Thursday, March 12, 2015

My Eyebrow Tattoos

Cancer takes so much . . .

My plastic surgeon who surgically placed the artificial breasts I now bear once said to me when I was stage 0, “I am glad you didn’t have to go through chemotherapy because women look so much older afterwards." Looking back, I think he should have refrained from saying that to me since there was no guarantee I would not have to have chemo one day. Now I know what he meant, unfortunately, about "looking older".

That was 10 years ago. I have had frequent visits from the chemotherapy drug Taxotere since that time. Although I am now 50, I do believe my treatments have made me look older than I would have if I had not had those visits.

Taxotere took my hair. After that treatment ended, my scalp hair returned. For reasons I am not sure of--except for possibly the chemo induced menopause--my eyebrows and eyelashes have been slow to return. As you can see from the picture below my eyebrow and eyelash hair are best described as nonexistent. It has been like this for almost two years.

One of my posts from a few weeks ago told the story of an offer made to me by an extremely nice woman. This woman is the owner of a hair removal business that also specializes in skin care and cosmetic tattooing.

Yesterday, I decided to take the plunge and let her do her magic.

I did it! I got a tattoo.

Well, not exactly.

Eyebrow tattoos, at least the kind I have, are not like body tattoos. The ink is plant-based. Many of the colors used in body tattoos have metals in the ink. Before I received my new brows I would wonder why each MRI technician always asked if I had any tattoos. Now I understand the reason for the question. MRI machines use magnets, so tattoos with metal in the ink don't mix well with those machines. The result, although rare, can be swelling or burning to the tattooed area. The images created can be unclear as well.

Body tattoos have another difference. They are done with a needle(s). Eyebrow tattoos are done with—well, something else.

When the session first began I cringed each time the tattooing instrument went across my skin despite the use of a numbing cream.

I asked, “What are you using--a razor?”

She said, “Yes.”

In which I responded, “It sure feels like a razor.”

I had no idea how the inking was done until she started the procedure. I didn’t ask because I assumed it would be with a needle. Instead, a razor cut very thin lines into my skin while ink filled the slits. Each individually inked-cut-line gives the illusion of hair.

The picture you are about to see is the beginning stages of my new face. These brows will heal and fade a little. It is my job to keep the area moist so the skin pushes out as little of the ink as possible. In 30 days, I will go in to have the final product perfected.

This is a lot better than the way it was done not too long ago. Eyebrow tattoos were done by filling in a desired shape with color. The new technique is a tremendous improvement.  

One interesting bit of trivia that I didn’t know I would ever use was used yesterday. I had learned that the left side of a person’s face is more animated than the right. For me, this is indeed fact. It is very hard to get eyebrows to be symmetrical when one eyebrow doesn’t cooperate. If I talked or smiled my left eyebrow would move into a new position. It was especially noticeable when I arrived home, looked in the mirror and tried to adjust to my new look.

Oh symmetry, my symmetry . . . where are you?

I do like having eyebrows again. My right one is my favorite. Can you tell that none of those lines are real hair? I hope that the lines can be tweaked so the left one looks more like the right one.

If my brows look shinny it is due to the Vaseline that must be applied and reapplied for 7 to 10 days so the area does not dry out. Once the skin is healed I will be able to get rid of the shine.

For any of you looking to have this procedure done, I encourage you. Mine are not exactly what I pictured beforehand, but overall it is close.

Now, what can I do about my eyelashes?  

I was told that the pain varies from person to person. For me, the pain caused me to grasp my hands tightly and scrunch up my toes. As time moved along, the pain lessened some but not completely. At least I wasn’t brought to tears.

** It has almost been a year since I had my eyebrows done. Unfortunately they have faded. Will I do it again? No. It didn't last long enough for me to spend the time it takes to have them done and to feel the that painful razor blade again. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Blogger's Goodbye Post

On March 1st, I checked my RSS feed to see if other bloggers that I follow had posted anything new. There I found a post from Lisa Boncheck Adams at  She was sending out an update concerning her recent health concerns. I read the words she wrote, “Things have gotten exponentially harder in last few weeks.” At that moment, I knew it was bad, really bad. A hot sensation grew from my chest and moved upward ending with a tingling in my sinuses. I struggled to see through my tears to read the rest of her post.

She had written in a post a few weeks earlier that fluid caused by the cancer in her liver was causing her abdomen to swell. She reported in this new post that the swelling was still an issue and had become more difficult to manage. To make draining the fluid easier, she explained, a catheter had been surgically inserted so she could drain the fluid herself at home.

She was suffering. I was suffering with her. Each day after the March 1st post I would check for new posts and news from her on Twitter. For days there was nothing, complete silence. I found myself feeling depressed. At times, I would start crying over something I had thought. I felt sadness for her, this person that I had followed since the beginning of my hell, but I felt sadness for me more. She confirmed my reality indirectly with her words that I too will follow in her footsteps.

