Nipple Options Post Mastectomy

My entire life i’ve dreamt of getting fake boobs. Literally, I remember being the youngest of ages stuffing tissues or socks in my shirt as I starred in a mirror, readjusting and copping a feel of myself. I had a serious fascination with looking “womanly”, “sexy”, and the look of round perkiness hovering just above a low revealing v-neck was my goal in life. Seriously though, good cleavage is the ultimate of sex appeal! I idolized Barbie. Yes I completely understand that “if Barbie was real, she would be highly disproportional”, however… who doesn’t want to be blonde, thin, with perky boobs, drive a pink car, and own high heels in like every color imaginable? Thats literally my dream come true!

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer and heard the news that my best surgical option would be a double mastectomy to decrease my risk of a recurrence, my first instinct and I believe may have been my direct quote was “sign me up!”. Literally take my tits I do not want to die! In that instant, and in my head I just wanted the cancer out of my body. However, that naive version of myself couldn’t comprehend at the time that this would rather quickly end up being a lifelong journey and definitely not an easy fix to rid the cancer!

Mastectomies

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There are many different variations of a mastectomy. There are unilateral meaning one breast, bi-lateral meaning both breast. Then there is something known as nipple sparring or non nipple sparring which quite simply means you wake up either with nips or without. In my case, I had a bilateral non nipple sparring mastectomy due to my tumor being so close to my nipple and my genetic PALB2 component making me 30% more likely to have a recurrence.

In lame mans terms, I have no tits or nips! I woke up after my mastectomy with many new lines and drains, but I was missing two of my most prized procession. The two things I waited to grow my entire life. At the age of 26 and whether it be that I had finally matured into my womanly body or just gained a few extra pounds since college, I was finally excited to finally have cleavage (after wearing a Victoria Secret miraculous bra of course) Then boom! Bye bye boobies, thank you cancer!

I almost instantly traded in my Victoria Secret swovarski crystal bras for front opening white basic bitch sports bras from Wal Mart. I was left with two bandages in horizontal lines across my chest. And a few weeks later, once my doctor removed my bandages, I looked down and realized I was the female Frankenstein! My chest was completely flat, to the point that in photos my chest could have been mistaken for my back. Beneath that white tape were two scars that I will have as a souvenir of one of the craziest journeys of my entire life!

Post Mastectomy Decisions

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Following a mastectomy you are faced with yet again a TON of decisions. There are decisions for the boobs, the nipples, and the skin care for scarring and each of these decisions will effect your physical and emotional self forever. I chose to have immediate expander placement following my mastectomy which means my expanders were placed under my muscle directly following my surgical oncologist cutting out all of my breast tissue. I then went through multiple expander fills prior to radiation, then about 8 months following my mastectomy, I opted for breast reconstruction.

(Side note: I have outlined my mastectomy, fills, and breast reconstruction details in prior blog posts… check them out for all the nitty gritty details!)

Basically, following a mastectomy your doctor will give you many different options and you truly have to pick the one that will make you feel most comfortable within your own skin. Often times, to get back to a somewhat pre-cancer, quote on quote “womanly” body, you will be forced to undergo multiple surgeries which in return means pain, blood, and tears. There is breast reconstruction, nipple reconstruction, nipple/ areola tattooing, then if you have complications you may opt for adjustments, tattoos may fade, and nipples may diminish, ugh… so which one is the right one for me?

My Quest for the Perfect Nipple

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This whole past year, I have been going back and forth between “team” for nipples or anti nipples. I have to explain my personal view then Ill go into my decisions made. Plain and simple, I have grown to love my scars and my flat clean chest. I am a little obsessed with how beautifully my scars have healed (thank you rxcannacare) and simply LOVE going braless (one shout out to Cancer for bringing me convenience in one aspect of my life!) It is pretty amazing to not have to worry about finding my nude bra for when I wear a white tshirt. Also, I get to wear all those really adorable crotchet back tops that require a funky strapped bra or no bra with madonna nipples as soon as they touch the cold air because guess what, I dont have to worry about a bra at all! It is pretty fabulous I must say!

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However, all my love for the convenience of not having nips aside, there is still a small part of me that gets a little self conscious about my body. I post topless photos all the time because I dont feel like these breasts are mine. To me they are fake boobies, “foobies”. The will never be my old boobs. My scars cover up anything sexy about my chest. I feel the farthest thing from sexy actually. Its sad because I feel undesirable and most definitely unattractive because of my chest.

I was priveleged enough to have found my knight in shining armor pre-cancer. So he knew my old titty tatas and now my foobies. And although he sayssss I am beautiful and my chest doesnt bother him… Deep down I know it does. I mean, if I dont feel like they are natural, and I treat them as a foreign thing… how can he get turned on by them? I can count on one hand how many times since my mastectomy he has even touched my chest and probably each of those times was me facilitating and guiding his hand to cop a feel. Its awkward all around… and thats when I realized that nipples may be the missing piece to my sexay puzzle!

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I have started looking into my next step of whether or not I wanted new nipples, but thought I had finally come to the decision that I feel more comfortable hiding behind my scars, keeping my unnatural feeling breasts and thats just my reality because I had breast cancer at 26 years old. Im married, he says he’s fine with it so thats a wrap, right? I mean, I guess so… but it is 2017, so why not atleast look into different options.

