Flipped Thank Yous

Posted: October 18th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: breast cancer, mastectomy, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Comments Off

“Thank you! Thank you so much for being here!” As each survivor arrived at the “Meet & Greet” for the 2014 “P.INK Day” at the Indigo Rose Tattoo Studio in South Carolina, this is how I greeted them. They each reacted the same way, they looked at me with polite puzzlement. I recognized that look, that was me, last year.

Throughout our uproariously fun night I then made a point to single out each survivor and repeat this thanks with as much enthusiasm as I could muster. “Really, thank you so much for coming and being a part of this! We’re so happy you’re here! ” They each started to look at me like I just might be a crazy person. I could see it in their eyes, “Why on earth is this woman thanking ME for getting gifted tattoos?”

Then I’d add, “You are in store for a gift of joyous healing! We’re so happy for you!” Then I’d get the, “Okay, for sure she’s daffy,” and then they’d look happy, “But I’m getting my scars covered! Whatever,” looks.

I recognized those looks, it made for a delicious giggle within my heart.

After the survivors left the party and Shannon, owner/operator of the tattoo shop, and her wonderful crew of helpers were cleaning up, I told her what I had been doing. Her beautiful eyes smirked, she’d overheard me. I asked her, “So, I fill them in during the morning greeting you asked me to do?” Her, “Yeah,” was full of approving mischief.

Morning came, everyone was beyond excited to get going. Shannon quickly greeted the survivors and then said she’d like for me to say a few words.

I’ll do my best to recollect and paraphrase what I said that morning — as I didn’t write out a speech.

“Good morning! Again, we’d like to thank you so much for being here. A year ago, I stood exactly where you are standing today, waiting for my mastectomy tattoos to begin. But before I finally explain why we’re so happy you’re here, I’d like to first take a few moments to give recognition to some people that made today possible. People who you may never get to thank in person, shake their hand or give them a hug of gratitude.

There are countless volunteers all across the country today who put in their time, energy and funds into making “P.INK Day” possible. But the main core of people I’d like us to pay homage to today are Molly, Noel Franus and his team of volunteers. Noel and the Personal P.INK team have worked year-round to make today possible.

I had the privilege of meeting Molly, her family and Noel last year. They are some of the warmest and nicest people you’d ever want to meet. And if it weren’t for Noel and his team of volunteers pushing forward, all year long, with wanting to help more survivors, none of this would have ever happened for us. So, a special thank you to them.

Now onto why I’ve repeatedly thanked you. You see, that’s what Molly, her family and Noel kept saying to us last year. To the survivors and tattoo artists. “Thank you for coming! Thank you for being here!”

At first, at the “Meet & Greet,” I thought they were just really happy we made it to NYC okay. But they kept saying it. And the morning of “P.INK Day” Noel still kept saying it. I finally whispered to Shannon, “Why are THEY thanking US? They are gifting US with tattoos! Are these people crazy?””

I pantomimed out for this year’s survivors Shannon’s shrugging a, “Heck if I know” look. I went on, “I said to Shannon, “Whatever, let’s roll with it!”” And then I pantomimed Shannon’s silent, “Okay, let’s hit it!” Everyone laughed.

And then I got serious, I looked each survivor in their eyes. I said …

“Yours and my experience as breast cancer patients was far different than what women just five, 10, 15 years ago was. It was rough, but those women did what women do best — they spoke up and started networking to make things better. They, and their loved ones, networked until the medical community and the insurance companies made changes in how we, as patients, are now treated and dealt with. That is why our patient experience was far better than what theirs was.

But now we have many more survivors than there ever used to be. The medical community and insurance companies haven’t caught up with what our survivor needs are. And we have a lot of them. They haven’t caught up, yet. But because of organizations like Personal P.INK, because of women like you — who are coming together and networking, healing together — things are changing!

Last year history was made with tattooing 10 mastectomy scar survivors in one shop. That is why I think Noel kept thanking us. We showed up and helped make a dream into a change, we made history. This year 38 women in 12 shops, across the country, are receiving mastectomy scar tattoos today. You are the second wave of making history.  And, that is why I have been making a point of thanking you for being here today. Thank you for being a part of making more history!

And in closing, if I should ever have the privilege of being a part of another “P.INK Day,” and if you are ever a part of one? I hope that you will carry on this “Thank You” tradition. I  know I will, I hope you will too.

Now let’s get going with your gift of joyous healing! Go get your tattoos done!””

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Limelight Flickers

Posted: September 4th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: breast cancer, mastectomy, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Andy Warhol once said, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” The quote supposedly came about from a conversation with photographer, Nat Finkelstein, during a photo shoot. In 1966, Andy was posing for a book that Nat was working on at the time. “A crowd gathered trying to get into the pictures and Warhol supposedly remarked that everyone wants to be famous, to which Finkelstein replied, “Yeah, for about fifteen minutes, Andy.”

Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol

In 1968 Warhol immortalized that satirical quip into one of his art shows at the Moderna Museet.  It was meant as a statement about how fleeting the nature of fame would become within pop-culture.

In today’s global social media culture, it seems Andy’s and Nat’s satire has been twisted, forgotten. Now people will go to great lengths to grab 15 minutes worth of fame. As if fame actually means something. Too often, too quickly, we see these people stoop to disparaging behavior in attempts to try and hang onto it.

In today’s social media culture of “adore ‘um up, chew ‘um up, spit ‘um out” I am going to satirically state the following:

 

“You can now go from fame to infamy

in 5.7 minutes flat.” ~ Chérie

 

What seems like many lifetimes ago, I was deeply immersed in the culture of professional musicians. I was married to a rather popular, and extremely talented, blues guitarist. He was well-known across the state we lived in at the time, and, in the Nordic regions of Europe. At home, there was rarely a time we could go out in public and not be approached by someone that recognized him.

When I left that limelight culture, I did so with many invaluable life-lessons … One of which was,

 

“Fame means something, and yet in the exact same nanosecond,

it means absolutely nothing.” ~ Chérie

 

A few months ago Personal P.INK asked if I would be willing to share my P.INK story of my mastectomy tattoos done in NYC in 2013 by Beloved Shannon of Indigo Rose Tattoo Studio from SC. And, be professionally photographed by Bradley E. Clift for the 2014 Fall/Winter issue in USA TODAY’s magazine, Modern Woman.

"Modern Woman"

“Modern Woman” Fall/Winter 2012

The journalist wanted to do something different during what is now the ‘breast cancer awareness month’ of October. She wanted to focus on survivors. It seems we are rarely focused upon.

Sharing my tattoo story was one thing. But posing for intimate photographs of my mastectomy tattoos, my breasts, to prospectively been seen by 2.7 million people? That gave cause for some deep consideration.

Here is why I agreed to be photographed:

If the tasteful photographs inspire just one mastectomy scarred woman, a survivor, who is just like I was — “I’m really not a tattoo kind of person. I don’t have anything against them, they’re just not me.”

If my being willing to follow in P.INK’s founder, Molly’s, “Maverick Boots” path inspires a survivor to say, “Hey, I can do that too! I can get a beautiful “forever bra” tattooed over my mastectomy scars!”

If that one survivor then follows through and reclaims her “underneath beauty” too?  As a breast cancer survivor myself, I will have just started to pay forward the treasure of tattooed ‘underneath beauty’ that was so freely gifted to me by P.INK.

The fickle nature of limelight flickers will have been worth every nerve-wracking moment. The moments of thinking this through and the photography session itself. These photographs are now forever a part of my reputation, my life, my legacy … even long after my corporeal existence is gone. That means something.

Being in the limelight can come with privileges, but it also comes with responsibilities — especially in a potentially controversial situation that these photographs may well create. Believe it not, I’ve already experienced some mean-spirited negativity from a few women in regard to my tattoos.

As to “fame,” my past experience has been that because a stranger might be familiar with your image, they can often unintentionally be too familiar in their behavior with you. They may barge into an intimate dinner. Or, passionately voice their opposing opinion(s) — anywhere at any time. There becomes a personal responsibility as to how you conduct yourself in public.

And, one must be careful to remain grounded. Don’t believe what is said about you in the mass media — good or bad. Refrain from getting caught up in the accolades. Keep yourself humble.

"Bless her heart!"

“Bless her heart!”

I didn’t participate in this project to be in the limelight … I honestly was just attempting to step up to the survivor plate and pay my survivor tattoo gift forward.

This blog article is to officially explain what went into my deciding to agree to doing the photographs for the Modern Woman magazine.

But as I stated earlier … Fame means something, yet in the exact same nanosecond, it means absolutely nothing.

So, as the limelight flickers, I pray I won’t end up a “Bless Her Heart” case. You know, one of those gals that parades around, envisioning herself to be a gracefully aging super model —  But in reality, nobody has the heart to tell her she really looks like Jay Leno … in drag.

“Bless her heart!”

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Diverse Directions

Posted: August 27th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: breast cancer | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

For the past several months my life has been flowing in diverse directions. One direction, deeply private and poignantly somber. The other direction, joyous maverickism with grand public magnitude.

Deeply Private

The deeply private direction has to do with an aspect of survivorship that is rarely talked about, depression. Anyone that personally knows me, knows that I am consciously active in being a ‘gratitude gal.’ My go-to mantra is, “Find a blessing a day, it’s there!” Annoying as that sounds sometimes, there really is a blessing to be found at any given moment in one’s life.  Turns out though that my ‘can do’ attitude could only carry me so far.

