Tuesday, October 28, 2008

here goes nothing

So, today was my consultation appointment for tattoo removal. I was actually pretty excited about it, believe it or not.

The Consultation

First I met with a nurse, who went through my medical history with me. She asked me a bunch of interesting questions, including my ethnic origin. Apparently, the "ideal" candidates are fair: less pigment = less chance for skin discoloration from the laser. She also asked about the tattoo itself: the age of the tattoo, whether it was done by a professional or amateur, etc. The nurse then measured my tattoo and and did some calucalations to determine the cost of my treatment.

The Damage

The cost of treatment depends on two main factors: tattoo size (price is determined by number of laser pulses used to treat the area); and, whether the tattoo was done by an amateur or professional (professional tats are harder to remove because they tend go deeper under the skin and the ink used is high grade.) Dang! Too bad mine's not a prison tat, or I'd be off the hook in about 2 sessions!

The nurse estimated that the treatment of my tattoo will involve 16-18 pulses and will take 5-8 sessions, which will cost me a cool $2400 when everything is said and done. Ouch! I don't know which hurts more - the thought of being zapped by a laser hundreds of times or the blow to my pocketbook!

Here's the part where I do my PSA about tattoos: PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE think twice (hell, think three times) before you get a tattoo. It really IS permanent, and if you want to remove it, it's going to be a hell of a lot more painful and expensive then getting one in the first place! Let my experience serve as a cautionary tale.

The doctor came in after the initial consultation to talk to me a bit about the treatment and to take a look at my tattoo. She said that I was a good candidate because of my fair skin and the fact that my tattoo (being 10 years old) has already begun to fade on its own. The good news: she estimated that I'd only need 3-5 sessions! Woot! That's at least a little more palatable. Also working in my favour is that I have to wait a little longer between treatments because of the location of my tattoo, so I have more time to save my pennies in between treatments! The doctor explained that the further the tattoo is away from your heart, the longer it takes your body (via the lymph system) to carry away the ink particles broken up by the laser. So, instead of waiting 8 weeks between sessions, it'll be more like 10 weeks for me. Meh. Fine by me.

Next Steps

I suppose I could have taken some time to think about about it, but since there aren't really any other viable options, I've decided to bite the bullet. My first treatment is next Tuesday. Eeeek!

The whole appointment only takes a half hour, but I've got a few instructions to follow in preparation for it. I have to avoid tanning before and after the treatment (that should be difficult - anyone who knows me knows what a sun worshipper I am. Ha!) Tanned and even freckled skin "distracts" the laser and can result in hyper/hypo-pigmentation of the skin.

I also have to pick up some topical numbing cream (EMLA) to put on the area before the procedure. Apparently, the pain is similar to being splattered by hot bacon grease - sounds like a good time! I'll likely end up with a blister and peeling after the procedure while it heals and I have to be careful to keep area out of the sun to avoid hyper/hypo-pigmentation of the skin - again, this shouldn't be too hard since we're now entering six months of eternal gloom.

The last part of my appointment today was to have my tattoo photographed. They even have a professional photographer on site specifically for this purpose. I had my first "before" shoot today - thank God I shaved! I will be sure to ask to have copies of the pics so that I can post them for for all to see.

I'm excited. And nervous. But mostly excited. I know it'll be worth it.

P.S. Donations are now being accepted to the Whatsherface Tattoo Removal Fund. I'll need every penny I can get my hands on!

Monday, October 27, 2008

biting the bullet

I have a tattoo on my left ankle that looks very similar to the picture above. For those not in the know, it's the symbol for "infinity" and the Asshat and I got matching tattoos when we got engaged to symbolize our love. Feel free to stop right here and take a moment to puke. I did!

I've been wanting to do something about my tattoo for a while. At first, I thought about changing it into something else - many suggested adding two eyes and making it into glasses. Um, no. I considered turning it into a butter- or dragonfly, but seeing as I already have one of those "beauties" on my back (Ah, the things we do at the spur of the moment when seventeen and drunk on New Years Eve), I didn't want to add to my insect collection.

I've also considered laser removal (I have a hard time writing the word "laser" without saying it like Dr. Evil in my head and picturing air quotes. Tee hee.) I've never looked into it any more than casually until last week. I'm not sure what lit the fire under my butt, but (Ha! I said "butt" twice!) it was like an epiphany and I just KNEW it was the right thing to do. So, I did a little research and it turns out that there are two places in town that offer this service. One seemed like more of an esthetics/spa- type place, so I opted for the medical/doctor-supervised option.

This decision is not about erasing my past. It's more about reclaiming what's mine (in this case, my ankle. Ha!) But seriously - it's about MY life. Mine. I've been doing this slowly, but surely, piece by piece, over the last five years and I think this is just about the last thing that's keeping me from full closure and peace of mind. And, to me, that's worth every penny and every ounce of pain.

There are also some practical reasons for doing this: the truth is that I'm not 18 anymore, and while I still really like the idea of tattoos (and fully intend to get another one some day), I've recently started a new job at a management level and the reality is that these adornments can often be looked at negatively by "old schoolers". (Incidently, this is also the reason I've put to bed my desire to get my nose pierced.) When it comes to personal body adornments, I want to have the option to conceal them when necessary and appropriate, and with this one, it's just not possible.

I know it'll probably hurt like hell and it's definitely going to cost me several times more than getting the tattoo in the first place, but it's worth it to me.

My consultation is tomorrow. I'll keep you posted with updates (and pics!) as I go through this process.