3D tattoos help breast cancer survivors

Tim Cox, a medical tattooist, is on a mission to help as many breast cancer survivors as he can with 3D areola tattoo...

Posted: Apr 5, 2018 8:41 PM
Updated: Apr 5, 2018 8:41 PM

Tim Cox, a medical tattooist, is on a mission to help as many breast cancer survivors as he can with 3D areola tattoos. Cox's tattoos are designed to look very real, like what was lost.

Theresa Stogsdill and Heather Boyle-Townsend found comfort in tattoos they never thought they would need.

"Needed? I didn't know it even existed!" said Boyle-Townsend.

Taking something back

These two breast cancer survivors, like so many others, endured mastectomies and breast reconstruction. Their surgeries meant removal of the areolas, leaving bare skin behind.

"I couldn't look in the mirror. I didn't want to share it with anybody," said Boyle-Townsend. "I had a husband who was coming home from Afghanistan who hadn't seen me. It was devastating."

With Cox's help, they're taking something back.

"A lot of people say, 'Well it's just two little circles, how much of a difference can that make?' It makes all the difference in the world," he said.

"I feel like I'm back in charge of my life," said Stogsdill.

"This was bringing back the wholeness of feeling like a woman again," said Boyle-Townsend.

Work of art

"It's just like painting," Cox said. "It's all about measuring and deciding where your light source is."

When he put down his paint brush and picked up a tattoo needle years ago, the artist found a new purpose.

The moment survivors see his finished masterpiece is one of pure joy. "It was a complete surprise," said Boyle-Townsend. "It was like Christmas morning."

They share it with loved ones and with a new friend, the man behind the needle who understands their journey more than most.

"He just puts you at ease," said Stogsdill. "He shared his story that he went through with his family and his ex-wife."

Labor of love

Cox said he was already tattooing when the mother of his two girls, Dara, got her breast cancer diagnosis.

"She was a wonderful mother and she's a terrific person," he said.

In his own search for answers, Cox discovered the need for areola tattoos and said he sought medical tattoo training. He hoped to someday help Dara.

"We were talking about this when it had just come around to where she would have been ready was when the cancer came back."

Dara passed away in March 2014.

"It was a horrible experience," Cox said. "But I wouldn't have traded that for never meeting her. That's why I do this."

He does this for Dara, their daughters, and so many more.

Paying for the procedure

Most of Cox's clients get the procedure through insurance, but now he is trying to raise money for the uninsured and underinsured, so more women can feel that peace Stogsdill and Boyle-Townsend do.

So far, his INDIEGOGO campaign has raised more than $1400. Cox said with equipment and anesthetics, tattooing each side usually costs between $300 and $400.

"Now when I look at me, I don't see scars," Stogsdill said.

"You're so proud it's like you really do wanna show!" Boyle-Townsend laughed. "So I've been known to yep – sorry friends and family – but I've been known to at dinner parties!"

From ink, a needle, and an artist's hand, these women say they found a way to feel complete again.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 14372

Reported Deaths: 693
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds92024
Lauderdale69957
Madison68721
Scott62310
Neshoba56534
Jones52519
Forrest51137
DeSoto4936
Leake39512
Rankin3736
Holmes37324
Jackson30013
Copiah2854
Attala27715
Monroe25324
Leflore25030
Lincoln25022
Newton2504
Harrison2457
Lamar2275
Yazoo2233
Pearl River20731
Pike20211
Adams19015
Lowndes1828
Noxubee1696
Washington1636
Warren1587
Oktibbeha15010
Bolivar14911
Wayne1480
Jasper1483
Covington1411
Clarke13517
Smith13311
Kemper13110
Chickasaw12812
Lafayette1254
Lee1175
Carroll11410
Coahoma1133
Marion1129
Winston1051
Clay1043
Lawrence991
Simpson930
Hancock8711
Yalobusha855
Wilkinson859
Itawamba857
Grenada823
Montgomery811
Sunflower783
Union785
Marshall763
Jefferson Davis752
Tippah7111
Tate691
Panola643
Claiborne642
Calhoun614
Webster591
Amite561
Humphreys537
Tunica523
Walthall510
Perry492
Prentiss413
Jefferson400
Choctaw352
Stone300
Pontotoc283
Franklin272
Tishomingo260
Quitman250
Tallahatchie251
George201
Benton140
Alcorn141
Greene111
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 16310

Reported Deaths: 590
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2085112
Jefferson167397
Montgomery144634
Marshall6609
Tuscaloosa63212
Lee52632
Franklin4986
Shelby47019
Tallapoosa41063
Butler39113
Chambers34024
Madison3154
Elmore3007
Baldwin2829
Walker2821
DeKalb2403
Etowah24011
Dallas2323
Coffee2191
Lowndes21610
Morgan2111
Sumter2106
Autauga1923
Houston1854
Bullock1763
Pike1730
Colbert1612
Calhoun1523
Marengo1506
Choctaw1487
Russell1480
Lauderdale1452
Hale1416
Wilcox1327
Barbour1301
Clarke1282
Randolph1247
Marion11711
St. Clair1081
Pickens964
Dale960
Talladega963
Chilton931
Greene914
Cullman880
Limestone860
Winston770
Covington751
Jackson742
Bibb711
Henry702
Macon672
Crenshaw662
Washington656
Blount531
Escambia483
Lawrence460
Geneva400
Perry360
Conecuh351
Coosa341
Monroe342
Cherokee332
Clay272
Lamar210
Cleburne131
Fayette130
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Few Clouds
71° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 71°
Columbus
Overcast
77° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 79°
Oxford
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 68°
Starkville
Scattered Clouds
77° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 79°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather