Breast Cancer Survivor Gets 3D Nipple Tattoo & Feels Complete Again

tattoo gunSome people think tattoos make a woman look dirty or rough or far from a lady. I'm a mom with tattoos and respectfully disagree. Tattoos have meaning -- all of them. They can be beautiful. They can empower us, too, because of their often deeply personal meaning. And there is no better example of that than Penny Kurek, a 53-year-old breast cancer survivor who got the most incredible ink -- three-dimensional nipples tattooed on her reconstructed breasts. "I've been cut on so much," Penny told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "I just want to feel like a woman again."

Penny went to tattoo artist Vinnie Myers, who has become a sort of hero in the breast cancer world. He owns Vinnie's Tattoo Parlor just outside of Baltimore and has tattooed nearly 2,000 breast cancer patients (and counting!) from all over the world. They all came to him because of his expertise in tattooing the most real looking nipples.

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When a woman has a mastectomy, her nipples are almost always removed. Many choose to have reconstructive surgery, but the nipple is missing. A tattoo artist can restore that -- Vinnie has perfected it. Penny's journey fighting breast cancer was challenging, but she said when getting the tattoo, the first she's ever had, "I'm happy. This is the final step. I'm ready to move on with my life."

Vinnie, 50 (who might be the most incredibly compassion tattoo artist ever), tattoos at least three women a day, all who come to him for his 3D nipples. It's become his life's work. His clients love him, and the doctors do as well. Though at first some weren't so approving of their patients going to a tattoo parlor, that thought has changed. Many hospitals are now working with tattoo artists so women can have the same procedure. Vinnie is also spending time at the Center for Restorative Breast Surgery in New Orleans tattooing women there for one week every month.

Wondering just how this is done? First Vinnie evaluates each woman, taking time to note color and size, working to make each look as real as possible. He tattoos in the lines of the two circles, then shades the areola, to the nipple. He inks in the Montgomery Glands, those little raised dots in the areola. It's all about using lighter colors, darker shadows, and the right colors to make it look 3D. His perfected art costs $400, and insurance should cover it thanks to the Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998. He warns that often the insurance company wants a diagnosis code and prescription, so check with your doctor and insurance carrier first if this procedure interests you so all your paperwork is in order.

How this tattoo makes women feel is amazing. After Penny said, "It's been almost two years since I had a nipple. It's really incredible. It really makes the scar look less there."

In case you're worrying about pain, it's been said that this kind of tattoo doesn't hurt as much as a traditional one because of the nerve damage from the prior surgery. Penny said the worst it felt was like little bee stings. But with any tattoo, that pain goes away once the tattoo is over. And in this case, the reward and the way it makes women feel are so worth it.

It's fantastic there are skilled tattoo artists venturing into this part of their field. Truly life-changing work.

Don't you think every hospital should team up with tattoo artists to help women have this tattoo if they are interested?

 

Image via LadyDragonflyCC <3/Flickr

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