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  • Writer's picturebarbara fox

Why does a little restorative tattoo, like 3D areola, mean so much?

As a stage 3 triple negative breast cancer survivor, I can tell you, that suddenly everything changes. You are told this diagnosis that, at least in my case, started 9 months of treatment. A major change to my body and mind making my head spin in about what was coming and what could happen. Taking my hair first (and yes, its ALL the hair on your body, not just the hair on the top of your head) within two weeks of the start of chemo. Chemo was my first treatment. My energy went next, my breasts a few months later after genetic testing showed I was prone to recurrence, a mere 80%, due to the lovely BRCA2 gene and to finish it all off a month of radiation which if you were not exhausted before, there’s that.

What the treatment of this disease left behind were scars. My breasts both now had large scares that are the size of baseballs where the areolas and breast tissue had been removed. This tissue had been replaced with skin and tissue from my abdomen using a technique called DIEP flap reconstruction. This means I also received a scar on my abdomen that reaches from left to right hip and a scar surrounding my belly button that was moved up. The final scar is above the belly button and about an inch long where another surgery removed my ovaries due to BRCA2 – it’s the other place that BRAC2 will cause cancer.

After treatment is over, you have a life to be put back together with a new perspective and what I fondly refer to as my “after cancer” body – kind of like the “after kids” body… it’ll just never be the same. A bit of PTSD, and this feeling of “fly, be free little bird”, because after a year of seeing doctors and nurses every week you are simply on your own. Pushed out of the nest. Terrified on so many levels. Hoping it’s all okay now. You do continue to see doctors for 5 years. At first more often, as time progresses annually and then you released after 5 years.

So how does a tattoo, that almost no one sees make such a difference?

I’ve heard it referred to as the icing on the cake. I think it closes the chapter, gives it a visual finality. This is done. Your body will obviously never be the same, nor your attitude or your life. What has happened is THAT life changing. So, this little tattoo means the world. It puts you back in control over your body after so many uncontrollable things have occurred. A beautiful well-done, realistic areola tattoo makes your breast look like yours again when you look in the mirror. The scars don’t seem as obvious. You feel like you’ve finally finished your treatment. You stand a little higher and move forward with more confidence, knowing it is finished and you can get back to your life.

This is Restorative Tattoo:

· Eyebrows for an alopecia patient

· Areola tattoos for someone who has had mastectomy from breast cancer, preventative or top surgery

· Making a scar through a lip disappear for a cleft pallet patient

· Maybe a fingernail on a finger shortened by amputation

· Hiding a scar that reminds someone of a moment they’d prefer forgetten.

…and more

This art is known as restorative, paramedical or medical tattoo. These procedures help those who bear physical reminders of things that lost from an accident, illness, age, or other reasons. This art resides somewhere between body art tattoo and permanent makeup. These procedures use a tattoo machine and, depending on the procedure, either body art tattoo inks or permanent makeup pigments and of course an artist’s gifts.

Healing you can’t see

Beyond the amazing physical results of paramedical tattooing, this art offers recipients so much more. To someone who has experienced a traumatic illness or event, the appearance of the scar can serve as a constant reminder. Even though others may not think it obvious, those bearing the scars think it’s all anyone sees. These tattoos make these things less noticeable.

Paramedical tattooing empowers people. It boosts self-esteem and helps someone feel more comfortable in their own skin. For people who have lost a physical part of their body, restorative tattooing can be a step towards feeling normal again. It is in this sense that medical tattoos, although possibly barely noticeable to others, can be truly life changing. That is why this little tattoo matters so much.

These little tattoos truly return confidence, making Confidence Inked.

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