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Tattooing breast cancer patients makes them feel whole again

Cosmetic tattooing makes breast cancer survivors "feel whole again."
Posted at 5:40 PM, Jan 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-07 18:57:07-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — When many hear about cosmetic tattooing, they typically think microbladed eyebrows or permanent eyeliner.

But what about a more sensitive area -- nipples?

A local cosmetic tattoo artist is using her talents to create 3-dimensional nipple tattoos for breast cancer survivors.

“I was just going in for my regular mammogram and I didn't think anything would come of it,” breast cancer survivor Tish Zirbes said. “I just went in, had it and that day they called me.

“They told me that they found something. The next day, I think it was, I went in and had a needle biopsy and it came back positive.”

Zirbes was diagnosed with breast cancer late in 2016. And by the next year, she was undergoing chemotherapy followed by a double-mastectomy.

“Then when you would see yourself you were just like a plain slate, they looked like Barbie,” Zirbes said. “They were just mounds with no color.”

Enter Tina Lain, who was known locally for her talents as a cosmetic tattoo artist.

After losing her father to lung cancer, she decided to make it her mission to help cancer survivors – like Tish – feel whole again.

“My entire practice is built because of a family member's diagnosis with cancer,” Lain said “It never had anything to do with beautification. It always had the premise of helping people regain their power.”

Lain does this not only by microblading eyebrows. But she also offers breast cancer survivors something they lost in the fight against the disease.

“I had never formally met Tina, but all of a sudden I see this picture of the reconstructive nipple tattooing. And oh my gosh, they looked amazing! Amazing, amazing! And I as soon as I saw it, I called her,” she said.

It’s an opportunity for them to be able to regain and forge forward in their triumphant return to wholeness. And that's powerful. That's magical.

“It's like... I feel like I have the real thing again. So it's exciting. It is exciting. It feels good to feel whole again,” Zirbes said.

Although Zirbes feels lucky to have met Lain, the cosmetic tattoist says she is the lucky one.

“When they're hugging me at the end and telling me thank you, I'm thanking them,” Lain said. “Because it truly is a shared experience together. I hope that I am able to touch them like they have touched me.”

Zirbes is now cancer free. But she does continue her fight by raising funds and awareness through various area organizations.