Finding My Gift Through My Breast Cancer Journey
39 was the age I was when they told me I had breast cancer. Surely, they had me confused with someone else. I had no family history, I couldn’t feel any lumps.
As a nurse, I knew what that report was stating, I grabbed every medical book I had, reading chapter after chapter, researching online and spending every second praying and talking with my family about the right treatment path for me.
A trip to the plastic surgeon's office and then surgery, that's what I thought, but God’s timing wasn’t going along with mine. The morning of March 13, 2012, two days before my surgery, the breast surgeon called to reschedule because of insurance issues. I was devastated. I cried for hours only to receive more horrific news- my dad who lived over 500 miles away from me was dying. I rushed to be by his side, but sadly he passed away on March 16, on his 62 birthday.
Driving back to North Carolina to plan my father's funeral, my breast surgeon called again. New plan, "let's do a lumpectomy, to get it out. We'll reschedule the bilateral surgery for a different date." I felt helpless and powerless over my body. March 29, 2012, I woke up in the recovery room to find she had implanted rods for radiation. I couldn’t believe what was happening. During the post-op, I got the story. The cancer had advanced and it was invasive - invasive ductal carcinoma, high grade. After an intense conversation with my breast surgeon about my body, my life, my choice - we scheduled a date for the bilateral mastectomy.
Months later my plastic surgeon talked to me about areola, 3D tattooing. We searched for months looking for an Expert artist that felt right, sadly I gave up and allowed the nurse to perform them. She gave me three options, chocolate brown, bubblegum pink or nude, I almost fell out of the chair, are you kidding me this is my last hooray? Survivors deserve more! Survivors deserve the best. Therefore, I deserved the best.
Feeling my own pain, I made a decision. I was going to train with the best areola tattoo instructor. Yep, formally trained as a nurse I traded one needle for another. When they handed me that tattoo pin, I knew this was my purpose, my gift, my answer to “why me”. God had a higher meaning for my life and I was ready to live it. April 2014 I founded Pink Ink Tattoo.
Pink Ink Tattoo has now expanded nationally. Now in 4 states, I travel to reach survivors who may not be able to reach me, working alongside many wonderful plastic surgeons. The power of survivorship starts within ourselves. I give back every chance I get and I give to other women hurting just like I did. Today, I have the opportunity to give survivors that finishing touch to the long, emotional journey of breast cancer, restoring their confidence and helping them feel whole again.
The most amazing thing throughout this journey is that I have learned my second act of your life can be far more important than your first, but it has to be up to you as to how that can be. I'm a nurse, a mom of 3 beautiful children, a wife, a kidney donor to my sister (yes, I donated my kidney along the way), a Certified 3D Areola tattoo artist and I even helped produce a television show featuring women cancer survivors. Most of all, I am a survivor. And today, I wouldn't trade my life for any other road I could have chosen to travel. I am right where I belong. Tara Dunsmore 6.5 year breast cancer survivor.