When facing breast cancer, we suddenly must deal with several things… loss of our hair, loss of that feeling of immortality we often enjoy while we are young, and loss of our bodies as we once knew them. The things we gain are fear of what may happen should those crazy cancer cells decide to ignore the treatments we are receiving which are making us so sick, strength we didn’t know we had, and a desperate hope to survive for our families.
One loss that is particularly tough for the women who undergo mastectomy for breast cancer is the loss of one or both breasts. When I looked in the mirror after a mastectomy, it’s tough to describe the shock and loss that I felt. There was a haphazard horizontal line where my breast once was, along with some lumps and bruises. I avoided mirrors for a very long time.
Then comes reconstruction. This is such a relief! Even though the surgeries are painful, I was so excited to look normal again, in my clothes! The surgeons have become quite gifted in the breasts they can create. Even the nipple part is important. In the mirror, I saw symmetry and normalcy again, which is so helpful in our mental recovery from breast cancer.
Unfortunately, the places on our bodies from which they get the tissue for the nipple reconstruction are not dark enough to look like a nipple. Initially, I thought, “Wow, I look normal again!” But soon the tissue faded and it looked like a feeble attempt at a nipple instead of a real one, and so I was soon avoiding mirrors again.
Enter the nipple tattoo!!! I heard about these tattoo artists who want to give back. They truly have a heart for the breast cancer survivor. I went to them and was hoping for something more normal looking, and what they gave me was so much more! They create with tattooing the most natural looking nipple, and it’s hard to describe how much that helps mentally. It’s like moving one more step away from breast cancer, and I am so grateful.
Even though cancer was one of the most awful, scary times in my life, I am grateful for who I have become. I am more faithful, kind, strong and resilient, thanks in part to individuals like the amazing men at Sacred Rites Tattoo in Bradenton, who reach out to help survivors like me.
by Sherry Chappell