FOX 8's Stacey Frey shares her story below about her personal journey on surviving breast cancer.
Nearly two years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had a mastectomy a month later and today, my journey has finally come to an end! and I say with great joy, I never thought I'd look like this again!
That was the first thought I had after seeing my new nipple for the first time. What the doctor took during my mastectomy in October of 2012, a tattoo artist name Vinnie Meyers has given me back.
It's the final step in a process that has taken me from uncertainty and doubt through fear and pain.
This man, this artist, has devoted his life to women's breasts and he wouldn't have it any other way.
"I'm not sure there's a better job in the world than this one," Vinnie says. "You get to tattoo women's breasts all day long. At the same time you’re helping people out. Doesn’t get much better than that," said Vinnie.
Vinnie Myers operates out of a tattoo parlor in a nondescript little strip of stores in a town outside of Baltimore, Maryland.
I first heard about him from my plastic surgeon, Dr. Hooman Soltanian, who explained to me that he could only do so much to make my breast look like a real one.
But Vinnie was like some sort of Picasso. His shop has become the destination of women around the world.
Vinnie said, "They’ve come all this way to see me as the final step. To come to a tattoo shop which they probably never would have been in in their lives, then I get to do the final step in this battle. But the inspiring part is the ladies."
Most women who have a mastectomy will lose their nipple along with their breast because there could be cancer cells lingering there. It's common, but not something I realized.
Thinking back on all the of it brings my mind to some pretty dark places. The surgery was terrifying, the recovery painful and the reconstruction a relief. But still I don't look right. I didn't feel right. I needed "a Vinnie." He says he doesn't know how he got here but, "I am considered the nipple guy these days."
The nipple guy nearly gave it up a few years ago. The breast cancer community is a pretty tight-knit group. As word spread about this tattoo artist and his talents, his days became consumed with breast cancer survivors wanting new nipples and areolas.
Vinnie made a decision. "In 2010, I’d decided that I’d had enough and I was done with this. I came in on Monday morning and told the guys no more breast appointments. I’m done. And 30 minutes later my sister called and said she was diagnosed with breast cancer," Vinnie said.
So Vinnie held to the promise he had made himself years earlier, to follow this path wherever it took him.
He said, "Sometimes you think God has a plan for you and I think that this was the plan that God had for me. I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world."
After all the bad news these women with breast cancer have dealt with, this is the man who gets to see them with a smile on their face and happy tears in their eyes.
"I’m the guy that they come to see in the end, to put the cherry on the cupcake. I’m the last thing they see. And it’s a great place to be. To be on the backside of this whole journey," Vinnie said.
For more on Vinnie Meyers inspiring work, click here