A contract between the Waikato DHB, Tristram Clinic and a Hamilton woman has been established to help breast cancer survivors.
Under the new contract Debbie Casson founder of Lady Ink Cosmetic Tattooing, will perform cosmetic nipple tattooing for women who have been through breast reconstruction surgery for breast cancer.
"I'm a survivor myself, so this is massive," Debbie said.
Debbie was diagnosed with two forms of cancer in the space of a week in 2012. She underwent surgery for a rare type of sinus cancer and just days later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer after she'd been for a routine mammogram.
She understands the emotions of what cosmetic nipple tattooing can mean to a woman after undergoing breast reconstruction herself, along with chemotherapy and radiation.
After being diagnosed, Debbie ended her 28-year career as a nail technician, worried that the chemicals had contributed to her sinus tumour.
She joined Shocking Pink, a New Zealand-wide charity for young woman diagnosed with cancer. Talking to the women within the group, she realised how financially out-of-reach it was to get areola tattooing done after they'd had breast cancer.
"I'm a people person who loves working with women and I had worked in an arty industry so I thought I could do that," Debbie said.
"I decided to train in cosmetic tattooing and as part of it I had to learn eyebrows, eyeliner and lips. A lot of our breast cancer ladies lose their eyebrows and hair after chemotherapy. It is never the same. So it all worked hand-in-hand," Debbie said.
The nipple repigmentation and 3D nipple cosmetic tattooing service that Debbie offers, helps post-mastectomy patients by creating the appearance of an areola after nipple reconstruction, or a 3D nipple can be created by shading with pigments giving the 3D effect.
Debbie said this helps give women their self-esteem and confidence back after a tough journey.
"It's a huge deal and it makes them very happy. I get the enjoyment of seeing their faces at the end of it," Debbie said. "It really is the cherry on the top".
The contract, in conjunction with the Waikato DHB and Tristram Clinic where the patients go to for the cosmetic tattooing, is a huge step forward as most DHBs do not fund the procedure.
Debbie said that if it wasn't for some of the top plastic surgeons at the Waikato DHB keeping the momentum going, the contract may not have happened. She credits their driving force behind it all coming together, and the "lovely" team at Tristram Clinic
To find out more contact your specialist as you will need a referral.