...I faithfully used the aspirin treatment beginning that evening before bed... yet within a couple of days, my keloid had returned. Nothing I did made it go away. I tried the aspirin at night... teatree oil during the day... I washed it and kept it clean... I used a bit of Neosporin... nothing worked. I called NCBM again and asked for Marcie, but she was still out of commission. I was told that Beckie was another piercing expert and that she was in the shop on Saturdays, so I decided to go in and talk to her in the hopes that she would have the magical solution to my woes. Beckie was very sweet. She told me that we needed to try to clear up the keloid or remove the piercing to avoid any permanent scarring, that my body was trying to reject the foreign object that was invading it, that some people have this reaction. (This made perfect sense to me because my luxury vehicle WOULD try to protect itself.*) Beckie told me that there was no way that my jewelry could be causing the reaction and floated the idea that perhaps I was cleaning the piercing site too often. She suggested that I only clean it when I shower with soap that my face was familiar with and leave it completely alone the rest of the time, except for an occasional sea salt water soak, which was her final treatment recommendation. "Sea salt water," I thought to myself, "my magical solution, at last!"
Another few weeks passed as I continued to try to convince myself that I would be able to keep my piercing. Then I got a cold. While vacationing in Puerto Rico no less. The bump grew larger and redder and after I finally took an honest look at it I realized that I needed to take action. I did not want to be left with a much dreaded bumpy scar and copious amounts of self-loathing. I decided to take action. I went to the piercing shop in the mall in San Juan and purchased a 14 carat stud and corkscrew. I told myself that I would simply remove the existing jewelry and replace it myself-- since I was nowhere near NCBM but felt that time was against me in my quest to remain scar-less. I continued to attempt to psych myself up to the task of self-inflicted pain-- but eventually realized that I would have to be patient and trust that the bigger scar risk would come from my pathetic attempt to play piercer than from waiting until I returned home to have it taken care of by a professional.
Upon my return to lovely Mentor, Ohio, a flurry of last minute Christmas errands kept me from North Coast Body Mod, but my keloid wasn't getting any better. If I accidentally bumped my nose or had an itch it was painful. It was unattractive, and I was still being asked questions about it by others who were curious as to why it still hadn't healed. One morning, around 5am, I had finally had it.
I went into the bathroom to blow my nose and the keloid decided to bleed for no reason. After spying the blood on my tissue and then daring to examine it in the mirror, I decided the time had come for me to remove it. I gathered my resolve and braced myself for the pain and discomfort I was about to inflict. I knew that it was going to hurt like hell to try to remove the corkscrew. The site (gross) was very inflamed, as was the horrible BUMP. The first step in the removal process is to pull the flat part of the jewelry straight down so that it rests on your nose on the diagonal. As I write, I am shuddering a bit as my body remembers how excruciating that pain was. I pushed on the knob at the end of the metal rod and forced it down. From there I needed to twist it and follow the curve until it popped out of the hole. That was very uncomfortable too. At last I finally had the evil invader in my hand and I marveled at how thick it was comparatively to the new 14 carat one that I had purchased. I began to hope. My new hardware was so much smaller (and gold). Maybe... just maybe...my nose just MIGHT accept one of them.
I was worried that the hole might close up very quickly so I wanted to get the new jewelry in as soon as possible. I sterilized my new corkscrew and held it up to my face to try to figure out how on earth I was supposed to go about the installation process. I deduced that I needed to hook the coiled part in and then follow the curve until I got to the straight part, but I wasn't quite sure how to go about DOING any of that. I made a couple of painful attempts to hook it in, but it seemed like instead of going all the way through my nose where I could touch it, it was twisting somewhere, horrifyingly enough, INSIDE my nose itself! At this point it was all I could do to stay focused on the task at hand and not freak out completely. (I must digress for a brief moment and inform you that I hate needles, blood, loose baby teeth, anything related to unsavory bodily functions. In fact, the only way that I was able to dig deep enough to attempt this bit of surgery at all was out of scar-fear, and by telling myself that what I was doing I wasn't actually doing to my own nose.) I had to detach myself completely and do it for the greater good. After I made several unsuccessful attempts, I decided that it was time to wake up an assistant. Poor Ayodele went from peaceful dreaming to being invited into a hot bathroom (I had put the shower on, in the hopes that the steam would keep my nose soft and pliable) to try to help me with my ridiculous task. She was a trouper, put on a brave face, and attempted to push the metal through my nose while my eyes teared and I winced, flinched, sniffled, and said "ow, ouch ow!" repeatedly. At one point after she, too, was unsuccessful, she grew faint and had to sit down. I'm still not altogether sure whether or not the cause of her dizziness was the heat or the freaky sight of something twisting inside my nose.
