分类: Tattoos - The Funny Thing About Cancer
So, it's been like a month since the trip to San Fran.

And I got busy.  So I forgot to blog.  DARN YOU WORK!  If work didn't take up so much time, I swear I'd do WAY more blogging (for reals).

Anywho, let the Girl-a-palooza recapping begin.  I have no idea how many blogs about this there will be... but I have a feeling it'll be at least 3.  Maybe more.

So where to begin.  The obvious place is at the very beginning.  And for a girl, that means SHOPPING!

What?  You thought it would be the plane ride or something?  Every trip for any girl usually means shopping.  Shopping for clothes, or a book, or snacks. 

Or is that just me?  It's like my ritual before embarking on a long trip... I must go buy something.

I did buy a cute outfit or two.  But the thing I needed more than anything was a....

wait for it...



What?  That's not what you were expecting?  You were thinking I was going to say something frivilous didn't you?  Like a puzzle book for the plane or something... which I might've gotten too.

But this is very serious business.

For the uninitiated, when you have your lymph nodes removed, you are at risk of developing lymphedema.  I could get into a long explanation of what lymphedema is... but that would make this post a novel.  So to put it simply, lymphedema is generalized swelling in an area of your body that does not naturally go away because you have few to no lymph nodes to drain the fluid. 

One of the things that can trigger lymphedema is flying.  You know when you fly and your hands feel kind of swollen or you just generally feel bloated?  I always assumed I was imagining that... or maybe that it was the salt on the peanuts they give you that just caused my hands to feel fat.  The "good news"?  It's wasn't my imagination, it's actually part of your body's reaction to the changing levels of pressure.

So, being at risk for lymphedema, I have to wear a compression sleeve on the affected area (my right arm).  The fear being that the arm will swell and with no lymph nodes, my body would not be able to naturally drain the swelling.  And then I'd have a chronic case of lymphedema... which is NOT on my Christmas list.

Thus, one of my first purchases was a compression sleeve.  This is kind of like a nylon that you put on your arm that gives constant pressure to your arm and does not allow it to swell.

Sounds sexy, eh?  Pantyhose on your arm... what could be sexier than that? 

If you can't picture this in your head, here is a photo:
I know, HOT!  But seriously... what does one wear with a compression sleeve?  Do you flaunt it?  Or do you try to hide it?

I know... right now you're thinking "Well it doesn't look bad with HER outfit."  But I'm SO not wearing a sports bra and spandex to the airport.  Granted, it might make security easier... 

And yes, I know the nude isn't that bad.  And I'm sure you're asking, why not just wear a long sleeved shirt over it?

Well the answer to that question is twofold. 

1. Bending your arm in a compression sleeve is not terribly comfortable.  If you have it bent for long periods of time (as I learned on the flight) it can get very uncomfortable.  It kind of cuts off bloodflow a little bit at your elbow.  So the last thing I want to do is add more fabric to the crook of my elbow to magnify that effect.

2.  In addition to the compression sleeve, I have to wear a gauntlet.  Which a sleeve wouldn't cover.

What's a gauntlet?  I'm glad you asked!
Sexy, right?

These are the things that cancer survivors have to think about.  What outfit can I wear that will coordinate with my compression sleeve and gauntlet?  Jealous?  I thought so.

Well... in typical Cynthia fashion, I decided I did NOT want to go the route of blah and bland.  If I'm gonna have to wear a compression sleeve, I'm going to be LOUD AND PROUD about it... or at least do something where I feel like any stares are well deserved.

So I got myself a sleeve that looked like tattoos.  Actually I got THREE sleeves that look like tattoos.  Because they were having a sale of buy two get one free on patterned sleeves.  And because I'm supposed to wear a sleeve when lifting weights... so I figured I'd need more than one.

Behold the beauty of the compression sleeves:
All pictures are from Lymphedivas.com
OK... so that's not me modelling them...

But when I wear them, they actually look quite a bit like tattoos.  Which is kind of entertaining.

On the way to San Fran, I wore the very first one (that is all dragons and lotus flowers and is really meant to look like a tat) and got several compliments on my awesome tattoos.  I also got some old ladies looking at me like I was cah-razy!  Which I kind of am, but I'm OK with that.

So moral of the story, if you have any lymph nodes removed (even just 1 or 2) go get yourself a compression sleeve before flying.  I have a good friend that had only 2 nodes removed and she ended up with lymphedema after a flight.  It doesn't happen often, but better to be safe than sorry!

Plus... it can really complete your outfit!
OK, I know this seems an odd follow on blog to my last one.  And probably filled with more humor than you would expect... but much of this humor comes from the weeks immediately after my diagnosis.  

But as time is of the essence, I need to post this and ask for your help.

There is this amazing woman that is hoping to get a Pepsi Refresh grant for $25K for her charitable cause called The Pink Ink Project.

I've gotten to know this woman somewhat through the message boards at the Young Survivors Coalition and she is amazing.  She is a tattoo artist who feels as though her calling is to help cancer survivors get tattoos as part of their breast reconstruction.

I'm sure right now you're thinking "whaaaat?  tattoos?"

Well, if a patient needs/chooses to get a mastectomy as part of her treatment, the surgery typically involves removal of the nipples.  They do this as the nipples tend to be a "hotbed" of cancer activity and removal of the nipples greatly reduces recurrance rates. 

Basically, what women are left with after surgery is a large piece of flesh that is in the shape of a breast.  It fills out clothing nicely, but doesn't quite look  like a breast. 

It's missing that finishing touch, the nipple.

When I realized this would probably be what I would elect to do, in part because of my family history, my mother in law pointed out to me that some women choose to get things other than nipples tattooed on their breasts.  Tattoos of things that are meaningful to them, like pink ribbons, butterflies, dragonflies, or whatever.

Well... I immediately felt the need to express this to my husband.  I came up with a TON of great ideas of things I could get tattoo'd on instead of nipples.  Here is how that conversation went:

Me: How about eyes?  Would that freak you out?  Would you feel as though my breasts were staring at you?
Husband: How about nipples?
Me:  OOH!  How about spiders?  That could look cool, right?  Or paw prints?
Husband:  How about nipples?
Me:  Or I could get Blue and Magenta (Caleb's favorite cartoon characters)!  Then everyone could be entertained!
Husband: How about nipples?
Me:  You have no imagination.

OK, so I was just torturing him. 

I fully intend to attempt to return my breasts to their normal shape, size and look, including nipple tattoos.

But unfortunately, this type of tattooing isn't always covered by insurance.

Which is where the Pink Ink Project comes into play.  Renee is a tattoo artist in Florida whose dream is to provide cancer survivors with that "finishing touch" on their breast reconstruction, nipple tattoos.

She is applying for a $25K Pepsi Refresh grant in hopes to not only cover the cost of the tattoos, but also so that she can help assist cancer patients all over the country by either flying to them, or having them fly to see her for their tattoos.  She also is working on setting up a network of like-minded tattoo artists around the country to help fill this need.

In summary, I think this is a great woman with a beautiful heart who wants to help cancer survivors finish their incredible journey and get back to feeling like women again.  Please go vote for her and this cause:


You can vote daily.  I promise I won't repost this every day to remind you, but she needs as many votes as she can get as she has to be top 10 to get the grant.

As always, thank you for your support.