kindness activist

kindness activist

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Zapping Kindness

I do not have any tattoos.  In fact, I cannot for the life of me imagine ever being able to decide what to get on a tattoo and committing to have it on my body forever.  That, to a commitment phobic like myself, would be one of life’s toughest decisions. I see some I like on other people – swirls, amazing quotes, beautiful art – but to PICK ONE and actually get it done is beyond my commitment level.

But, in my naivet√©, I also thought of tattoos as just that:  a CHOICE.  I thought, people decide they want one, think long and hard about what it should be, then they get it.

I was recently reminded that tattoos are not always a CHOICE. 

Maybe you remember Amy from one of the first Kindness Activist pieces in this project - Waffle Kindness .  She is a kind soul.  

Amy and her sweetheart Michael
I recently saw this touching status on her Facebook wall:

     “The most amazing thing happened to me yesterday. I couldn't wait to share.

     Michael and I were heading home from the farmer's market and we passed a smal
     storefront. The name on the glass was, "Zap a Tat".

     I have been wanting for quite a while to remove my radiation tattoos. Every time I look in 
     the mirror, I see them and feel a twinge. They do not remind me of the end of treatment 
     or of surviving cancer. They do not bring with them feelings of elation or completion.   
     These 6 small blue dots remind me of struggle and sadness. They are a flashing neon 
     sign that blinks, CANCER, every time I see them.

     I walked into the store and was pleased that it was clean, comfortable and a certified,     
     licensed facility. I began to speak with the person at the desk, and was then surprised to 
     be greeted by the owner, Chris. As I explained what I wanted, his face became 
     concerned, and slightly sad. It is always disconcerting to me to be on the receiving end  
     of the, "I am so sorry you had cancer"' face.

     I quickly recovered and continued with the most important question I have had since     
     recovery: "How much will it cost to remove these 6 blue dots."

     I was surprised and unprepared for his response, "free", he said. 

     I cried and hugged him. 

     I am now dot free. I am elated. I am thankful. I feel blessed.

    So if you find yourself in Arlington, Virginia, and you want your dots removed, see Chris   
    at, "Zap a Tat".

    Radiation dots are free, and so are hugs.”

Well, I didn’t even have to get to the end of reading her blurb to know that Chris at Zap a Tat HAD to be dubbed a Kindness Activist!!  So after a bit of phone tag, I went in to meet him.


His store is only five minutes from my house.  I had walked by it before and admired the clean, crisp design, so I was excited not only to meet him but to take a look around!  Chris Slavin is the founder and CEO of Zap a Tat (which he started 6 years ago) and struck me as humble, bit shy, very knowledgeable, and super smart.  Oh, and NON-JUDGEMENTAL, too!  He seemed like one of the most non-judgmental people I have ever met.  He was very cool!

Chris, Founder/CEO of Zap a Tat and Kindness Activist!
The shop is just as cool inside as it looks from the outside.  It’s super clean, modern, crisp, and comfortable.  I told him I felt like I should be there to get my nails done!  J  I had a lot of questions and he was nice enough to sit and talk with me.  When I mentioned it felt like a sleek salon, he said, “Removing a tattoo is a cosmetic decision.  Getting a tattoo is a cosmetic decision so removing one should be, too.  I think it should be a good experience.”  Well he sure has the environment set up to make it a good experience!

Zap a Tat removes all kinds of tattoos.  I got to look at some “before and after” photos and it was amazing. 

Disappearing cat tattoo - one photo was taken each session.

An advanced technique - this dark tattoo lightened up
THAT MUCH in one treatment!


















But the most pressing question for me was WHY he would “zap” radiation tattoos for free.  I mean, sure, it is an amazingly kind thing to do, but this is his BUSINESS…  I asked if he always removes radiation tattoos for free or if this was something special he did just for Amy, and he explained, “Really, since I started the business I have done free removal of radiation tattoos.”  When I asked how many people his business had removed radiation tattoos for, his immediate response was, “Not enough!”.  He told me that when Amy went into his shop, she didn’t know it was going to be free and was just inquiring about the price.  “When I said it was free, she was overjoyed.  And that is really our ‘2nd paycheck’.”  

