Why cancer survivors line up to ink differently

The Advertiser, Sunday Mail, Sunday 29th September 2019


AN ADELAIDE tattoo artist is helping breast cancer patients across the world feel more like a woman after body-scarring treatment.

Aleisha Gannon was the first in Australia to develop temporary nipple tattoos in 2018 as an interim solution to the hidden side-effect of mastectomy.

The 34-year-old mum of two has gathered clients from across the globe and has now developed temporary eyebrow tattoos for patients stripped bare by chemotherapy.

“I cry with them,” says Aleisha of the tattoos’ transformative effects.

“It makes me so happy to see my clients like themselves again - there’s nothing like it.”

Breast cancer survivors now line up alongside full-sleeved tattoo clients waiting in well-established Ink Haus tattoo parlour in Hackney.

Among them is Lynn Sinclair, from Fairview Park. The 59-year-old had both breasts removed in 2017 after lumps were found and a family history of breast cancer.

For more than two years she was without nipples.

“Yuck,” she said was her everyday reaction to the body in the mirror.

“You are born with nipples. They are a part of your identity as a woman and a mother and when they are gone, along with your breasts, you feel as though you’ve lost your womanhood.”

Lynn came to know of Aleisha’s handiwork through her son and soon after was inked with permanent 3-D nipple tattoos.

“Even though they are not real, it’s given me so much more confidence,” she says.

Women can wait up to a year post-mastectomy for breast reconstruction surgery while others cannot undergo the procedure due to cost or health reasons.

“Many of the women I speak to feel abandoned after their mastectomies and very few of them are given options,” says Aleisha.

“It’s the white elephant in the room - nipples - no-one wants to talk about them.”

Although not personally affected by breast cancer, Aleisha quickly learned the pain of mastectomy is not only skin deep through her own research and tattoo chair conversations with breast cancer survivors.

Common stories of survivors’ emotional pain and shame over the loss of their anatomy – breasts completely removed, scarred chests and missing nipples - saw Aleisha develop Pink Lotus Australia - a company dedicated to helping women get their nipples back.

She was overwhelmed by the response: “They all say ‘you have no idea how much you have helped me’.”

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.