I’ve wanted my nose pierced since middle school. My parents would never allow it, and then I ended up with a family of my own and shied away from the idea primarily due to my intense concern over what other people might think of me. Then, I’m faced with another curve ball in the treatment of my severe rheumatoid arthritis, only two options left at this point, both strong chemotherapy drugs, and suddenly I find myself on an unassuming Friday morning in a tattoo parlor in downtown Winston-Salem with a cheerleader and a needle through my left nostril.
How in the hell did I get here? It was a few weeks in the making. Conversations with my doctor began a couple of months ago when current my infusions began to lose their efficacy. Difficulty sleeping, unable to control pain, fatigue, stiffness that lasted well beyond the morning, fatigue, nausea, swollen joints, bloodshot eyes, and did I mention fatigue… We’ve tested for Lupus, it’s still inconclusive at this point given my plethora of autoimmune diseases. At my most recent infusion a couple of weeks ago, on a Monday, the decision was made by my nurse to email the doctor. I was not feeling well at all. It was obvious the current drug was no longer working. By Wednesday I was presented with two options from the nurse. My last two options at this point.
The itch to do something abstract is always there, in the back of my subconscious, lying in wait for silly conversations when I can amuse friends with things my pseudo-persona would do in another life. In moments of facing my mortality though, the itch becomes an urge, which this becomes a nagging voice in my head, “If you don’t do X now, you never will.” Taunting little witch. X could be anything. Trying a new food (check), climbing a sort-of-ish mountain (check), getting a tattoo (check), learning to fly a plane, zip lining, holding a baby gorilla. This time X was a nose piercing. It started with asking friends, “Do you think I’m badass enough? What about boogers? Do you think I could handle the pain?” Then, it lead to calling around, getting quotes, and asking for recommendations from fellow bejeweled buddies. My husband said to wait. For when? I’ve already been waiting at least twenty years. And then, I made the decision to do it, and well, if you know me at all, you know once I set my mind to it, I’m in. After all, this is *the* life.
I did my civic duty as a perpetual patient on immune-suppressant drugs and told the piercer, he was unfazed. I made sure to pee beforehand too. Wise choice. I’m a pee before anything kind of person though. Pee before we leave the house, pee before I get on the plane, pee before preaching. Peeing before a needle is shoved into your face is not just for pee before kind of folks though, I would highly recommend it, because yes, it hurts. And your eyes will water, but you won’t be crying. Biology is fun like that. Biology is also fun at reminding the chronically ill that our clocks are turning a little faster than everyone else’s, so when those reminders come up for me, I do crazy shit like X.
By the beginning of March my body will start to remind me that she and I are not on the same page. I’ve chosen a treatment option that will suck for a short while, but if all goes as planned, I won’t need another infusion for six months. Weeks zero and two of the new treatment will include a cocktail of pain meds, antihistamines, and steroids before I even get the actual chemo drug (on a drip for 4 hours), and then Zofran afterwards for the nausea. But once those couple of days are over and done with, hopefully it’s six months of no infusions and needle prods in the arm…although I’ve already established needles don’t bother me, it’s still nice to know my veins can have a rest. From the meds at least, there will always be blood draws and diagnostic testing.
Final thoughts to add, no, a nose piercing is not cultural appropriation. Women, and men, from many cultures have been piercing their bodies for many a century. I’m not appropriating any one culture by doing so. Rather, there is an acknowledgement of all those who have done this in much more painful ways than sitting on a padded table with a person wearing sterile gloves and with much more spiritual significance than Darth Vader standing in the corner of the room. Also, don’t listen to people who say it doesn’t hurt. It does. Shortly and intensely. Then, dull and achy. My teeth on the upper left still ache from time to time. I’m only two days out though, and I cannot take NSAIDs (yay my body) and that’s what the piercer recommended, so I’m going this route pain med free. (Don’t fret, I have a pretty high pain tolerance, except for the time I needed my gallbladder removed. That shite hurts worse than 38 hours of natural childbirth.) Things that still concern me that I think about…no, I’m not trashy, yes, I can be a minister and have a nose ring, and possibly, I just won coolest mom of the week. I still always mull over my mortality, getting my nose pierced doesn’t automatically keep me from thinking about it. I live with it constantly, sometimes hourly, sometimes daily, sometimes monthly, but it’s always there for me. I lean against the wall for stability, I have a cane, my shoes don’t have laces, these are subtle reminders that my clock sometimes mimics the Bop It! Game and speeds up and up and up with each round I go. I’m alive now. If I want my nose pierced, so be it. I am a badass. A badass person who has experienced pain in a multitude of ways and still drags herself out of bed in the morning to minister, because my life is a ministry in action. I love my calling and I honestly can’t believe somedays that I get to help people deeply, spiritually, compassionately, and fully in so many ways. And now, I get to do all that and rock it with a nose ring!
Oh and if someone has a hook-up on holding a baby gorilla, that would be AWESOME to mark off the old bucket list!