What to do next? Google it, of course!
I typed "how to insert..." and before I could type "corkscrew nose ring" in, "how to insert a tampon" popped up as a suggestion, which struck me as comical in the moment. Once I finished typing in my question I clicked on the first link to a video that looked like it might be informative and not too scary. The girl is very thorough in her demonstration so I was able to get a better idea of what to do, and feel less unsure of myself. As we watched the video of her twisting this jewelry in and out of her nose I must be truthful and say I felt sick to my stomach. I returned to the bathroom, determined to get the new jewelry into my nose once and for all. (If you are wondering at this point why I am still bothering to try so hard to keep an inconsequential piercing, I ask you to refer back to my original writing on this topic. It was symbolic, and I am nothing if I am not persistent and one-track minded). I would not give up without a fight.
I would love to pretend that with this firm resolve, I was able to successfully push the corkscrew in... but I wasn't. I decided that since North Coast would be opening in a few hours, and it happened to be Saturday so Beckie would be there...that I would put in a temporary stud to keep the hole open and ask her to do the honors of inserting my 14 carat jewelry.
I arrived at North Coast with my new corkscrew in one of my daughter Sophia's plastic princess tea cups (it was what was nearest to me when I needed to sterilize earlier.) I waited patiently for Beckie, and then once I was in the piercing room (again) I told her the update and explained that I would like her to insert the new jewelry into my nose as my final attempt at keeping the piercing. She agreed and began examining my nose closely, since there was no jewelry in it to impair her ability to look at it from all angles. She asked me a couple of questions about my keloid... how long it had been there, when it had started to grow, things of that nature. She then turned away from me and donned her gloves. Beckie then began advancing towards the piercing table where I was perched trying to psych myself up yet again for more pain. She reached toward my face empty-handed, and before I could register more than a brief moment of bewilderment, she began scraping at my keloid with one gloved finger, picking at it repeatedly, relentlessly, while I squirmed, quivered, and shuddered with acute excruciating pain. "Wha..what are you doing?" I asked a couple of times, yet I received no answer, just more scraping. I can only compare the feeling to when an unhealed scab gets ripped off without warning. But remember, this wasn't a scab, it was actual scar tissue that was still very much ATTACHED to my face! It was horrible. I went into shock. I was twitching. I tried to pathetically beg Beckie to at least warm up the area first, hoping that if it was softer it would make whatever she was trying to do less agonizing, but by the time I finally managed to stutter out my question, she replied, "There. I did it. It's gone, and maybe now it can finally heal."
I was flabbergasted. I couldn't believe that without warning, she had just reached over and scraped and removed scar tissue from my face. It was bleeding, of course, and though my nose was still throbbing, Beckie then needed to insert and twist my corkscrew into place. She warned me that it was going to hurt, which was an understatement, and then it was finally over. Beckie apologized for the surprise attack re: the keloid removal, and with an "um, I think your eye teared a little bit, here is a tissue" she held one out for me and watched me as I wiped off my face. I think she realized that I was still a bit stunned.
Ironically, as she walked me out of the piercing room and up to the front of the store, she allowed for the possibility that the change of jewelry could in fact make a difference in my healing process. After so many people told me that the metal had nothing to do with the infection, this admission from Beckie infuriated me a bit, and made me wish that I had gone with my first instinct and changed the corkscrew immediately. Maybe if I had I wouldn't have had to go through so much anxiety and drama. I forced those thoughts out of my head right away though, because after all, what good does it do to lament what can't be undone?
As of now... several weeks later... my nose is doing much better. I no longer have a large bump. There seems to be a tiny bit of scar tissue, but it isn't visible to the naked eye, and it isn't discolored. For now, it seems as if my face is accepting this foreign visitor. I am smart enough to know now that at any point, this could change, but I am cautiously optimistic. My healing process this time around has felt different from the very beginning: there has been less tenderness, seeping, and swelling, and my nose is definitely less sensitive to touch and can handle occasional bumping or tentative rubbing without any pain. Ayodele and I laugh about the fact that only 14 carat is working and have decided that it is a modern day version of the fairytale "The Princess and the Pea." We have determined that I must truly be a princess (as my name would indicate) since my nose is doing so much better now that it has gold in it. Now if only someone important could get this memo and bring me my throne...that would be fantastic.
I'm still glad that I pierced my nose, irregardless of all of the shit I have had to go through as a result. I'm very glad that I can say that and mean it, because the only thing that could have made all of this worse would be if I regretted my original decision at any point along the way. I will hopefully close this painful now, and heal normally.
However, I won't predict "happily ever after" again...just in case my hopeful phrase was what jinxed me in the first place...
*My luxury vehicle comes complete with flu-resistant properties and super bones. MOTL