My Micropigmentation 3D Areola Helped Me Feel Normal Again After a Long Journey with Breast Cancer
Procedure specific satisfaction rating
The micropigmentation 3D areola I received at the hands of Vjera Zec with Dr. Gary Breslow’s office marked the end of a long and painful journey. Up to that point, I’d received several breast surgeries that had left me feeling uncomfortable with my body. I felt unable to look down at my breasts let alone change at the gym. Vjera changed all of that for me, and I couldn’t be more grateful.
My Journey With Breast Cancer and Discovering Dr. Breslow
I first discovered Dr. Breslow and his office in 2014 when he collaborated with my breast surgeon on a mastectomy. I’d gotten breast cancer in my left breast and had already been undergoing cancer treatments. Originally, my breast surgeon and I had decided on a lumpectomy after my chemotherapy for my breast cancer surgery. But that plan changed to a full-on mastectomy and my breast surgeon referred Dr. Breslow, a plastic surgeon, to help with the surgery.
I was very pleased with the treatment I received and continued going to Dr. Breslow for the breast reconstruction procedures that followed. Dr. Breslow warned me away from breast implants because I was still undergoing chemotherapy, but I was iffy about undergoing DIEP flap surgery and refused it. He turned out to be right. My body rejected the implants and we ended up doing the DIEP flap surgery anyway.
Although they’d initially performed a nipple-sparing mastectomy, by the time the implants were removed and DIEP surgery performed, my nipple was gone from the new breast.
Emotional Struggles and Learning About Micropigmentation
Leading up to the DIEP flap surgery (and as it was healing), I’d conditioned myself not to look down. It was too painful to see what breast cancer had left me with. The DIEP flap surgery definitely helped. It reconstructed the breast and gave me a little bit of normal back. However, it wasn’t enough.
Without a nipple there, my breast looked strange. I wanted to feel normal again. Eventually, I heard about micropigmentation as a means of recreating a nipple. Other women who had gotten the areola tattooing procedure done spoke highly of the process.
That’s when I learned about Vjera Zec, a recent addition to Dr. Breslow’s team. Apparently, she was skilled at this nipple-areola reconstruction procedure. I trusted this was true, because I trust Dr. Breslow and his office. I knew they would only bring someone on who knew what they were doing. I was right.
The Consultation and Wait Process
My initial consultation with Vjera lasted about an hour. I had some reservations about the process. Honestly, I’m not a tattoo person at all - I don’t even really like them on other people and had never considered getting one- so it felt odd that I was considering one now.
Vjera was patient, friendly, and informative. She put me at ease and answered all of my questions, of which there were several. Honestly, she was just really professional.
After the consultation, I felt ready to move forward with it, but I couldn’t. I was instructed to wait at least 6 months before getting the procedure, and I did pretty much exactly that. My consultation was in the spring of 2017 and the procedure occurred that following November.
The Micropigmentation Procedure
I might have been a little nervous about the process, but it was minimal. I’d honestly been through so much at that point and with far more involved procedures. This process was way less stressful. Because it wasn’t directly related to my illness, I didn’t worry about hearing bad news or think “oh god, what are they going to tell me.”
Vjera told me that the whole process would be about 2 hours from beginning to end. That included color matching and mixing. She aimed to get the new nipple to look as much like my remaining nipple as possible in terms of pigment. Vjera also took some time to draw the new nipple to make sure it looked right. I remember that she had me stand up and sit down to check the placement of the reconstructed nipple. Together, we decided on the perfect spot.
I wasn’t worried about it hurting. I’d pretty much lost most of the feeling in my reconstructed breast as it was, so how could it hurt? Still, Vjera gave me something to numb the area anyway. She made certain I was comfortable before starting. It was all over in under the 2 hours.
My Recovery and Results
I was sent home with some antibiotic ointment and instructions. Vjera told me how to keep the area clean, spot signs of infection, and so on. There was minimal bleeding and discharge on the first day. On the second day, when I changed the bandage, the area was dry.
My nipple was red for a while long after the bleeding had stopped. For several weeks into the healing process, my left nipple looked noticeably darker than my right. This persisted after an 8-week follow-up in which Vjera performed some finishing touches. However, it went away with time, and they match perfectly now.
As for the results, I couldn’t be happier. I still have trouble looking down, but not because there’s anything to be afraid of. It’s just a habit I need to break. However, I have seen the results, as has my boyfriend, and we both agree that it looks real. I feel so much more normal now when I look in the mirror - like I blend in.
I didn’t pay anything out-of-pocket for my micropigmentation. As I understand it, this wasn’t always an option for women. I heard later of women who’d had to pay in full for their nipple reconstruction tattoo. I suppose insurance coverage of this particular procedure is more recent. I don’t know how much it costs if you don’t have coverage.
Post-Surgical Meeting and Photos
Vjera gave a presentation for my breast cancer support group about 3D areola micropigmentation. She brought out a folder that included before-and-after photos of dozens of women. She also went over the process and talked about insurance options.
I was one of the women in her portfolio, and I was happy to answer questions for the other women. I think it’s worth mentioning that the after photos that Vjera took of my breasts were taken only 2 weeks after my 8 week follow-up. The left nipple was still a bit red from the touch-up. Basically, the nipple looks even better (and more evenly matched with my natural nipple) now than it does in the photo.
One of the women in my support group brought up the darker pigmentation in my left nipple, and I explained as much to her. It’s important for women to understand that it may take some time for their nipples to match, but that the right person, like Vjera, can match them flawlessly.
Advice to Others
Consider getting a 3D areola with micropigmentation. It’s worth it. After everything you’ve been through with breast surgery, you deserve to feel normal again. Women’s health is about more than survival. You may not realize until you get it how much you needed that boost.