Once upon a time I decided to get a tattoo. I knew where it would be and I knew what it would look like. A fairy angel with a magic wand. She would flitter above where my left breast use to be and out of her wand would be dashes of golden angel dust. The sparkling bits would be full of blessings and they would be singing thanks to that most treasured part of me that sacrificed so much so I would live.
I am talking about breast cancer, loss of a body part but this is not a sad story. Fact is I can have fun at any time of most any day, two boobs or not. Like the time shortly after surgery when I walked into my kitchen during a birthday party for Jesus on Christmas Eve.
Two brother-in-laws looked at me with sad, serious and quizzical faces. They were not registering that I had a prosthesis, only that a month earlier I had surgery and one was removed. As I walked out of the kitchen I turned back towards them and I said, “Didn’t you know they grow back?” I left them to clean up the mess when they spit out their beer in laughter. It seemed a good sign that I could be funny and casual over this. It wasn’t so funny when I went in for my tattoo.
Another fact is I have never gotten use to having just one breast when I dress in the morning. I have never said that out loud before; nor have I even admitted it to myself. Eighteen years later the pain lingers. Not in the scar but in what else is not there, my badge of honor. I wanted so much to have it. If I couldn’t have two breasts I could at least fancy it up with a tattoo.
When I walked into the tattoo shop that day I thought it would be an easy deal. I was nervous but I knew what it would feel like because a doctor had placed tattoos on me so the radiologist could nuke me from a distance. I thought I was carefree about my physical change and I had a sense of humor about it. But I was ignorant too. I didn’t expect the reaction; I was not prepared for the tattoo artist to flinch at the idea of no breast on my chest. With heart broken and my self-esteem shaken I left without the angel and I left with a new scar called shame.
The name of that tattoo has sat on my chest all these years.
Now and seriously, can we ever stop being surprised at how the universe works? Another blessed long weekend in Maine, sitting at the ocean, health, happiness and fun in the sound of the waves. Suddenly, like it came right out of the blue water, it is all those years ago again. I was sitting in an Adirondack chair in Maine but I was really back at the tattoo shop of the past and I did not like it. I say very little and instead sit quietly with my thoughts… Same old story but I can live with it. I will. That is what I do.
It is going to be different this time. I don’t believe that yet but the ‘hope’ thing starts to grow.
Turns out there are two real live angels with me! One surprises me first with her decision then her determination and excitement to get a tattoo and the other surprises me with her telling my story. We have so many angels in our lives. Thanks to two of them in my life I have my badge of honor, I have my tattoo and she is of course an angel!
Wait; there is more to this personal story. Getting this tattoo done still was not easy. Not for me. I so wanted this tattoo and as we had our day of shopping in Freeport, laughing and sharing the tattoo began its life. No one would ever see it unless I showed them. No one would even know unless I told them. Yet it has only been a few days and I keep forgetting it is there. That is because it was never about the tattoo.
It was about asking for what I want and how angels come to us in so many ways.
Sitting at the beach with the beautiful Atlantic, the birds and nice weather I was once again dying on the inside. I could see the battle being waged in my head while my heart stood back waiting to see how much this would hurt. Seriously, don’t laugh here. The battle was over should I say yes, I want that tattoo, let’s go or let it go. Don’t dare take the risk! I was not afraid of getting the tattoo. I was terrified of being turned away again.
If I say yes, if I ask these two angels to come with me, let’s do it and for any reason it does not happen, again I will be hurt. Devastated and pissed. That scar on my chest healed quickly so many years ago but just like we all do I was making a new wound that would need to heal, AGAIN!
It wasn’t a surgeon with a knife this time, just me. I was terrified of not getting what I asked for because I wanted it so much. I sat there with this story bouncing back and forth like my head was a tennis court. Then I did it. I let the words come out like the line judge who gets to call the shots. First I quietly said “you don’t know what it is like to not have two breasts, it is not easy.” An angel nodded. She didn’t know but she did feel for me. And she loved me.
I had to make a decision. That I knew. Then I realized if I didn’t take this risk at this moment that this wound, the new scar across my chest that went straight into my heart would remain open and unhealed. If I chose to take the risk and it went badly it would eventually heal. This is me; at least I knew I wasn’t going to allow myself to have an open wound forever. Then there was the possibility that it was going to really happen. I don’t gamble but I am all about possibilities!
But wait there is more. Just like in those infomercials.
While the artist was doing his work I noticed the photo on the wall. It was a woman and she was important to this story, she had to be; her picture was otherwise out of place on the walls filled with tattoo parlor art. I watched her while the tattooing began.
Then I asked the artist while he worked on me about how was it that he not only had no problem doing this but also has done so many. The day before my sister-angel told him my story and in a quiet way he told her he does tattoos on women with breast cancer all the time. Without changing his breathe he told me about the woman who worked there and had died of breast cancer. He motioned towards the picture on the wall. An angel. He didn’t say much more just “three years ago.”
This man drawing the angel on my chest is quiet. He has a story but all I am going to get is that he has beautiful teeth, lots of hair and a slight accent that might be Canadian. And maybe he is an angel. I looked back and forth from his face to hers. I wondered if she was his mother.
Now I am wondering what this is really all about. It comes after wondering how to end this. Maybe that is the point of this Personal One. It doesn’t end. We don’t end. We are all angels. Fancy Plain or otherwise, do you know what your Angel work is?