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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Firebrand Rabble-Rouser

Posted: September 16th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: breast cancer, mastectomy, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

The 2014 Fall/Winter issue of Modern Woman hasn’t even hit the public shelves yet and already, some very interesting conversations have begun — in regard to my participation in an article in that issue. It will focus on what some of us breast cancer survivors have been experiencing.  My contribution was an interview about my mastectomy tattooing experience, gifted by Personal P.INK, and, some tasteful photographs of them. Some of these conversations proved for me to be perceived as being a firebrand in nature, and some, apparently, on the rabble-rouser side of things.

Firebrand Convos

I’ve always said, “It’s often not what you know, but, who you know that matters.” And, when I find myself impassioned about something, in the name of networking, I’ll gladly repeat my impassioned schtick — because, “you never know who knows who.”

I guess that makes me a firebrand … “a person who is passionate about a particular cause, typically inciting change and taking radical action.”

Look into each others heartsBefore the photo shoot began, the photographer, Brad Clift, asked me a few questions about my breast cancer and my tattoos. I gladly told him a boiled-down version about my breast cancer and how much the mastectomy tattoos have changed my life. And, especially about how excited I was that we survivors were going to be heard from on a national platform.

Throughout the respectful photo shoot there was a good amount of chatter and banter amongst my family, Annie (my stylist), and Brad. It made for one of the scariest purposeful-actions in my life, so far, to be as comfortable as possible.

Something about that photo shoot apparently moved Brad. After he submitted the photographs to the magazine, he wrote me a very touching email. In it he said he was now a “believer and a convert” — as to what P.INK stood for and was doing for us survivors.

Brad requested to be put in touch with my tattoo artist, Shannon, who owns/operates Indigo Rose Tattoo Studio, and, with the folks at Personal P.INK … Because, Brad not only wants to contribute his professional services on a P.INK Day, he also wants to put P.INK in touch with several major magazine contacts he has! Pronto too!

I hope everything falls into place for Brad, P.INK, and his connections, to sync up for the “2014 2nd Annual P.INK Day.”

Last night, Brad and I got to have a nice uninterrupted 45-minute phone conversation. He asked more questions and I shared more details. Mostly about why us survivors need to be heard from — for morale and remaining medical issues. What the medical community desperately needs to get up to speed on, in regard to our post-breast reconstruction needs. Why tattooing should be a medically covered option, and procedure, when it comes to nipple and areola tattooing; and, mastectomy scar tattooing.

Suffice it to say, I think all of these various firebrand conversations going on will help the survivor community’s need to be heard from.

Rabble-Rouser Convos

I guess there’s a thin line to dance upon, when it comes to being perceived as a firebrand, an activist, or a rabble-rouser, a trouble maker.

 

A firebrand … “a person who is passionate about a particular cause, typically inciting change and taking radical action.”

A rabble-rouser … “a person who speaks with the intention of inflaming the emotions of a crowd of people.”

 

People sometimes joke off, usually with a thread of their perceived truth, that which they’re uncomfortable about.  And sometimes, it can unintentionally come across as being mean-spirited. Amongst the conservative slice of my inner-circle’s demographics, this unintentionally happened.

Dalai Lama inner peace“Wow, Chérie could be a porn star!”  …   “Here comes the porn star!” …  “No matter how much of an activist you perceive yourself to be, to most folks you’re just gonna be a gal who bared her breasts for a magazine.” …  “Well, if it isn’t the porn star!”

I’ve patiently donned my “Firebrand Boots” and calmly pointed out how speaking to me, and about me (as being a porn star), planted an extremely negative seed in other people’s minds (who are dear to me) that heard those words — regardless of it being intended as a joke.

It is a blessing to be respected and loved within my inner-circle. The unintentional negative jokes have stopped.

As for the public? If and when the negative jokes might happen, I’ll just take it on the chin. Can’t chase down ‘n set straight everybody ‘n their 3rd cousin.

So … Rabble-rouser. Firebrand. Either way, I’m at peace. The path I consciously chose to walk will have at least gotten someone to stop and think — even if for a few seconds.

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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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