At the end of her post she stated, “Still cannot walk—no change predicted in short order . . . For now that is all I have energy to update but should give you a sense of where things are. xo Lisa.”

Though I didn’t want to think it, somehow I knew her March 1st post would be the last words written by her on her blog. I wonder if she knew.

Since I began my blog in August of 2013, four (4) bloggers I followed have died--Lisa was one of them. Each had a unique personality and wrote what their personal experience with cancer was like. As life with cancer for them became more difficult, I expected a final post with words that told me they knew the end was near. I thought their last words would say “goodbye”. None of them did at least in the way I expected.

Jeanne Sather, The Assertive Cancer Patient, was the first blogger I followed to die. Her website has disappeared which is disappointing. I am thankful that I could read her words in the beginning days of my diagnosis because her years of living with metastatic Her 2 neu positive breast cancer gave me hope. I was surprised the day I found out she died because I didn’t realize how difficult her days had become. From her short posts, I knew she was moving into hospice but otherwise she seemed ok. I suppose I was a bit na├»ve at the time and should have known the end was near when she wrote about the final visit with her oncologist. The cancer had moved to her brain and there were no other treatment options. She wrote she was having trouble with accessing the internet in the hospice facility she had moved into. The last and only word she typed on her final blog post was “test”. The next post was an announcement of her death posted by her son. That was it.

As prolific a writer as she was, it was sad to me that “test” was her last word and her last post--a woman who planned her funeral and wrote her own obituary. How could “test” be her last word?

Jay Lake, at was a blogger/writer I discovered while looking at the blogs Ann Silberman of  followed. His cancer was colon, not breast. In April of 2014, I read Jay’s last post. He said, “I continue to be miserable.  . . . There’s a bunch of medical stuff going on, as usual. Don’t know where it leads, as usual. Will report more when there is more to report. For now, bleh.”

In May his caregiver and family member started posting about his condition during his enrollment and treatment in a clinical trial. Nothing was going well. He was having trouble sleeping and eating. Her last post said, “I think it is this right now that is breaking my heart the most, how this most social and gregarious man has been drained to the point where a simple conversation is exhausting."

His last post gave no indication that it would be his final post written by him. He may have had no idea he would deteriorate so quickly. He died on June 1, 2014.

I followed Terri, at, because she was a Her 2 neu positive breast cancer patient like me. Before November of 2015, I did not get the sense she was near the end. But on November 15th, it was clear she was very sick. Still, I didn’t realize how sick. Her cancer had spread to her sternum, ribs, clavicle, pelvis, vertebra, spine, neck, around her gallbladder, and around her intestines. Fluid had accumulated around her left lung as well. The cancer in her hip weakened that area so much that she broke her hip as she tried to exit a taxi cab. But, as far as I knew, her cancer was not compromising the function of her vital organs like the lung and liver. That would have made it clear to me her time alive was short.

In her last post she said, “. . . death didn’t feel so far away.” Was she saying goodbye, or was she simply feeling incredibly bad physically? I will never know.

On December 1st I read the words “. . . moving closer to dying”. Those words were no longer typed by Terri but were typed by a caring family member. Obviously, things were worse than I thought. Terri had moved into a hospice facility at this point. She told the typist that she would describe oncoming death, “. . . as a feeling like she imagines dementia might feel. Tell them it isn’t scary,” she said. I sensed that Terri was hallucinating. I was told by the words I read that she was experiencing, “Lots of images, people, dreams and a sort of veil of uncertainty between reality and something other.” She was also experiencing visits from people no longer alive.

Were her last two posts “goodbye” posts? She spoke of oncoming death, but was she saying “goodbye” to her readers?

Each one of these people I did not know personally, but each expressed through their words many of the emotions I am feeling and have felt. Their final posts made me wonder--what will I write in the end? Will I be too sick to care? Will I know my time is near? Will I wait until it is too late and can no longer open my eyes or ask someone to type my words? Will any of it even matter? Maybe I will have a final post prepared months before my unwelcome end. Yet, maybe I won’t.

I did not follow Bridget Spence of because she died in April of 2013, the year and month I was diagnosed with stage IV. I revisited her blog recently and am happy her posts are still accessible. She pulled the curtain on her blog in the very way I hope I am able. In Dec 2012 she wrote, “It is time for me to ask each of you to let me go. It is time to say goodbye.  . . . Please don’t forget about me.”

Those simple words ended her blog in the exact way I expected the four bloggers I followed to do, but did not. Their words made me feel there would be more to come.

I have lots of plans about what I want to do before I no longer can--including ending my blog. I have not decided exactly how I will end it though--leaning toward a few short words like Bridget. Admitting to myself, the end has come will be the hardest thing I will ever do. Perhaps that is why those four people I followed who are now gone from the blogging world did not directly say, “This is my last post--goodbye.” Maybe they were hopeful they would live to post another day.

Or maybe their entire blog is and was their “goodbye” post. After all, many bloggers write to tell their stories before it is too late. I am just one of the many telling the world, "I was here, and then I wasn't."