Like the nipples she renders foe patients following reconstructive
bnreast surgery, Bonnie Hippler's caring touch is indelible.
Bonnie Hippler slides on a pair of vibrant purple gloves, grabs an
elongated swab and swirls it into a small plastic top filled with a
mauve liquid pigment foundation. It's been more than five years since
Hippler, a plastic and reconstructive nurse, took up the art of nipple
tattooing, and she is no longer nervous that she will mistakenly shape
the areola like a lopsided oblong or worse, a perfect square.
Nipple tattooing is offered after breast reconstructive surgery. For
some of Hippler's patients, it represents a sweet reward for making
it through an exhausting and life-threatening battle. Both patient and
nurse see the creation of a defined and colored area as an unexpected
gift that can go a long way in helping them feel whole again. "These
women are so happy to be alive," says Hippler, who began her career
nearly 20 years ago as an oncology nurse. "They are still filled
with such emotion. After all they have been through, this is the easy
After one lumpectomy, one mastectomy and one breast reduction, patient
Mary "Ginger" Hale was definitely ready for her reward. So
after a plastic surgeon created a new breast and reconstructed her nipple,
Hale, 70, chose tattooing. "We are more aware of the many options
available to us today," says Hale, a retired administrative judge.
"I thought, why not have the nipple tattoo? Why not go the whole
She did, twice. After the first tattooing faded, she returned to the
Outpatient Center for the procedure. Now, as Hippler blends a few pigment
colors to match the color of Hale's original nipple, she uses the time
to soothe her patient with her soft voice, gentle touches and sensitive
questions about family and friends. Then, Hippler smoothly swabs the
area on which she will tattoo the areola. She turns on the drill topped
with nine microneedles and aerates the area so that the skin slowly
absorbs the pigment. She works until the entire area is uniform with
"It's wonderful we can have this done," Hale says. "With
breast cancer, women used to be mutilated physically and psychologically.
All the available therapies can go a long way in making a woman feel
less like a specimen and more like a woman."