Published on April 2, 2020
For patients with breast cancer, undergoing a mastectomy can affect how a woman feels about her body, her sexuality, her whole self. For some, having immediate reconstruction is part of the treatment plan. Deciding if, how and when to undergo breast reconstruction after surgery is a deeply personal decision, one that women have to make after myriad other health decisions.
For those who make the decision to undergo reconstruction, many feel that their new breasts are missing a component of their original breasts—nipples. Innovative artists have made it their life’s work to help women regain some of the appearance with 3D nipple and areola tattoos, or any tattoo that will add new beauty to scarred skin.
Meet the Artists
There are a few legends who are as well-known in tattoo circles as they are in breast cancer groups—Vinnie Myers and Amy Black, to name two. Vinnie and his family own and operate a tattoo shop in Finksburg, Maryland, and he also travels around the country to do his work. It’s a family affair—Vinnie’s wife runs the shop and his daughter, Anna, served first as an apprentice and now does what her dad does—helping women feel whole again. Vinnie didn’t always do this kind of tattoo work, but when his sister was diagnosed with breast cancer, it became clear to him that this was his mission in life.
Amy Black is an award-winning tattoo artist based in Richmond, Virginia, and the founder of The Pink Ink Fund, a non-profit organization that seeks to aid people needing financial assistance with post-mastectomy tattoos.
For the uninitiated, it may seem daunting to go into a tattoo shop. Beckie Gladfelter was diagnosed right before her 40th birthday. She’s an educator, and as a result of her breast cancer experience, also an author of the book, My Warrior Mommy: Our Breast Cancer Journey. Beckie wrote this book on her phone during chemotherapy clinic days, as a way to help other parents explain breast cancer to young children. She’s a mom of three boys.
“I had no idea what to expect inside a tattoo parlor, but it was like going to a salon; I was getting a service and he began by getting to know me. He wanted to know how my cancer was detected and my treatment plan,” Beckie said. “Vinnie’s tattoo parlor was such a friendly and welcoming environment.”
Would she recommend his work to others?
“Absolutely! Getting a 3D nipple and areola tattoo was the completion of my breast reconstruction that began two years prior,” Beckie said.
Questions to Ask Your Tattoo Artist
Before your breast cancer surgery, you may start researching tattoo artists who specialize in this type of work. You want someone who does this day in and day out to get the best result.
- What is your wait time? Many artists have a waiting list of months.
- How long does the tattoo take?
- What is the cost?
- What can I expect from the healing process?
- What is my risk for infection?
Having a tattoo over surgery scars is one of many ways to empower patients and to help them take the next step into survivorship.
~Lauren Evoy Davis
Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.
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