FAIRFAX, Va. (WDVM) — Traveling tattooist artist Marnie Rustemeyer works in West Virginia, Virginia, and New York — tattooing nipples on women who have survived breast cancer and undergone mastectomies.
“I want to give back in any way that I can because I know how it feels. I know what they’ve gone through,” said Rustemeyer, who opted for a double mastectomy after testing positive for the BRCA gene.
Not long after her procedure, Rustemeyer invented her Billow: a pillow designed for women who have undergone surgeries and can no longer sleep comfortably on their stomachs. Through networking and support groups, she discovered another need: restored confidence.
Rustemeyer is a licensed medical tattooist who tattoos nipples, eyebrows and eyeliner.
“If I’m healthy enough and I’m skilled enough to get something back that they lost and to allow them to forget the scar that they see in the mirror, and instead focus on two new focal points; instead of seeing those scars as a reminder of what they’ve gone through…It’s the world,” Rustemeyer said.
Earlier this year, breast cancer survivor Michele Late saw a sign at Inova Schar, advertising Rustemeyer’s procedures.
“My plastic surgeon did a really beautiful job but I felt like there was something still missing that would help me get back to more normal… more accepting of what my body is like now,” said Late.
The process takes up to 90 minutes with a couple of follow up appointments. Rustemeyer works with her clients to personalize the process; configuring size, color, and positioning.
“I show people pictures of it and they can’t believe [it’s real],” said Late. “It’s really gone far in making me feel more like myself again and accepting and just helping me move through this.”