ASHLAND In some ways, having a left total mastectomy was just the beginning for Lynnsey Holland.
The veteran nurse at King’s Daughters Medical Center was just 33 when she was diagnosed.
“Since all of the treatments, it’s taken years and multiple surgeries to work toward reconstruction,” she said, noting the last stage of reconstruction was provided by an Ashland woman.
Maddy Ryan-Dixon carved out a niche as a makeup artist on social media, but also has done makeup locally for people attending events. She began offering lash extensions and microblading, a process of applying a semi-permanent “tattoo” to shape and flesh out eyebrows.
Now she offers the kind of help Holland needs: a 3D areola tattoo that gives the illusion of a nipple, a process created for breast cancer patients whose nipples were taken during their cancer removals procedures.
It’s not uncommon for breast cancer patients to lose their nipples, Ryan-Dixon said.
“Sometime the surgeon is able to save it depending on how the cancer affected the actual nipple itself,” she said. “If there are cells detected on the areola, they usually don’t like to take a chance on saving it. “
Ryan-Dixon’s process uses shading and highlighting to create a three-dimensional effect. “This method of tattooing creates the illusion that what you are seeing is coming out of the skin,” she said. “The nipple looks as though it is raised but is actually flat to touch.”
“Not painful at all,” Holland said of the procedure. “Of course, I’m totally numb in that area from all of the surgeries and radiation.”
Ryan-Dixon, who has a history of breast cancer in her family, said most breast cancer patients have little or no feeling in that area, but she offers topical numbing for those who do have feeling.
The nearly two-hour process is a detailed and precise procedure, Ryan-Dixon said, noting she has partnered with some local doctors to let patients know it’s available. It’s not out of her wheelhouse: Ryan-Dixon also does microblading, permanent eyeliner and lip blushing.
“I have many clients who have traveled to have this procedure done. Seeing theirs done and realizing how far people locally had to travel to regain the confidence of having their ‘old self’ back made me so excited to jump into this,” she said, noting she understands the toll breast cancer can take on a woman and her self-confidence.
“I’ve always said that my job is to create confidence. I had a client tell me that this was the final chapter in her journey with breast cancer and I was closing the book for her,” she said. “The feeling of giving these women back something that makes them feel whole again is absolutely amazing.”
She even gets to see the results in her clients first-hand, and immediately.
Holland is a good example of a client whose life was changed.
“When I took that first look in the mirror, immediate tears started falling. I remember telling Maddy it was the first time in years since I’d looked in the mirror and felt complete,” Holland said. “I’ve been through so much pain and suffering. My husband encouraged me to not seek reconstruction because he loved me regardless and didn’t want to see me endure anymore pain, I have no regrets. I’m still young. I didn’t want to look in the mirror everyday and be reminded of what cancer took from me. Maddy helped me complete that final step in my journey. It finally feels over. I’m ready to move on.”
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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. To see more of Maddy Ryan’s work, visit maddyryan.com.