What are Your Options?
So what are the options when you wake up from surgery and are nippleless like an utterless cow? Well its your lucky day, because there are a slew of options, you just have to find the one that works best for you! Of course going nippless is completely fine and dandy if you feel comfortable in your new skin, which I absolutely believed I was… until I tried out some options. There are invasive and non invasive options, Lets start with the surgical approach…

Nipple Reconstruction

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PROS: This would probably be the most invasive option for obtaining nipples because it does involve surgery. All surgeons are different however, my surgeon performs the breast reconstruction with the insertion of implants, has you wait another six months to allow the skin and tissue to heal, then starts to discuss adjustments and nips. Basically a plastic surgeon is able to “build up” and actually form a nipple from underneath the skin to create the illusion of having an actual 3d nipple! It provides you with a little lump that can be played with, flicked, or sucked! Every woman’s dream right?! If only you didn’t have decreased sensation following a mastectomy.

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CONS: One of the major downsides to this option is that there is a chance, and many people have reported to me that the nipple that is reconstructed often collapses or diminishes, so you either have to undergo another surgery or live with a flat nipple anyways. You also then have to almost definitely look into areola/ nipple tattooing because its all swell and good that you now have the nipple formed, but “normal nipples” are a different pigment from your skin therefore to make it look somewhat natural, your going to have to get some sort of coloring or pigmentation applied.

3-D Nipple/ Areola Tattooing

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PROS: That brings me to tattooing! I have had a few tattoo artists reach out to me and I’ve looked at many options going the more artistic route. If you chose to venture down the tattoo route, I’ve heard artists saying you can undergo tattooing as soon as 3 months following reconstruction! You can do tattooing whether or not youve had nipple reconstruction because the artists are actually able to use contrasting colors to create shadows and an illusion that the nipples are actually pertruding! A great option whether you chose to undergo nipple reconstruction or not. This is a way to provide a more visual normalcy to having nipples again!

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CONS: Some problems I have seen going this route are finding a good artist and the cost. One of my greatest fears with tattoos are how permanent they really are. Hellz, if they go to town and my nips come out looking like pepperonis, im stuck with that shit for the rest of my life! Then theres some tattoos that have serious Montgomery gland protrusion. These often look like little spots or dots apples to the areola. Like, I am not okay with my tits looking like they have an STD! So not only am I going to be stuck with unnatural foobies, but now they are a serving platter for some bologna tits! Like, no… wayyyyy to risky for me anyways…

Chest Piece Tattoos

PROS: Then there is the beauty of receiving a chest piece! I have seen some freaking gorgeous tattoos that stretch across womens breasts. From flowers to animals, these are used as a symbol of making it through the journey of cancer. This route is much more symbolic I feel, and to some; this can also be used as a coping mechanism. Others may chose this option when their scars are dark or implants show significant rippling as a way to camouflage their imperfections.

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CONS: For me, I have some tattoos but nothing large. All I can think about is what that tattoo will look like when i’m 80 years old. I would want that portrait to last and look like the weeks following its completion, surely not just a blob or bleeding colors.  This is also a very permanent option.  Especially after those of us have undergone so much radiation, if you do receive a tattoo that you aren’t satisfied with… you can’t just get laser removal.  You are pretty much stuck with what you get.

Temporary Nipple Tattoos

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PROS: Then, I found temporary nipple tattoos! I figured this was a sure solution to my nippless problem. I reached out to the company “tata tattoos” and they sent me out some samples!  Tata Tattoos- Amazon Literally I felt like I was 5 tears old again and ready to apply tattoos all up and down my arms! They sent me a sample pack so I had many different pigments to pick from. I chose a pair I “thought” were close to my natural color. A little lining them up in the mirror, adding some water, peeling the paper back ever so carefully and BAM! I had myself some nipples! Wonderful, creative alternative and even something to try if your contemplating nipple reconstruction or tattooing!

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CONS: In theory this was a fantastic option, until I looked up in the mirror. I initially thought they looked a little odd, even for my B-ish sized expanders. The size and shape just looked very small circles. And the color didn’t seem all that right. But then, I walked out and showed my husband and his face said it all. We both just laughed hysterically. Okay, I legit had pepperonis on my chest! I most definitely picked the wrong color! And, the best part… I couldn’t get them off for about a week! Ugh, nipple FAIL!

Basically, if you dont go the tattoo route, you really arent going to be able to recreate the look of an areola or natural colored nipple. Its practically impossible unless you are a seriously amazing makeup artist and can spend the time drawing on semi permanent nipples that wont wipe of when you get a little sweaty during some bam chica wam wam… but still im sure theyd wipe off then your partner will be like, “wait a second, where did your nips go” and that would be seriously embarrassing. Or, you get caught in a rain storm and your boobs get wet then the makeup runs through your white shirt and people are like, “um whats on your shirt?” And you say “omg my nipples”! Like, save yourself the torture!

