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3-D tattooing helps women feel normal again

CENTERVILLE -- There's usually a lot of thought that goes into getting a tattoo. But for some women the meaning is deeper. Many times, it comes at the end of a long journey, especially for women who have lost their breasts to cancer.

Ronda Stanoikovich is a breast cancer survivor. But it's been a long journey. She had a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery last year. But, she said she doesn't feel the same.

"It's hard to look in the mirror and see you're not the same woman that you were when you started this journey," said Stanoikovich. "And, I'm hoping it's just going to finally complete me and put me back to where I was."

So, like other women, she's turning to 3-D tattooing to recreate the area around the nipple, called the areola.

"When you take a shower and you can look down and things are normal again," she said.

She went to Linda Merrell with Elegant Permanent Cosmetics. She's one of only a few people in the area who perform the specialized tattoo procedure.

"It is the way we shade and color and make the breast look like it has a nipple even if they've chosen not to have one done with the surgeon," said Merrell, who is a licensed practical nurse. She said she's perfected the

tattooing after years.

Kristi Szekely had it done. She and Ronda met over social media when Ronda was in search of someone to perform her 3-D tattoo.

"After having the 3-D tattooing done, it was like, I'm me. I'm normal again," said Szekely.

Meanwhile, for Merrell, helping other women is personal.

"My mother had breast cancer about 23 years ago. She did not survive and when I see a cancer patient, my heart goes out to them," Merrell said.

Ronday's 3-D tattoo procedure is scheduled for later this week. And, she said she'll wear high heels because she always wears heels to her procedures. It's her way of kicking cancer.

Meanwhile, during the procedure, the women are given a numbing agent to keep them comfortable. The process takes about two hours and the cost for 3-D breast tattoo is about $300. However, a lot of insurance plans don't cover the cost. But, often it's less expensive than plastic surgery.

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