Mount Laurel business helps breast cancer survivors
Posted: Sunday, October 18, 2015 6:30 am
In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Beau Institute of Permanent and Corrective Cosmetics is holding its fifth annual "Day of Hope" for women who have undergone mastectomies. Dee DiFabio of Cherry Hill (left) listens as owner Rose Marie Beauchemin goes over the tattooing procedure.
Cancer cost Dee DiFabio her breasts, but the disease only temporarily stole her confidence.
The Cherry Hill resident underwent a double mastectomy two years ago, and later had reconstructive surgery. What was left missing, however, was a nipple and areola.
"I looked OK dressed, but it was still disturbing when I was undressed," DiFabio said.
Last year, the Beau Institute of Permanent and Corrective Cosmetics in Mount Laurel came to her rescue during its annual Day of Hope. The event provides breast cancer survivors with three-dimensional tattoos that give the appearance of nipples and areolas. And it's free to anyone who medically qualifies.
The 2015 Day of Hope will be held Oct. 28 at the institute at 2000 Academy Drive, Suite 400. In its fifth year, the program runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Rose Marie Beauchemin, the institute's founder and director of education, said the complimentary tattooing procedure is simply a way the institute can "give back" to the community, raise awareness about breast cancer, and make the service more accessible to patients. The event traditionally draws physician assistants and other medical professionals from outside the institute who want to assist and learn more about it.
"The Day of Hope is a time where other practitioners and I will be working on breast cancer survivors that have had mastectomies and have not completed the process of the tattooing," Beauchemin said. "Our message is to share this with all the other practitioners."
A woman who has had a mastectomy, the removal of unilateral or bilateral breast tissue, often has the option of following that procedure with reconstructive surgery. After healing from reconstruction, patients can opt for a nipple and areola graft, giving the newly formed breast a more natural look, or proceeding without them.
According to the American Cancer Society, nipple areola reconstructions are usually the final phase of breast reconstruction. Areola complex tattooing provides an alternative to surgery.
"So many women who undergo such traumatic surgery and treatments choose to end the process once they're healthy, because they simply can't handle one more thing," Beauchemin said.
In addition to making women look and feel "whole," the tattooing tends to have a positive effect on their psyches.
"They will once again be able to experience their senses of wholeness and beauty in femininity," Beauchemin said.
DiFabio said she felt self-conscious about her body after her breasts were reconstructed, but the tattoos draw her attention away from the mastectomy scars.
"The scars are just so ugly, but I very rarely see the scars now," she said. "(The tattoos) have made all the difference. It was a very personal pleasure."
Maria Concepcion, a Beau trainer and breast cancer survivor from Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania, said she also felt an emotional boost after receiving her tattoos. "It has made a difference," she agreed.
The Day of Hope is scheduled twice a year and eliminates the cost of tattooing for clients. A private appointment typically costs $700, Beauchemin said. In addition to helping patients, it creates a networking opportunity for institute staff and medical professionals. "The women in our profession are creative, and they love doing things together," Beauchemin said. "New friendships are formed because of this (Day of Hope)."
Oftentimes, Beau Institute students who become trained professionals get hired in part because they can offer the tattooing service. "The more we do, the more we realize how great the need," said Beauchemin.
The Day of Hope also has created a support network among breast cancer patients and survivors.
Concepcion went from tattooing women to becoming a client. Upon diagnosis, she thought of the Beau clients whose stories she had heard while she worked on them. Now at the end of their medical journeys, they had sage advice and understanding to offer.
Other survivors advised Concepcion, a single mother, to get emotionally grounded and educated about her cancer and treatment options. She opted for a bilateral (or double) mastectomy, followed by reconstruction and tattooing.
"Women are powerful," she said. "(Breast cancer) is a challenge, but you roll up your sleeves and deal with it."
For more information about areola complex tattooing or to make an appointment for Day of Hope, call 888-763-2328 or visit the institute's website at www.beauinstitute.com.