Lovely Monkey Tattoo helps breast cancer survivors

At Whitmore Lake’s new Lovely Monkey Tattoo Salon, clients are met with soothing décor, comfortable seating, private consultation rooms, and a generally welcoming and calming atmosphere. Not your prototypical tattoo shop, owner and manager Dana Forrester explains, “Although we have regular tattoo clients at this location, we specialize in realistic nipple and areola designs customized for each of our breast cancer survivor clients.”

15 years of tattooing

Forrester has been in the tattoo business for 15 years: “I opened Lucky Monkey Tattoo in Ann Arbor in 2002. Over the last few years, I’ve been getting more and more requests from breast cancer survivors. Although their treatments are successful, they want help in covering scars and achieving a realistic look after surgery, which encouraged me to open our sister location, Lovely Monkey, in Whitmore Lake in September 2016.”

Bollerud tattoos realistic areolas and nipples, as well as custom designs for women who don’t want surgery.
Bollerud tattoos realistic areolas and nipples, as well as custom designs for women who don’t want surgery.

Doctors work miracles for breast cancer patients with surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, but dealing with scars and, in the case of nipple removal, an unrealistic look, can still be traumatic. “The main comments I get from my nipple and areola clients after application is ‘I can’t believe they look so real.’ and ‘I find myself looking in the mirror more than I ever did before,’” says Lovely Monkey tattoo artist, Jamie Espy-Bollerud. “Each of my clients is unique, dealing with different types of cancer, its complications, surgical reconstructions, and compromised skin. I provide free consultations to discuss specific concerns, take measurements and offer advice. I often send clients home with temporary tattoos, so they can determine if the color, size, and so forth is right for them. Clients can take some time to think things through, before they return for a two to four hour application followed by a check up and color touch up a few weeks later.”

Unique designs

Some clients opt for a regular tattoo. One client, after reconstruction, chose the application of a gorgeous rose design that enveloped her breast. Another, who eschewed reconstruction, chose a full torso goddess design.

“One of my greatest satisfactions in this industry is seeing, first hand, how tattoos can transform a person. Tattoos are a deeply personal way to declare ownership of one’s body – to customize ourselves in a very individualized way. And that can be extremely empowering.” says Forrester.

Bollerud adds, “To work alongside these women is a blessing. They are the strongest and most poised women I have ever met. I feel very lucky to have a job that gives something back that means so much. This was a calling for me, but I am so lucky to do this for a living.

Lovely Monkey is the first local tattoo studio specializing in this practice and both Forrester and Bollerud are overwhelmed by the response they’ve had from the community. Now, with clients from all over the state, they note that some health insurance providers cover the cost of application, which is in the $600 range.

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