Charleston woman helps breast cancer survivors heal through art

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – To mark Breast Cancer Awareness month, one Charleston woman is making it her mission to increase awareness on breast reconstruction.

In 2013, Marnie Rustemeyer was diagnosed with BRCA, often referred to as the “breast cancer gene.” Her mother had breast cancer and she was prone to having it as well.

It was then that she decided to take preventative measures and remove her breasts, receiving a preventative double mastectomy.

The experience inspired her to help other women in similar situations get back a piece of their life that they thought they had lost forever.

She received medical/cosmetic tattoo training from the Sauler Institute of Penn Medicine and then went on to specialize in areola tattooing through its ART (Areola Restorative Tattoo) program to help bring back the natural beauty to women’s breasts after they’ve had reconstructive surgery.

“It’s amazing because I’m giving something back something that somebody lost, and I know how it feels, and it’s just the best feeling in the world…” said Marnie.

Denisa Phelix contacted Marnie with the hope to regain her confidence and feel whole again. She too had a double mastectomy after she was diagnosed with Ductile Carcinoma back in 2017.

“I think it’s just being able to look in the mirror and see yourself as you were,” said Denisa.

One would think this kind of tattooing would take place behind closed doors, but it was wide open, representing an open invitation to other cancer survivors.

“I’ve gone 34 years without that, you know, so I’m very interested,” said a Survivor.

The procedure of tattooing 3D areolas takes about two hours to complete and the survivor slowly begins to gain their confidence back as they watch the art develop on their blank canvas.

Marnie performs 3D areola tattooing in the Charleston/Huntington area, Virginia and New York. She can be contacted on her website and on Instagram.

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