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Survivor heals through art

After surviving breast cancer, Rebecca Fisher’s career took an unexpected turn, writes Emily Norman.

 

Not many people can say they have tattooed their own nipple.

But breast cancer survivor Rebecca Fisher of Masterton has done just that.

Fisher, a qualified paramedical and cosmetic tattoo artist, started out on a unique career path this time last year using micropigmentation tattooing to bring back the nipple for breast cancer survivors who are interested.

She also offers other cosmetic procedures like eyebrow tattoos.

Nipple tattooing was not the expected career path for Fisher.

But after being diagnosed with breast cancer, one thing led to another.

She had just finished her Bachelor of Fine Arts when she was diagnosed in July 2015, and underwent chemotherapy for a “gruelling” six months.

Following the chemotherapy and other treatment, Fisher underwent a double mastectomy with three reconstructive surgeries between January and July last year.

This surgery meant she lost her nipple.

Speaking from her East Taratahi clinic this week, Fisher told of how she had used her skills to recreate her nipple over the past few months.

“When I had just the finished breast mound without a nipple, I was actually okay with that and I didn’t think I would do one.

“But as time went on, I thought actually I really want to do this, and I had all the tools at my fingertips.”

She said nipple tattooing was a “totally personal choice”.

“For some women, they want their nipple back. For other women, they see past it, and they are fine without it.

“They may be proud of their scars.

“Whatever you need to do to feel better about a huge traumatic experience that you’ve been through, that’s what you do.”

Fisher said nipple tattooing was an artform and involved the basics like understanding line, tone, shape, and colour.

“I am in my artistic element because I am problem solving all the time.

“I like that I can use my background in art with this new technical skill to create a masterpiece, and I would like to do lots of them.

“It has the potential to be lifechanging for people who want to go down that path.

“It can also be quite healing in terms of the trauma you experience having your nipple taken away from you.”

Fisher said she had done nipple tattooing on a couple of people since starting her business last year, and had “a couple others in the wings waiting to come” once their scars had healed.

Fisher uses semi-permanent pigment in her tattooing, which she said meets all the cosmetic guidelines and is safe.

“You’re dealing with an area that has had cancer, it might have had surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, it’s a compromised area.

“Ethically, I think you need to use a product that is safe.”

Fisher, who had been a stay at home mum, with previous experience in advertising said she had always wanted to do something that was meaningful- “I just didn’t know what that was”.

She said it made sense to be in the path she had chosen.

With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Fisher said it was important that Wairarapa people “checked themselves” regularly.

“There’s a whole range of breast cancer symptoms.

“Anything you notice that is different: swollenness, redness, sore to the touch, they are all reasons to go to a GP and get yourself checked.

“If you are worried, don’t hold back, get on down there and get checked.”

She said, looking back, “it would have been easy for me to dismiss my concerns and say, oh it’s nothing”.

“I had a scan and there was one tumour, and two weeks later there were two.

“I was very glad I didn’t ignore it.

“Things can turn out to be nothing, but at the same time, things can turn out to be something really sinister.”

If anyone wants information about breast cancer and self-examination they can call in to the Wairarapa Cancer Society in Masterton.

 

*For more information about Fisher’s business, visit rebeccafisher.co.nz

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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