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Ditching the Tasmanian Devil

When Oregon Healthy Living held its "Terrible Tattoo Contest" that offered the winner free laser removal, dozens of readers responded with photos and sad stories of regrettable tattoos. After a lot of consideration, the staff chose Kelly Terry of Medford and her Tasmanian Devil tattoo with the name Jeremy inked beneath the artwork.

Terry, only 18 at the time she decided to have the character tattooed on her right breast, made one of the biggest mistakes when it comes to tattoos. She had the name of the love of her life — the man she planned to marry — permanently penned on her bosom. You can guess what happened next: She and Jeremy broke up.

Needless to say, it was hard for a new man in Terry's life to overlook. "It was the dumbest mistake of my life," she admits. "My ex-husband hated it. My boyfriend despises it." Her parents couldn't stand the tattoo either. And 18 years later, she still had to see the cartoon critter with the name of a long-gone boyfriend underneath every day and be reminded of a mistake she couldn't easily erase.

That's not to say she doesn't like tattoos. She has eight in various places on her body. But Taz and Jeremy had to go. "I am so thankful that I got chosen," Terry says. "I was elated that day when I got the call."

Banishing bad ink

Steve Lovich, a plastic surgeon with Valley Plastic Surgery in Talent, removed Terry's unwanted tattoo using a PicoSure aesthetic laser by Cynosure Inc., the latest technology in lasers that provides better removal with fewer treatments. "Everything worked out just fine," he says.

A credit-card sized tattoo takes two to three minutes per treatment with three to four treatments to resolution, the doctor explains. Terry's multi-colored tattoo was about 3 inches by 6 inches and took five treatments to remove.

On a scale of one to 10 with 10 being the most painful, about 85 percent of Lovich's patients say the pain level is between two and five. It also depends on the placement of the tattoo. If it is close to a bone, it is more uncomfortable for patients, the doctor notes. Terry confirms that having a tattoo removed from a breast is painful. "It hurts," she says. "For me, it's a 10, but that's a personal thing."

The benefits of the PicoSure laser, Lovich explains, is that it is less painful and works quicker than previous aesthetic lasers used for tattoo removal. Fewer treatments means it's less expensive, he says. At Valley Plastic Surgery, laser sessions cost between $300 and $700 per session. Complete tattoo removals can cost from $900 to $4,000, depending on the size of the tattoo. If Terry had paid for her laser removal, it would have cost her between $1,300 and $1,500.

"Everyone there is so nice," Terry says of Valley Plastic Surgery. "Dr. Lovich is just fabulous."

Think before you ink

Terry advises people considering a tattoo to think hard. "Definitely make sure it is what you want on your body for the rest of your life and where on your body you want it for the rest of your life," she recommends.

But now she knows first-hand that some big mistakes can literally be erased. "I love the laser and that it can reverse the biggest mistake of your life," she says.

Dr. Steve Lovich and Kelly Terry consultation