The nipple may be the last place you’d think of getting a tattoo but for a group of Australian women, it may just change their lives.
Sydney mum Sam Taylor is organising a mass nipple-tattooing session with a world-renowned artist for women who have had breast cancer.
Many of us know someone affected by the disease, but what you may not realise is that nipples are usually removed during mastectomies and are not necessarily part of a breast reconstruction.
“A little of the breast cancer can be present in part of the nipple and for most of us, that’s not a risk we’re prepared to take,” explains Ms Taylor, a breast cancer survivor.
Surgeons can “reconstruct” nipples, but Ms Taylor says the method leaves them erect all the time and many women opt not to do it.
“The last thing I want to have is another procedure to have these nipples that are always going to be erect,” says Ms Taylor, who has already endured three operations in the quest to remove her cancer.
Enter Vinnie Myers, a tattoo artist who has become famous for his work on breast cancer patients. The trouble is, he’s based in Baltimore, United States.
“You can have it done (in Australia) but not to the same standard,” Ms Taylor says. “His technique is incredible.”
So she was delighted when she approached him about coming to Australia for group tattooing sessions – and he agreed. Through Breast Cancer Network Australia, Ms Taylor has already rounded up a list of more than 45 women for two planned sessions in Sydney and Melbourne in August or September.
“It looks like it’s going to happen and that’s incredible,” she says. And the best part? “None of us are going to feel it, because we have no feeling there.”
It’s been a long health “detour” for Ms Taylor, mum to 15-year-old son Josh and seven-year-old daughter, Jade (pictured above).
She was diagnosed in May last year with the aggressive triple negative breast cancer. After undergoing chemotherapy for six months, she had a hysterectomy and oophorectomy to remove her uterus, ovaries and tubes. She then had a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction in a 10.5-hour surgery.
“It’s scary, but it’s scary not to do it,” she says. “Without the hysterectomy, there was an 87 per cent chance it was going to come back in the next five years. They would have monitored me really heavily, but who wants to take that chance? I thought, ‘if this is what’s going to stop it coming back, then bring it on’.”
Ms Taylor says she tested positive for the breast cancer gene, so having the double mastectomy was an easy decision. She is now clear of the cancer, but the final step in her healing process is to give her breasts a realistic areola and nipple. “If this happens, it is going to be awesome,” she says.
She is still taking names for the group nipple-tattooing sessions and is co-ordinating dates with Mr Myers. To be included on the list, email firstname.lastname@example.org