ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. – A local tattoo artist in Altamonte Springs has been working with breast cancer survivors for the past 12 years. It was her passion for the work that led her to create Empower Tattoo.
"Sporadically through those 12 years I've been kind of randomly asked, here and there, to do these kinds of tattoos for survivors," Stacie Becker said. "I knew that there was a void in the medical community."
Inside her tattoo shop Becker is helping women who have undergone a mastectomy and then reconstructive surgery.
"Some women will get reconstructive nipples and so my responsibility in that part will be to add color mainly to the areola--we add a little bit of color around the nipple as well," Becker said. "A lot of it is trying to help create textures. Some women have Montgomery tubercles which we can put in there, some don't, so we can do it a little smoother."
One of her clients is 69-year-old Pattie Cohen, who was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2008.
"Somebody in the office called and said, 'You have to come, come tomorrow at 7:30 in the morning and bring a family member.' So right away I knew it has to be breast cancer," Cohen said.
After going through cancer treatment and a mastectomy, eight years later she decided to have reconstructive surgery.
But Cohen didn't have the nipple area reconstructed because she didn't want another surgery, so she looked into getting 3D nipple tattoos.
"It took like two years to go through it, and when I was finished with that, it was time for me to have my 3D nipple tattoos and I went to my doctor and I said, well where do I go for that," Cohen said.
Her doctor referred her to someone in Jacksonville, but it was too far for Cohen to travel. She decided to do some research and found Becker.
"We did a realistic 3D nipple. She opted not to have reconstructive nipple reconstruction," Becker said about the process done on Cohen.
"It was just--it was amazing because she's all finished and when I go to look in the mirror to make sure everything was even and I looked and I went, 'Oh my gosh, they're wonderful.' I couldn't believe, I was so excited," Cohen said.
"This is a whole different level. This isn't something that someone is getting just because they want to. This is helping them in a part of their life. It's giving confidence back, self-esteem. It's empowering them to re-enter this new chapter of their life boldly and bravely," Becker said.