Monday, July 18, 2011

Burns and Blocks

After a couple days, those mystery red marks are drying up and getting ready to peel, so it turns out they were burn marks which I guess means the laser was in fact hot! I never did develop one blister though.

I think the ink is officially unreachable :(

I am going on vacation soon, and I have decided to leave the tape and bandages off this time. If an annoying amount of ink shows through at the end of a good tan, one that is two years overdue, I will go back for more treatments, but I feel at this point I have come to a road block and need to do something different, which may be to accept the ink that remains in the deepest depths of my skin.

I know I should feel excited, but I always imagined not stopping treatments until I couldn't see a drop of the black ink. I also wonder will the skin stay hypo-pigmented as it is now?  Or in the sun, will it hyper-pigment, such as brown clouds?  Will there always be an outline to remind me of what was once there? 

I guess I will find out soon...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

No Blisters?

After this last laser treatment, just four days ago, things are not looking as usual. I have absolutely no blisters on the tattoo area! Just some weird red marks which I assume are bruises. It is as though the laser hit me, but did not penetrate with any heat. Immediately after and even still a little now, I had the typically swelling. You can even see in this picture that the black ink areas are slightly raised. I am just not sure if that was from the needles of anesthesia or what?

My concern is that after the first few pops of the laser a wire was pulled out from the hand tool. When the PA and technician checked on it, they said it was not related to the laser I was getting, as they said it was for the Ruby laser. I guess the laser machine has three options, and they were using the other two on me. What if it didn't penetrate? It just hit the skin.

My other concern would be if the ink is too deep, so the laser can't hit it to leave a blister. I remember when I first had treatments there were lots of blisters, because it was hitting a lot of ink. As time went on, there were less blisters. Now, no blisters?!?

(That is except for the blister the paper tape made on the outer rim of the lasered area. I wonder why I developed such an allergy to that stuff?)

What does it mean? Is this the end or a malfunction of the machine? I think I need to call the Dermatologists office on Monday!


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Treatment 11.....Done!

Just had treatment number 11 and a nap!  Treatments always make me tired (after the lidocaine wears off of course), so if you are getting one done, be prepared to take some time to take a nap. Good for healing process, I say!

The treatment went really easy (easier than ever) except for a minor malfunction with the laser....(scary). It was the same laser as last time (Q-Switch). The PA doing the laser tattoo removal was not the same girl I usually see, and she was having trouble seeing which areas still had ink....go figure! She thought this may be my last treatment or at least she hoped so (me too!). I asked the technician that was assisting the PA if there was a maximum number of treatments people can get, and she said, "no".

At this point, I am wondering what everyone reading this blog is thinking after seeing my most recent updates. Do you think I will need more treatments after this one heals? The PA said she was "very aggressive" this time.

Do you think I should get some sun on my tattoo area once healed and see how it looks? The risk, if I do this, is that the laser picks up on any pigment, so more sun - equals more skin pigment the laser will mistakenly hit instead of ink pigment. I don't want to take two or five steps back on a gamble.

I am inclined to believe that my recent tanning episode made such a dramatic contrast between the tattoo area and the rest of my arm that it looks as though, thus confused the PA, there is less pigment (ink) than is really there. Or have I confused myself by treating my tattoo area as an albino to be shielded at all times, thus depriving it of normal exposure? But this question reminds me of a blog post titled "Brown Clouds"...or something to that effect, whereby sun exposure caused hyper-pigmentation of the treated area.

I guess I am just timid to test the waters and expose my tattoo to the sun. It's a risk if I do not like the amount of ink left behind, but if I don't find out, I may just waste hundreds more dollars. Damned if I do - damned if I don't?

Morning Before Number 11

!!This afternoon I am getting my eleventh treatment done!!

I feel it's a good thing at this point, because I am that much closer to be rid of this tatty-tat. I realized in my last post that the photos make the tattoo look pretty non-existent, however that is not the case. When you draw back the camera, so to say, you can clearly see the tattoo. I'd like to mention that I showed the tattoo to someone recently, whom had never seen it before, and they said they could not tell what it was originally. Nice! That is definitely a good thing! Do I actually believe them? Probably not.

Here are the best photos I was able to take to show an accurate picture of what I see when I look in the mirror (as of 6-24-11):

In this first one, it shows how the light can bounces off of the different texture (scar tissue) that is now the area of the tattoo to make it appear a little lighter. 

In this photo, the glare somehow takes the light off of the tattoo just enough to show how much pigment is still there.

These are day and night photos, essentially. The tattoo is harder to see in the daylight with the light bouncing off it, but in lesser light, it stands out more. This may be due to the crazy tan that you can see around the tattoo in the first picture.

I have been pretty good at shielding my tattoo from the sun these past couple years, but I have been terrible at localizing the "covering medium" to just the tattoo. When I have been out in the sun, say at the beach or pool, I usually wrap my upper arm in an Ace Bandage, which creates a horribly highlighting tan effect. This summer I resolved to tackle that issue by putting duck tape over my tattoo! I purchased some flesh colored duck tape online.