Finally… Nipple Prosthetics

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Creator of Pink-Perfect, Michal Arbel

Lets get to what you have all been waiting for, the story of my new nips! Thats what led me to my next option, nipple prosthesis! I attended the Young Survival Coalition Summit Conference 2017 in Oakland California (full blog to come), and amongst a slew of absolutely amazing vendors laid a table full of nipples. I am not talking pictures of nipples, I’m not talking statues of nipples, i am talking real life freakin nipples!! Okay, they weren’t real nor alive but that were silicone nipples and they were the most real looking nipple alternatives I have found yet!

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Pink-Perfect, a company created by artist and breast cancer survivor herself Michal Arbel makes a variety of shape, size, color, and texture of nipples! Literally it looked like hundreds of different types of nipples for all skin tones to create a more natural booby look! For my sisters with one nipple, this is the best part, these are custom, and she is an absolute expert at matching her product to your existing single nipple.

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PRO: Pink Perfect creates high quality, realistic, custom-made and easy to use adhesive silicone nipples to make us nippless beings feel beautiful inside and out. Aside from them looking absolutely as real as it gets, they feel real too! The silicone make the nipple squishable, and overall comfortable. And, (this is the best part of all) the glue adhesive can last up to 2 weeks per application! They are waterproof too! They can be worn in the shower or during swimming! Like for real, how incredible are these!

CON: Now in this day and age, pretty much anything that is fabulous always comes with a price tag.  Pink-Perfect has two different routes that you can chose from. #1: they make a ready -made tailored for women who underwent a unilateral or bilateral mastectomy. They currently have 3 different styles including Natural, Modest or Bold. Each style differs in nipple projection and areola texture and comes in 8 different color variations. These pre-made nips run about $240.00. #2: The custom version is intended for women who have undergone a unilateral (single) mastectomy.They provide you with an impression kit including high quality silicone.  You make your imprint, send it back and in return you will receive an extremely realistic nipple which will resemble your remaining nipple! How flipping cool is that! The only downside to this option is that it will run you $370.00-$440.00 (dependent on if you receive the impression kit or not).

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Insurance Coverage

One additional positive about Pink-Perfect is that within the US, they are covered under HCPCS billing code L8032 (“Nipple Prosthesis, reusable, any type, each”).  You can contact your insurance company and with a qualifying diagnosis and surgery requiring nipples and many insurance providers will cover them. You may need to talk to your plastic surgeon for a prescription,  however it is definitely worth it due to the high cost!  The way I see it is if its going to make you feel comfortable and sexy then that is truly priceless!

pros-aide1-1Adhesive:

“Pink Perfect uses a waterproof Pros-Aide® & Telesis® Adhesives which are intended for external prosthesis usage. Both adhesives are from FDA licensed companies, well-known in the professional make-up industry. Based on our research, tests and customer feedback, the complementary Pros-aide adhesive maintains its integrity for a period of several days. However, for some women, the Pros-aide adhesive won’t hold as much as they expect due to their skin moisture/pH level and may need a stronger adhesive. For these women we offer the Telesis adhesive.”

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Nipple Advice

My advice would be plan for prosthetic nipples ahead of time.  Get in touch with your insurance, and if they are covered just order a pair because its all about timing and premiums.  For me, If I would have purchased prosthetic nipples before the new year, they would have been covered 100% by my HighMark insurance company because my deductible would have been reached. Being the start of the new year and not having as many appointments as the year prior, I have not hit my deductible therefore, the cost came out of pocket.

After trying the nipples, I was surprised by how easy they could be applied and how realistic they really look. The medical grade adhesive allowed me to wear the nipples throughout a normal day, while exercising and showering. I purchased a more natural and less bold nipple so I have a little poke when I don’t wear a bra, but they are still light enough in color that they are visible through a white shirt.  I think the silicone nipples would be a wonderful option for anyone considering nipple reconstruction. They are pain free, less expensive than surgery and allow you the opportunity to see if nipples provide you a sense of emotional comfort or closure.

So, how to purchase them you ask? Well its simple, she has a website and she ships internationally! After you finish this blog post of course, head over to http://www.pink-perfect.com and check out some nipples people! 

The Decision Is Yours

The bottom line is that no one lives in your body but you. No one sees your naked body except you and your partner unless you are some sort of nudest then hell yes to you my friend! Plain and simple you have to go with the decision that will make you happy, and make you feel comfortable in your own skin! I can honestly say that once I had my nipples glued on for the very first time, I looked in the mirror and cried! Not because I was sad or it hurt… but because I felt like me again, I felt normal, and I felt beautiful!

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I have had my nips attached ever since the conference and I am yet to take them off. For me this is the absolute perfect alternative because the days I want to have nipples I can, and when I want to wear a shirt without a bra, I can just peel them off and store them safely in their little box. It truly makes for the best of both worlds! Thank you Pink Perfect and Michal for the opportunity to feel like me again with the absolute perfect pair of nipples! #sparkleon

Xoxo

Meg

PS: Check out my videosof my nipples below!
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PINK-PERFECT NIPPLES AT YSC CONFERENCE

LOVING MY NIPPLES

HOW TO APPLY YOUR PINK-PERFECT PROSTHETIC NIPPLES

 

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