Nearly 18 years ago, while on semester break during my first year in college, I walked into Jerry’s Tattooz, with an idea in my mind and a no-stopping-me attitude in my heart. I knew what I wanted and I was determined to ink a sun, with all its life-giving energy infused with a side of danger, permanently above my left ankle.
And so I did. And I have truly given it little thought since then. I don’t regret getting it, which may sound odd now that I am getting it removed. Yet, at that point in life I had just turned 18 years old and I was exercising my right to stupidity and adulthood. I also joined the Army Reserves that year, so hey, lots of choices with big consequences were made. Whatever. I enjoyed that tat and my Reserve Unit and life went on.
But the face inside the sun, that matched my eighteen year old attitude about life, gradually faded away. Unfortunately, the ink did not fade with it. While my anger and confusion were replaced with hope, faith and positive determination, the ink remained. A reminder of a chapter in life, a transition.
These days however, I’m a pastor-mommy. While I see nothing wrong with having ink, I am definitely more self-conscious about nonverbal messages and the like. It’s just a tattoo, but if it’s there, people ask questions. I am content with my answers, but found myself more and more thinking about a new way ahead.
So, a few years ago I started giving serious thought to my options. Sadly, my thoughts about removal didn’t move into serious research. I just assumed having fair skin and bright ink meant it was with me for life. I read a few horror stories about removal and stopped there. Therefore, the only option I dove into was a cover-up. I drew and redrew and figured out a way to drop one of my favorite symbols from the earliest days of the Church through my old tat. I loved the art and felt confident in its meaning.
A local tattoo artist, who appeared on Ink Master, got some good reviews from friends. He specializes in black and grey tats and so I stopped in and shared my idea. I took in his 5 billion tattoos and briefly wondered if he ever regretted the ink explosion on his body. He drew my tat on, then inked it in and out I walked. This was a little over one year ago.
I love the ancient-future vibe, the eternal symbols and even the fact that something old was made new. Since that time, however, I found myself covering up the tattoo way more often than showing it. I am a tiny person and the tattoo is simply too much for me. But, was removal even an option? I didn’t know and just assumed it wasn’t, or at least wasn’t worth the risk.
Recently however, I found out that fair-skinned people are actually better candidates for removal than those with darker skin tones. In addition, my ink colors: black, red and yellow were not as difficult to remove as blues and greens. Many factors are involved, but my skin tone, the ink color and the type of laser to be used were three big variables. I contacted a few local tattoo removal businesses and also a few doctors who were familiar with specific lasers and their capabilities. My one surgeon friend, familiar with the specific laser I was considering, told me to go for it and that I’d likely be happy with the results.
Which brings me to today.
I drove to my appointment with a few more questions in mind and unsure if I’d go through with the treatment. My questions were answered and I felt at ease. Sort of, anyway.
Here is how the experience is going down:
Pain. The website and a few testimonies said the treatment would feel like rubber bands were slapping against my skin. When I asked the tech what I would feel he laughed and said, “It’s going to feel like I am stabbing you with tiny knives. But it will be over in 3 minutes.” In truth, it felt like an army of minions was indeed stabbing my leg with ten tiny knives per second. Pop, pop, pop. Rubber bands my a$$, unless the rubber bands people spoke of were laced with tacks. 🙂 But, as promised, it was over in 3 minutes. Minus a 60 second scream break I had to take. My apologizes to the new patients in the waiting room. #BringBlankey #Ouch
Cost. My best guess is that removal will cost 10 to 20 times the cost of the tattoo. Not cheap, but the cost of living with ink on my body that I don’t love was greater. Also, I would advise against buying a package of anything. Don’t pay up front. As my doctor friend told me, “Pay for results.” The cost of my tattoo removal will be paid per treatment. It will not be cheap, but I do believe the cost is reasonable.
Time. While getting a tattoo requires little patience and much impulsivity, the converse is true for removal. The time it takes to get a tattoo removed involves many factors. Skin tone, age of ink, color or ink, density, type of ink used, etc. I am planning on about 7 treatments, 6 weeks apart. It could be more, it might be less. Time will tell, but I am not looking for any permanent results for at least one year. It’s a good thing I’m no longer 18yo and actually do have more patience these days!
Scarring. Not likely, but not impossible. After the treatment blistering and scabbing can occur. So far, I just have some redness and a tingly feeling. It didn’t hurt at all after I walked out of the office. In fact, I went running just an hour later and gave no thought to my leg.
How does the laser work? My body does not like the fact that heavy metals have taken up residence there to begin with. A tattoo is a foreign substance that my body wants to reject. The laser is just breaking up the heavy metals in the ink and creating solid particles that my white blood cells will attack, send to my liver my body eventually excrete. Sexy, I know. Want to understand the science behind removing the ink? Check out this Smarter Every Day video.
Today was just my first of a handful of treatments. It went well, all considered. I didn’t know what to expect. It hurt, but not for long. There was no down time. I can feel that something happened, but the sensation is not all-consuming. My kids’ whining hurts more, promise. I was in and out in less than 30 minutes and right back to life. This is what my leg looked like immediately post laser.
So, there it is. The first of many trips to undo the past. Or, not so much to undo the past as much as simply be in the present. The past had a time and place. My old tattoo lived a life and I truly don’t regret it. I can’t say the same for the newer tattoo. Instead of covering up something I wanted gone with new ink, I should have explored removal options sooner.
Next treatment, 6 weeks….