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Meet The Breast Cancer Survivor Making Nipple Tattoos

“I’ve always been artistic, and I thought, Maybe I can learn to do this.”

After Mary Hauser had a preventative double mastectomy in 2013, her surgeon told her about an alternative to nipple-reconstruction surgery that sounded like a golden ticket. It was almost painless, several thousand dollars cheaper, and took her breast-cancer risk down to zero. The only problem? Her doctor didn’t know of anyone in Indiana who offered nipple tattoos in a medical setting, and she couldn’t find a local tattoo parlor to do the job. Hauser traveled to Ohio to get hers. “I’ve always been artistic, and I thought, Maybe I can learn to do this,” she says.

She signed up for a yearlong apprenticeship as a paramedical cosmetic tattoo artist in Florida and returned to Indiana as one of the few people in the state trained in 3-D areola tattoo reconstruction, working now at Hendricks Regional Health Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in Danville. Most patients are getting their first tattoos and wouldn’t feel comfortable in a tattoo parlor. Though the tattoos don’t protrude from the breast, Hauser uses shading techniques to make them appear raised. The process takes a couple of hours and is covered by insurance (one areola tattoo costs $375).

Jennifer Miller, a 41-year-old mother of four who got nipple tattoos from Hauser last year, says she’s amazed by how real the nipples look. “It makes me feel I don’t have to be ashamed of the process my body’s been through,” she says. “I feel complete again.” 

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