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Nipple tattoos bring patients closure, help them feel whole

UTMB Health Nurse Practitioner Jill Resendez plays an important role in the lives of breast cancer survivors who opt for reconstructive services through the UTMB Health Division of Plastic Surgery.

To help bring closure to the journey these patients have undergone while fighting for their lives, Resendez offers nipple and areola tattooing services. The goal: help patients feel whole again.

Resendez had wanted to be a fashion designer. But watching her own mother fight and lose her own battle with breast cancer motivated the then high-school senior to go into health care. She got the idea to offer this service when she graduated as a nurse practitioner just as the world was shutting down due to COVID.

With traditional training programs on hold because of the pandemic, Resendez perfected her technique at a local tattoo shop during an eight-month apprenticeship before providing the service to patients. Today, she regularly has the privilege of closing the breast cancer chapter for UTMB Health breast reconstruction patients like Norma Garcia.

“I forget when I look in the mirror that there’s even reconstruction going on,” Garcia says. “She made me feel very whole.”

UTMB Health patient Christal Kuehler just reached what she calls the end of her journey this October, when Resendez completed her tattoos. Just before the procedure, Kuehler had only one thought. “I’m going to be complete,” she said.