Updated: Sep 26, 2019
Summer was coming to full swing and I found myself dreading another surgery. Not only that, but I was getting use to my current bra-less state. My final #reconstruction was over a half a year ago at this point and my #nipple reconstruction a week away. I honestly hadn’t considered how I felt about another procedure until now. I really only vaguely recalled the documentary on #VinnieMyers, who developed “3-D Nipple Tattooing” and, subsequently, my friend's great experience traveling to Baltimore to have hers done. So, now I really started to contemplate having constant high-beams, wearing a bra, and, most importantly, risking another procedure on my radiated skin. The answer was emphatically, “No.” Therefore, I called my plastic surgeon and cancelled my surgery. The next order of business was to find someone who could tattoo me as the artist in Cleveland had just retired.
After doing some online research, I found that the procedure has become much more commonplace and that there were even options within driving distance from my home. After contacting a few places, I finally discovered #TrueImageTattoo in New Kensington, Pennsylvania. I was impressed with an article detailing their work with a local plastic surgion, Dr. O’ Toole, and what grabbed me was their mission statement: “..to make nipple tattooing available to all women.” (TRIB LIVE) This is important because insurance often does not cover the procedure. Their artist, Luke Romaniw, called me back and discussed the procedure. He also set a reasonable tattoo date (I’ll come back to this later). In the interim, I contacted several other areas simply to verify that True Image was my best fit. It became clear that most of these places requested an initial “consultation” and handled the tattoo as if it were a rare medical procedure due to its the “3-D” nature. Consequently, they are able to charge women up to $1000 as the final “stage of their reconstruction.” This is both unfortunate and absurd. In addition, such places were booked months out. In my discussion with Luke, he said that most of his regular tattoos are “3-D” and that he isn’t doing anything different when he creates nipples. He also uses true tattoo ink so that it doesn’t fade as quickly as some of the cosmetic pigments that are occasionally utilized (I cynically wonder if not to lure women in for a touch up). Well, needless to say, I kept my appointment with Luke.
My husband wasn’t off on the date of my appointment and it was such a busy time of year that I didn’t want to ask a friend to accompany me. Plus, it wasn’t as fun as the trips that we made to Beechwood in Cleveland for visits to my plastic surgeon (#DrAndreaMoirera) and the mall. I easily found True Image soon after passing Oakmont Country Club. When I walked in, I was positively astonished with the cleanliness of the studio. No wonder they were so busy! Luke greeted me and I felt very comfortable instantly. I waited while he finished transferring some items to a private procedure room. There, we discussed their licenses and instrument cleaning methods including the very important point that the tattoo needles were one-use and they were opened in my presence. After I was satisfied with that, we discussed my preferences. This was followed by the very important process of drawing on the size and location of my new tattoos. I did have him move them down and laterally and when I was pleased, he proceeded. I felt some minor pressure at times and continuous pressure and pulling with the coloring process.
The procedure, itself, only took an hour. However, the results completely belied the ease of this process. I simply could not believe how that final touch transformed my Barbie bumps to, what appear to be, real breasts! I was also very happy that we moved them down and laterally because that really gave my perky new breasts the appearance of some natural droop! I could, honestly, go topless! If I had been really adventurous, I could have chosen among an infinite number of designs to cover my scars. Yet, they didn’t even appear so prominent after my tattoos were complete. I didn’t cry as I’ve witnessed other women do after receiving their tats but only because the fear of losing my life has left me tearless. At the time that I had my procedure, the cost was $150, like “any other tattoo of this level,” according to Luke. I could almost go back for that cherry blossom running over my scar but for now, I’m holding off.
In follow up, I am now 2 years out from my tattoo and recently had a breast sonogram. The sonographer said they were the best ones that she has ever seen!