A six-year journey with breast cancer has been a physical and an emotional journey for survivor Terri Melia.
"When you finish chemo, you say to yourself I'm glad I'm alive. I don’t i don’t need anything else” Terri would say to herself.
“Then as you're feeling better and you go through those different steps… I really want to feel whole again. I want to feel like I did before, I want to look like I did before".
After a failed reconstruction, implants were not an option.
Terri found Pensacola Plastic Surgeon Dr. Ben Brown who did a procedure called a DIEP flap.
Tissue, skin and blood vessels are moved from the belly to create new breasts. Dr. Brown tries to give patients back everything that cancer took away.
"So a lot of the times i will make a nipple, out of skin kind of origami with the skin in the operating room, especially when I do the flap because I have extra skin. but there's no pigment, it still doesn't look red" Dr. Ben said.
That’s where esthetician Zoe Haft comes in. She tattoos an areola to make the new breast look complete.
Terri wasn't going to do it until another patient told her how much difference it made.
"I kept looking at that blank slate, and saying you know what, i really want to do this. i want to be finished, i want to be whole again" she said.
As part of reconstruction, the tattoos are covered by insurance.
Dr. Brown notices the women have a new feeling about their breasts when it's done.
“Once the nipple's been tattooed and reconstructed, they kind of all of a sudden have a lot more modesty, they protect their breasts a little more because I think that all of a sudden they feel more real" she added.
"I feel pretty again. I feel whole again".