It is finished. The reconstruction is done. My breast cancer journey is over.

Scratch that. I’m not sure it’ll ever really be over. As long as I have to deal with tingling toes and hot flashes and my hair thinning out as a result of my anti-cancer medication, the reminder of this ordeal will be in the back of my mind.

That’s not such a bad thing. I’ve come to appreciate those negative side-effects because they produce a positive side-effect: they remind me that I’m awfully lucky to be here.

Before I get all mushy talking about how grateful I am to be able to hear little Ben’s six-year-old thoughts on the world or sit proudly in the stands watching Saul coach his team to a win, let me get to the point.

Tattoos aren’t so bad!

My friend, Ann (the photographer), and I made a road trip yesterday to the Tattoo Lodge in Marion, Ohio where we met up with an artist named Kelly Jordan. It was a two and a half hour drive each way and Ann had to remind me about 20 times to 1) quit picking at my fingers (it’s an anxiety thing I do) and 2) stop speeding (it’s a driving thing I do).

Ann is a special soul. She has a way of knowing that you’re bothered before you even know you’re bothered. She is gentle and kind and plays with my hair. Seriously, she is precious.

But yesterday, she was funny.

Between quizzing Kelly about home renovations and his tattoo history, she suggested he make my breasts “look like sisters, not twins.” Um… huh? What does that even mean?! Anyway, we laughed a lot until I made Ann promise not to make me laugh anymore. She astutely commented, “I promise. I don’t want you to have jagged nipples.”

The Tattoo Lodge is beautiful. Outside, it looks like a house. Inside it looks like a house. The walls are deep navy with white trim and there is a fireplace and a stereo that was playing a soundtrack to my college days. There were fun signs on the walls saying things like, “Service may vary according to your attitude and my mood.”

I have taken my shirt off in front of strangers so many times in the past 20 months that it doesn’t even phase me anymore. I felt safe and warm and confident in Kelly’s ability, so it struck me as odd when I laid down in the tattoo chair and tears began escaping out of the corners of my eyes.

I wasn’t particularly sad about anything and the tattoo didn’t hurt a bit. I couldn’t feel a thing. I just think it struck me. Thousands of women have gone before me. Thousands of women will come after me. My heart hurts for them. For those who don’t have a friend to make them laugh and take them shopping and go to lunch on the day they get their areola tattoo. Or the women who don’t get the chance to get a tattoo because the cancer is more than their bodies can handle.

So I cried just a little for each of them. And then I looked at Ann peeking from behind her camera and I thought, “This is a pretty great way to spend a day.”