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We can’t think of a better reason to get a nipple tattoo

Kristen Fischer is a copywriter, author and journalist based in New Jersey. She is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and host on the monthly podcast, Freelance Radio. Learn more about Kristen at www.kristenfischer.com.

Breast cancer survivors get inked

It may sound a little odd, but women are flocking to Finksburg, Maryland — all for a little time topless with Vinnie Myers.

Screenshot: NY Times

He's the mastermind behind three-dimensional nipple tattoos. For women who have had mastectomies and reconstruction surgeries — and beaten breast cancer — the tattoos are a way to get back to their lives.

“I want to feel comfortable naked, like, I want to look normal again, I want to feel normal again,” said Kimberly Winters, 44, a human resources benefits administrator from Wooster, Ohio, who chronicled her journey to Little Vinnie's Tattoos.

Winters is a survivor that believes reconstruction — and nipple reconstruction — is important so women can feel more comfortable. The problem with mastectomies is that they typically remove the nipple and areola. Skin grafts can help to recreate the original view of a nipple, but patients typically don't want to undergo another surgery or more scars. For many, tattoos offer new hope.

“They don't know how to handle that uncomfortableness, but I live for that,” Winters says. “It's a really horrible time, but you can try to see the light in little things.”

That's why she trekked to Maryland to get what women across the world call a “Vinnie.”

After she debuts her newly inked breasts, Winters is relieved — and quite happy with Myers' work.

“I am so wet T-shirting it,” she smiles. “What a relief!”

For her, it's not just about the pride that comes with getting inked.

“In many ways it's a celebration because I survived,” she tears up. “There are so many women that don't get to this point.”

Myers misses doing a lot of more artistic tattoos as he did more than a decade ago. In 2001 after hearing about the problems plastic surgeons had trying to reconstruct breasts, he began practicing nipple tattoos.

“I would never advise anybody to come to me for surgery, but in the same vein nobody should go to a surgeon for a tattoo,” he told Winters.

In 2010, though, with business booming, he wanted to return to his artistic roots and discontinue the nipple tattooing business. On the morning he planned to announce that he would no longer perform the procedures, however, his sister called and said she had breast cancer. Myers said that was a sign to keep going.

And so, he inks them. He even keeps a handy map of the country to show where women have come from for their breast tattoos.

The number of pins continues to rise, as does each customer's hope — not to mention their confidence.

More on cancer

New cancer treatment method gives patients a second chance
Patrick Dempsey on his mother's cancer and the power of CrowdMed
You can prevent cancer, says World Health Organization

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