It was supposed to be a grand day, a day which put an exclamation point on the recovery. We were still inside one year since the double mastectomy, which made the moment even more amazing. It was going to be special. But sometimes things aren’t meant to be… at least not yet.
Coup De”Ta-Ta”? Not Even Close.
Written Mar 19, 2013 9:25pm
When my girls were very little one of their favorite bedtime stories was a book by Nigel McMullen called, It’s Too Soon, about a young rabbit who keeps complaining that it’s too early to go to sleep. Today Little Vinnie wrote the adult sequel, and turned out the lights.
I’ll make a long story short, so you don’t fall asleep. Picture this: Debbie back in the “surgical” room at Little Vinnie’s Tattoo Shop, her top off, covering herself only by holding a paper gown up to her chest. Vinnie had already written down all her breast cancer information and left the room, while Deb undressed. It was just me, Debbie, some heightened anticipation, and a little anxiety for what was to come next.
Vinnie came back through the curtain, sat down, rolled his chair closer to Deb and she lowered the paper gown. He said her scars looked “fresh”, then he reached for some cleansing wash and started to rub her breasts, I assumed to wash them off before getting started.
I was wrong.
He suddenly stopped rubbing. “It’s too soon”, he said. “I can’t do this, it wouldn’t be right.” Vinnie said the scars on Deb’s breasts from her most recent revision back in December were still healing, he couldn’t place a nipple areola or tattoo there, because it would only have to be fixed again later. If he did it now, the scars would heal more and create a white line right through the artwork — and it would not look good. That was all Deb really needed to hear, I could see it in her face, and in her eyes, it was already too much at that point, but Vinnie kept going. He was drawing on Debbie’s breasts now and showing her where he would have created the nipple tattoo and why he was concerned. But Debbie wasn’t really listening, I could tell she was already done, she just wanted to leave. It wasn’t happening today. No how. No way.
“Disappointed” is what Debbie said a few minutes later, as she slowly got dressed. I knew, and I could see, that it went deeper than that… for both of us. Today was supposed to be another milestone, another marker along the journey and one that represented a real mental and emotional signature, a chance fpr Debbie to look and feel “whole” again. But it was not to be, not yet. It was a slap in the face. But after getting punched in the stomach about a year ago last April, when we first learned of the diagnosis, a slap is not quite as bad.
Still, imagine running a marathon, and with just a few feet to go before you reach the finish line, somebody jumps you from behind and pulls you to the ground, holding you down. You can still see the finish line, almost touch it, but the person holding you back is not allowing you to budge an inch. You’re stuck. And then you’re told you can cross over, but not today, it’s going to be quite some time, you’ll have to wait. The new record time you had hoped to get is long gone… and now it will only be in time, much later in time, when you will get to finish the race.
That’s where we are. We’re now looking at September 4th, 2013 as the new target. Vinnie said six months would be a good measure of time to get everything healed to the point he would want to move forward. I credit Little Vinnie for stepping up big, and pulling back. He told us some others might have done it, but it wasn’t going to be him. He is doing us a huge favor and doing the right thing, but it still stings. Physically, outwardly, no one can tell a thing. It’s not like if Debbie got the nipple tattoos she was going to run around pulling her top off and showing the world. It’s not what this is about, never was. It’s about the mental and emotional resurrection and some rebirth for what the cancer killed off. Deb has been in a funk all day and I can’t blame her.
A disclaimer. Because there is more to the story and it bears sharing. We know we’re “lucky” in terms of survival from breast cancer. It could be much, much, much, much worse. We hear the stories and we have lived them – losing Deb’s dad, Jerry, a little more than three years ago. It took only six months from diagnosis of cancer, to surgery, to complications, to death. And all through her own ordeal, Deb has barely shed a tear. Because she knows “life” is the ultimate prize. Still, like Deb said tonight, once in a while she knows it might not be right, but she can have her own pity party. She’s only human.
So here’s the silver lining, the takeway from what was taken away today. Vinnie told us both this… Debbie is an incredible story. She represents less than 1% of the people he sees. For her to go from diagnosis, to surgery, to being cancer-free, to implants, to revision to be standing here in his studio — in less than one year, is phenomenal. He might not have been able to give her a tattoo, or two, today, but she has been given much more, a story of survival that is the envy of so many others. Vinnie told us the woman who had the appointment just before ours, was 37-years-old and has had 13 surgeries on one breast. . It’s hard to imagine.
It certainly puts it in perspective, for which Debbie and I have no shortage of these days. But, when you live it, sometimes there are those moments, when even though you know you’re fortunate, you yearn for just a little bit more, a payback for the sacrifice. Maybe someone to throw their arm around you and say, “ya know what, it’s ok, you did it and so here’s a small gift for doing such a great job and for being so strong.”
Yes, today was to be much more than just a tattoo. But we didn’t leave empty handed, or empty hearted. We left with another moment in time that only brings us closer, a moment we will look back on one day and remember how it made us stronger, and made us realize just how lucky we are.
Little does my wife realize, or maybe she does, that I already have a tattoo. It’s sits deep inside me, stamped on the confines of my heart.
The tattoo has a name. It’s Debbie.
Thanks for caring,