Isn’t that the sweetest philosophy – that being able to see other people so happy is a “2nd paycheck”?  I love it.  He told me that not charging people to remove radiation tattoos is, “Just the right thing to do.  It is very meaningful to people.  And the emotional gratification that people get out of it is big in terms of what it costs me to do.”

Funky store signage
Chris told me that he was surprised to learn that some women really want to keep their radiation tattoos, which are the size of Sharpie marker points.  “Some women say, this is my reminder, this is my badge.  But others just can’t wait to get rid of the memory.  I like to help the people who want to get rid of the memory.  Those “small” tattoos look like HUGE things when they are on your body.  Because you are looking at them every day and it is a painful reminder.  So to be able to remove them I think is a really great thing.”  Chris, I think everyone would agree with you on that one!

Now, as far as HOW the removal happens, Chris explained that the shop has very advanced laser removal techniques.  The laser shatters the tattoo ink into teeny tiny pieces for your body to take away.  Basically, when the lasers hit the ink, the ink rapidly expands and collapses – it snaps.  Your circulatory and lymphatic systems are the agents that act to take the ink away.  To make the experience less painful, they use cryogenic air (which is below zero and much colder than ice) and topical numbing.  But the most important part, he stressed, is the SPEED; the laser covers a very large area really quickly.  He had a good analogy – zapping the tat is like ripping off a Band-Aid super fast. Once they “zap” the tattoo, you wait around 3 months to see the results.  Then if you would like to you can come in for another treatment.  (He explained the process more in detail – the actual system of how it all works. I hope I captured it all correctly above.  He is a smart, smart guy and if you go in to get a piece removed, he will be happy to explain it all!  It is a really cool process!)


Prep room
Treatment room


The problem with finding people who want their radiation tattoos removed, he explained, has been getting the word out.  He really likes to offer this service, but most people don’t know about it.  He has asked the American Cancer Society and breast cancer sites about putting information on their pages, but they want him to PAY to advertise.  He is probably too sweet to say this publically, but geez Louise I will say it, that is ridiculous!  He is not wanting to solicit paid customers, he wants to offer a FREE SERVICE to people who decide they want to remove their radiation tattoos.  After all they must have already gone through with diagnosis, perhaps surgery, chemo, and radiation, having a kind soul offer a GIFT to them to complete the experience is amazing!!  I wish the national organizations would help spread the word so that people knew that this was an option. 

But since the big organizations won’t help get the word out - WE WILL!!!  Readers of this blog, TELL PEOPLE about Zap a Tat.  If you know anyone who has radiation tattoos and is ready to be rid of them, please have them call and make an appointment.  The toll free number is 877-ZAPATAT (877-929-2828).  Chris currently has two locations – Arlington, VA and Newport News, VA.  Now I know that readers of this blog live all over and not are necessarily close to one of his shops.  So I will throw in THIS as a complement to Chris’ offer:  if you do not live near one of Chris’ shops but have radiation tattoos you want removed, message me on Facebook (go to Kindness Activist on FB) or email me at kindnessactivist@gmail.com . I will give you a place to stay for a couple of days while you are in the DC area so you can zap those radiation tats!  (I also give a great nighttime tour of the DC monuments, if I do say so myself, so that would be included in your stay if you would like J .)

Finally, as Chris said, “I would love to get the word out.  If we could do a lot more of this, we would.”  Get the word out, people!  Share, share, share and tell people about Zap a Tat.

Thank you Chris.  Your kindness is contagious and you are a welcome addition to the Arlington neighborhood.  It was an honor to talk with you and dub you a KINDNESS ACTIVIST!
  
Website - www.zapatat.net

Look for Zap a Tat on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram under Zap a Tat (Chris prefers Facebook because it allows for more conversation and lets him post photos easily)

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