This story by features writer Heather Salerno ran in Life & Style on Oct. 21. Photo by Tania Savayan.
Carrie Pataky enters an exam room at a plastic surgeon’s office in Scarsdale and introduces herself to Constance Rogers , who wears a thin, blue paper gown that covers her chest.
As Pataky unpacks equipment from a small rolling suitcase — squeeze bottles of ink, a hand-held, electric machine, sterile needles, powder-free latex gloves — she offers to share her iced coffee with Rogers, and the two begin an easy conversation about the procedure that’s about to take place.
It won’t take very long, about 15 minutes or so. And Rogers shouldn’t feel any pain, just some vibration from the machine.
“I hope I just feel better,” says Rogers, 52, a divorced mother of two and Poughkeepsie resident, who was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago. “That it gives me back confidence.”
That is Pataky’s job as a tattoo artist, one with a unique talent for making survivors like Rogers feel beautiful again. Women have come from as far away as England to see the 44-year-old Yonkers native, who has built a solid niche tattooing nipples and areolas on women after breast cancer surgery.
For these women, Pataky is the last step in a long, harrowing journey through treatment and recovery. She’s giving them an exceptional gift: their self-esteem, and with that, the ability to move forward with their lives.
Even with full nipple reconstruction, a post-mastectomy patient’s breasts lack the skin pigmentation that makes them look completely natural. Some survivors say it’s like looking at a blank canvas; others have described their breasts as a face with no features.
Over the last six years, Pataky has worked on more than 500 women. Her specialty is rare among tattoo artists; most often specially trained nurses in a surgeon’s office — or even the doctors themselves — are the ones doing the areola tattoos.
Pataky says other tattoo artists have told her that they entered the field because they wanted to create art‚ not areolas.
“I believe if we have a skill and a talent in putting ink on the skin, we should use it the best we can, for whatever we can,” says Pataky. “Whether it’s putting a flower on you…or giving you areolas.”