00 1 in 3 go through depression signThe aftermath of Cortisol, that had been repeatedly pumped into my body for years from breast cancer related stress and other health issues, well, it finally all caught up with me. One recent simple medically induced stressor brought this gratitude gal to her knees.

I sought professional advice; privately spoke with other survivors; and, did some research on my own about the type of depression I have been experiencing.  I’ve come to call this physiological type of depression, “Survivor Depression.” Apparently breast cancer survivor depression is quite common a year or more after one becomes a survivor — despite how brave, audacious and grateful a survivor’s attitude may be. It’s not psychological, is physiological. While 2,791 words into the expansive blog article, “Survivor Depression Deconstructed,” there’s still just a tad bit  more to write before the article is done.

Quite honestly, I about flatly refused to write about this experience. I wanted to keep it private. But, it seems that the Universe, The Divine, God, Mr. Pickles and/or my subconscious mind had other ideas. When I heard myself say to another survivor, “Wish I had known about this crap BEFORE it happened!” — I knew it was my calling to do just that … write about being “forced” into a depression while feeling blissful about just being stinkin’ alive. Blog article to come, I promise — because it seems that moi “has” to write about it, or never get any dang creative peace from the Universe until I do.

But enough of the somber stuff … Onto the other direction, joyous maverickism with grand public magnitude!

Joyous Maverickism

Personal P.INK is at it, again. They’re bringing new adventures into my life, P.INK style … a whirlwind! A few months ago they asked me if I would be willing to participate in a magazine article about my P.INK Day tattooing experience last year. After having been privileged to have been a part of Molly’s maverick vision, that brought the precious gift of ‘underneath’ beauty back to 10 survivors? How could I say no?

(Video of P.INK Day 2013)

This October the magazine Modern Woman, that is a part of USA Today, will feature an article on breast cancer survivors. October, as we all know, is breast cancer awareness month. Throughout social media the focus is usually upon the battle phase of breast cancer. Modern Woman has chosen to focus on an aspect of breast cancer that is often overlooked, that of being a survivor.

Scarp Top Shoe

Silk pants, silk scarf, just one of the pairs of fancy-dancy shoes.

The magazine article is supposed to reach at least 2.7 million people. Sharing my story with the journalist, Stephanie, at first felt a little daunting. But she was so relaxed, curious and professional it quickly became easy to tell her how much P.INK had changed my life. How my Beloved Shannon’s artwork and craftsmanship seemingly erased the ravages of my war scars. How a sliver of intimate feminine confidence had been restored.

But the magazine interview is not all there is to my participation with P.INK this year. From the get go, there’s been something unique about how P.INK’s energy flows through my life’s path — their energy seems to get me to push myself to new limits. To new personal boundaries never dreamed of.

Last year it was a total whirlwind from the literal minute I posted a comment on their Facebook page, about my three failed areola tattoos and how I’d given up hope of ever feeling beautiful underneath my clothing ever again.

This year, the magnitude of 2.7 million people being reached, made for giving a serious pause as to what and how I would say things. No longer was it just me being me, often flippant on my little blog. I would be part of a voice representing an organization that is profoundly, and successfully, changing women’s lives, forever.

The interview proved to be easy. Tomorrow’s experience however, will push me the furthest on one of my personal boundaries. Modern Woman has asked if I would be willing to participate in a professional photo shoot. They’ve asked for a tattoo portrait shot, and, for photographs of my tattoos to be done by the award winning professional photographer, Bradley E. Clift.

Teddy supervising the fashion sprawl.

Teddy supervising the fashion sprawl.

Gulp. Ever since I was a teenager, it was drilled into my head, “Never allow yourself to be photographed topless or nude. Ever!” Now here I sit, in my 50’s, getting ready for a photo shoot that will subsequently allow 2.7 MILLION people to see me topless! See my tattooed foobs, über up close!

“Holy Christmas On A Popsicle Stick, Batgirl!”

I’ll be honest, a part of me is scared to death to do this photo shoot. But, here’s the deal. If Molly was willing to be a maverick, have a documentary film made of her entire tattoo experience — so it could some day end up benefiting possibly millions of mastectomy scar survivors? How could I, who is honored with being P.INK’s “Number Nine,” — How could I not don my “Audacious Boots” and further her vision?

Tomorrow my ever adorable hairdresser, Annie, will be helping me make sense of my strewn about wardrobe; will style my hair; and, will also be my makeup artist. Hopefully, the camera will be kind.

But seriously, I repeat … “Holy Christmas On A Popsicle Stick, Batgirl!”

This year on October 10th, numerous tattoo shops all over the United States will be holding a “P.INK Day.” If you would, please donate whatever you can to Personal P.INK, to help defer the costs of providing more mastectomy scar survivors the opportunity to receive a free tattoo. Speaking from being personally blessed by such donations from strangers, allow me to thank you in advance for whomever it is your donation will bless.

 

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