then turns around and runs away, leaving a wake of physical and emotional scars. Some of those I can’t fix, but some of them I can. When I look in the mirror now and see something that resembles the “me” before cancer, a small part of the emotional damage is healed.

I don’t know if God cares if we get tattoos or not. I have no idea.

But I do know if Jesus were here today, he probably would have driven me to that appointment. Because regardless of whether or not we manage to follow all the “rules,” he is always by our side.