This worked great! I was able to cut out a template of my tattoo and make cover-ups rather easily. After I spent one afternoon in the park sunning, some people didn't even notice I was wearing the tape...even though the shinny nature of it alone would seem to me to give it away...? However I can only recommend this for dry activities, the duck tape is not sticky enough to last through the pool. My sweaty arm from a few hours at the park was almost too much for it. 

For my upcoming swimming adventures, I switched to something called Gorilla Tape*. It is black but much, much, stickier. 

*Caution: This tape smells really weird, and I am not sure it is safe for the skin!

After a couple times at the pool, I was able to minimize the exaggerated farmer's tan I had created.

That's where I am at today!

Now off to the dermatologist's office .........

Thursday, June 23, 2011

* Side-by-Side Update *

My next treatment is just a few weeks away. It will be number 11!

Here is where I am at:

[Note: The first picture is prior to any treatments. The second picture is after 6 treatments, which was just over a year ago, and the last picture was taken June 21, 2011, which is after 10 treatments and almost two years since the process first began.]

Friday, March 11, 2011

Far Too Long....

It has been too long since my last post in June. I admit that I have been extremely discouraged during the time from then to now - about the future of my tattoo removal. I had my 8th treatment on July 15th, 2010 - just a month or so after my last post. I had put ten weeks between that treatment and the one before, and the loss of ink was minor and barely noticeable from the time before.

I went in for treatment number 9 in October 14, 2010. This is what I looked like just before my treatment.

Between treatment number 8 and 9, I went off the immunesuppresent drugs I was taking for an autoimmune disorder. I knew your immune system helps by removing the ink particles once the laser breaks them up (that's the point), so I thought I would see more results than before now having a stronger immune system...finally! I also waited three months this time. At the time I went in for the treatment, the usual pictures were taken and they called out the count of my number of treatments ('this is #9). The PA let me know that they would not do more than 10 treatments with that laser. I was told my next option would be dermabrasion. After that statement, all the doctors (including the lead-doctor) came into the room to see the progress and make guesses about what to do and where I was headed. As it turned out, they had just received a new laser that day, which they had not set up, and the head doctor thought I would be a good candidate to try it out, and he approved the treatment for which I had come in for. I did it. A week later the doctor's office called to say, they had the laser up and ready, and they wanted to schedule an appointment. 'I just had a treatment a week ago', I replied to the request. I was happy though, because I didn't want to be a guinea pig! All I knew of the new laser was that it went deeper, and my mind thought....bigger blisters and more pain! It was near that phone call that my skin peeled, and I found the loss of ink was nearly unnoticeable....oh, the disappointment. I also had the worst "pink" skin, which actually turned to a noticeable scar.

(It didn't stay this bad)

I think I peeled my skin off too soon....maybe this is what is causing scarring. Maybe I should have let it peel naturally and dealt with the itch? (BTW: the itch around peel time goes away if you do not let it get too dry....add more polysporin) 

So in a matter of months, I thought I had figured out solutions to the problem, which were time and then my immune system, and I had taken care of both. As had become the pattern, I felt the disappointment post-treatment, and now I struggled with the idea of having just one more treatment before I had to get my skin shaven off to finally take care of it.

As I sit and write today, March 10, 2011, I realize part of what made me want to chronicle this process was how excited I was to watch this tattoo, which I hated, disappear. As the removal turned dismal, my eagerness was nonexistent, not only because of the dispare, but I was not sure how far I would really go. Would I want to go through the months of healing from dermabrasion or should I cover up this failed attempt at removal with another tattoo? What would I get, and how many attempts should I do before I cover it up? Wouldn't I hate it as much as the first cover-up?

I had my tenth treatment at 4pm on March 7, 2011. I used the new laser. It turns out, as I never asked, it is the Q-plus Laser. I still have not Googled it. I wonder what I would find?

.....Anyway, when I went in for this treatment, the assistant was boasting how she, herself also having removal, noticed a 'significant difference' with this laser as opposed to the previous one with which I was getting my previous treatments. I asked how many treatments she was on, and she replied, '3'. I, too, had significant changes on treatment number 3, so I was not instantly convinced.

The process went as usual except now I had to wear purple glasses instead of brown. I had much less shots of the anesthesia, but I felt nothing. The anesthesia seemed to wear off faster, because soon after, I felt the "sunburn" feeling. The burning lasted the entire day, and I could feel it bruising...badly. I have noticed the longer I put between treatments - the worse the bruising. When I was getting treatments done a month in between, I almost didn't bruise at all. I guess that's a testament to adaptation, and in my case, the loss of it when you put so much time between treatments.

For the past two days, all has seemed normal. I only bandage once a day, because I hate fighting with tape and having it rip of my skin and cause new blisters. I have realized I do not need to tape it's ok to have the arm bulge of bandage. I don't like telling people about my tattoo - in person, because the next thing they want to do is see it, so I guess I really have tried to hide it.   

Well, an hour ago, when I removed the bandage to take a shower, I appear to be seeing more white-skin and seemingly less ink. I caution myself, because this stage can be deceiving, as it is so red, bruised and blistered. All of that can fade into disappointment as the black ink begins to shine through again, but I feel hopeful again.

This is what I see... (sorry for the shine)

I asked the doctor's office for the pictures from my last few treatments, and I will post them when I get them.

I wonder if disappointment will find me once again, or will I really see significant change?

- Sarah