Please read Enter the Dragon PART ONE first!
From the first day I heard my dragon tattoo calling to me I have felt different about my body. I look in the mirror and feel stronger, sexier, and more ME already. But in order to get us together, I have some huge steps to undergo.
Imagine if you will the following phone conversation I made to Dustin, my new tattoo god:
“Hello, my name is Robyn. I am a breast cancer survivor with a mastectomy and I want to tattoo my chest.” (deep breaths)
“Okay, do you have a nipple?” (gulp!)
“As long as you are healed it shouldn’t be a problem”
No it shouldn’t be a problem…but it IS. Even admitting I don’t have a nipple makes me want to throw up. I am going to have to take my shirt off to show Dustin my chest to even start the process and then spend hours shirtless while it is getting done! The whole idea makes me sick. And excited.
Into Project Tattoo Studio I go — ALONE. Nice, above average tattoo place empty except the three artists hanging out – young, dressed in black and off course heavily pierced and tattooed. As I explain to Dustin (my distantly related cousin) that I have a unique tattoo situation, he interrupts me: “How do you catch a unique rabbit?” I reply gleefully “ You NEEK up on it!” This happens to be one of the very few jokes I can remember! The fact that this heavily tattooed, young, pierced guy I am about to bear my chest to randomly knows and tells me this joke feels like a sign from God. I know here is no question that I am on the right path with the right guy.
And then comes the moment.
“Let’s see where we are putting this”. Taking a deep breath, off comes my shirt. In the middle of the shop. Facing the windows and the door. I whisper that no one has seen my chest up close except my boyfriend. Dustin smiles as he keeps drawing – his is head full of making my dragon come to life and he dosn’t see what I am lacking. I am shaking as I leave, so excited and nervous about what I have just done and what I am about to do. I still have to wait two weeks to see the design he comes up with and I need time to sit with the magnitude of what is happening to me.
Dustin finally calls and sent me photo of “HER” on my phone. I have been dreaming about him drawing – her coming through his hand onto the paper. I don’t really know what she looks like, I am trusting the artist to come up with his own version of my idea. I trust this process but I am scared that I won’t like what he has drawn. She is so strong….I don’t want it to be a biker tattoo….I am scared and I ask everyone I know what they think.
Neil and I go in the next evening to see the drawing. Neil is out of his element to say the least. I am far more comfortable in this realm, but when Dustin pulls the drawing out I think I am going to pass out. My face is so hot….
She is BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!! He has only drawn her head and she is bigger than I imagined – but she IS going on my whole torso. She will be my whole right side….my side of power starting in the curve of my pelvic bone and going up to my armpit. Dustin wants to freehand tattoo her on my body in order to match my own contours and incorporate my scars into the design. What a leap of faith that is to have someone draw on you without knowing FOR SURE what it will look like! Breathing, I say yes to the process and make my appointment for 3 days later. We are planning 4-5 hours in the chair the first day to do all the lines and maybe 2 more sessions afterwards for color after the line-work heals.
In the car later, I ask Neil what he thinks and he mentions that no one will see her if she starts below my waistband. I smile – it isn’t necessarily for anyone else to see , I say – this is for me. Whatever anyone can see should only want to make them see more….which is exactly what I want – and not just about my tattoo. I am so much more than this body. So much more than the tattoo that is coming to life in me.
As the days pass there are big changes in me. When I look in the mirror I don’t see my scar anymore and I don’t try to cover up all the time. And I make the decision to go to grad school to pursue a creative writing degree. Being a writer is something I always dreamed about but never thought possible but somehow all the excuses for not doing it are gone. Transformation is in the air and even Neil begins to make plans to pursue some long put off dreams. Could all this be connected to the tattoo? I have always said that when you change one thing in yourself everything has to change accordingly because we are so connected. Maybe deciding to act instead of to continue to mourn has shaken this little snow-globe of life. I wonder how everything will land….
Finally it is time. I can’t sit still, I can’t eat, I am a mess. Neil is going to be there to get it started and them my mom is coming to sit with me. I take a Xanex as I am getting out of the car to settle my nerves because I am shaking. Dustin sets up and says OK…and off comes my shirt. Neil smiles at me and then we are off and running.
It is incredibly vulnerable to be shirtless for the world to see right by the front door, and I am completely exposed as Dustin draws the rest of the design on my chest with sharpie. As the needles start, the other tattoo artists start telling jokes and I get the giggles until Dustin yells at all of us. When the needles hit tender areas and then move up my rib cage there is no joking around as I breathe deeply to absorb and release the pain. This hurts FAR worse than my other tattoo’s and often takes my full concentration. Mom takes pictures and I am reminded of being in labor with my kids.
I am changing…I feel like instead of something being drawn on my skin, something is being drawn out of it.
Three hours later my pain level has peaked just as Dustin is finishing up. I nervously stand up and look in the mirror and am in awe. There are no scars, no discolorations, no sign that anything ever happened to me. And She is amazing! There are gaps in the design that will be filled in with shading and color as the weeks go by, but she is truly amazing.
With tears in my eyes I tell Dustin thank you – he has no idea what he has given me back. As I leave the other tattoo artists ask respectfully if they can see the work Dustin has done, and I am proud to show them. For the first time in 2 1/2 years I am not ashamed of my body. I can look at myself and see strength and beauty instead of loss and regret. I have so much ahead of me and nothing is holding me in the past.