Tatts for tits

Local artist restores confidence, femininity

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By AMANDA KIMBLE
TheFlashToday.com

ERATH COUNTY (October 30, 2016) – Battling breast cancer can be a dehumanizing experience. There is fear and uncertainty. There are doctor visits, exams and a lot of questions. Sometimes there are answers. In most cases, there are various treatment options. Patients and their families face many decisions and difficulties.

Jennie Pickering survived the battle with the potentially deadly disease. She was one of the “lucky” ones. The disease was detected early. Pickering listened to her instincts and insisted on a sonogram after what appeared to be negative mammogram results. And there it was – cancer.

It didn’t have the chance to spread throughout her body. Doctors were confident a lumpectomy, removing the cancerous mass, would be sufficient. But, Pickering made a bold move and decided to undergo a double mastectomy. The procedure was optional, but removing all of her breast tissue gave Pickering peace of mind.

It also left her feeling like less than a woman. Pickering followed up the procedure with reconstructive surgery.

“I got breast implants – a boob job,” Pickering said. “For the most part, I felt complete and my breasts are nice, perky.”

But, she was still scarred – emotionally and physically. Until a chance encounter with the “right tattoo artist” restored the mother, grandmother and cancer survivor’s dignity.

Mickey Garcia has made a business of permanently marking people’s bodies. He’s been an artist since he was a kid. In school, teachers scolded him for doodling on his tests and class work. Years later – after about 14 years in the manufacturing industry – he traded in his steel toe boots and time card.

Garcia has been a professional, full-time tattoo artist for about five years. Electric Ink Tattoo Studio in Stephenville is his office. Like most tattoo artists, Garcia loves his work. Every project tells a story. Every client is his canvas.

Looking back on the experience, Garcia has no problem explaining how his encounter with a postoperative Pickering made a huge impact on his life – and how he views his work. 

They first met when Pickering was in Stephenville visiting her son and daughter-in-law. Between their enrollment at Tarleton State University and Pickering’s love of barrel racing, she spent a good deal of time in the city.

During one visit, Pickering decided to get a tattoo – a pink ribbon. The piece would be a permanent reminder of her breast cancer battle. It would always be there, the mark of a survivor. Not that she needed a reminder – the reality was always in front of her, something she couldn’t escape.

“Right after reconstruction, you can have someone (at the doctor’s office) tattoo your areola back on,” she said, adding she went through the process twice. 

“But they only tattoo the areola back on,” Pickering said. 

While Garcia was tattooing the awareness ribbon on Pickering, they talked about her battle. She asked if he had ever tattooed nipples on survivors. 

“There was a real need in my case,” she said. “I had none.”

She urged Mickey to look into the process and see if it was something he would be interested in doing. 

Initially, he was hesitant. It was something Garcia had never done before. But, lack of experience wasn’t the issue. He likened the process to tattooing someone’s face. Sure, it could be done. Yes, he had the skills. But, the process and end result could change someone’s life in ways they didn’t anticipate, ways that weren’t favorable.

But, Garcia instantly realized Pickering was asking for a lot more than tattoo. She was asking him to help her regain her femininity, a piece of her womanhood and her dignity. And he was sold on the idea.

“I agreed to do it,” Garcia said. “I told Jennie I would do it for free. I figured after going through cancer, nobody should have to worry about the added expense. They shouldn’t have to pay to feel good about themselves. After hearing her story, I just wanted to make sure she walked away feeling complete.”

After about 45 minutes, Pickering looked in the mirror to see what appeared to be three-dimensional nipples, complete with shading and shadows. She was amazed by the results.

Garcia was proud of the work as well. The end result is now a permanent part of his portfolio, available for other survivors to see.

“He was so sincere and humbled to do it,” Pickering said. “Mickey was so professional, and I saw a lot of talent in him. I immediately knew he could use his compassion and talent to help restore other women’s dignity. So they could also look in the mirror and feel better about themselves.”

The experience not only boosted Pickering’s confidence and self-esteem, it also changed Garcia’s view of his life’s work.

“When Jennie started explaining what I gave back to her, I was overwhelmed,” he said. “To think that a little bit of time, ink and work could change someone in such a way was really amazing.”

He began researching and found other artists far from Stephenville who have made a full-time job out tattooing areolas and nipples. Garcia began studying their techniques and the shop now has premixed inks in an array of skin tones.

“I decided this (areola and nipple restoration) is something I want to continue to do,” Garcia said. “For me, it’s not about the money, so I talked to my boss and told him it was something I wanted to do for free. He supported the idea.”

While it is something Garcia has offered for a while, he said he does not get a lot of requests for the service. But, he wants breast cancer survivors to know his service is available to them free of charge and in a clean, discrete setting.

Electric Ink Tattoo Studio, located at 2900 West Washington Street, Suite, is owned by Austin and Carrie Scott Pack. The studio is located on the backside of the Bosque River Centre and can be accessed off of Bosque Lane.

The tattoo shop is open from 2 p.m. until 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information on areola and nipple restoration or scheduling a consultation, stop by and ask for Garcia or call at 254-968-5577.


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1 Comment

  1. That is such a wonderful thing for him to do, so many woman have to under go this surgery & be left with the reminder of it. God bless him.

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