ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Battling breast cancer is just that, a battle. Many women who must go through this ordeal end up having mastectomies. Abilene medical tattoo artist and former nurse, Amy Gardner helps survivors by tattooing nipples on their new breasts. Her clients boast about her work, saying this service closes a difficult chapter of their life and makes them feel complete again.

“I mean, it’s life changing. I can look at myself in the mirror,” Gardner’s client, Denni Bennet told KTAB/KRBC.

Bennet was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019 after a mammogram showed a spot on her left breast. Although her diagnosis and treatment were more than four years ago, her scarred breasts without nipples served as a painful reminder of what cancer took from her.

“It’s like, earth-shattering, you know,” described Bennet. “I hated looking at myself in the mirror.”

However, this all changed when Bennet met Amy Gardner, who gave her just what she was missing. 

“I recently found out, through a friend that works in a surgeon’s office, that there’s a real need for someone to specialize in a 3D areola nipple tattoo for ladies that have been through mastectomies,” Gardner explained how she came to be a tattoo artist and the owner of Restoration, Ink of West Texas after years spent as a nurse.

Many women traveled as far as Dallas to get this service, Gardner told KTAB/KRBC, and although there are plastic surgeons who may tattoo a nipple after reconstruction, “There isn’t anyone here that specifically specializes in this area,” she said, adding that the tattoos given at the hospital are not 3D. 

Gardner decided to fill that need for Abilene area survivors, but what she hadn’t expected was meeting all these new friends along the way like Bennet, or like Mary Franco, who had her own journey. 

“She makes us feel normal again,” said Franco.

Franco was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2021, and said she agreed that Gardner’s service is “life-changing” for women who have gone through reconstruction. 

“You know, when I used to look at myself in the mirror, I’d be like, ‘ew,'” Franco revealed. “Now, I can look at myself, and I’ll be dancing in the mirror.”

Battling breast cancer is already a difficult thing to process, Franco detailed, but when a body part is instantly taken from you forever, it is indescribable. However, Gardner’s tattooing is the closest thing to getting it back. 

“It brought happy tears to my eyes,” shared Franco. 

However, Gardner said she doesn’t like to take that credit. 

“People always ask me like, ‘how does it feel? You’re bringing wholeness to these women.’ But I really can’t take the credit for that. Wholeness only comes through Jesus, but I am thrilled to be a tool in His hand,” Gardner added. 

While Gardner also offers services like permanent makeup, she said this takes priority, and since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, she wants more women to know about these services.