Tattoo artist, breast cancer survivor provides closure in new clinic

EDGERTON, Wis. — Ann Rudel received a double mastectomy eleven years ago this week. Seven years ago, her diagnosis inspired her to chase her dreams, becoming a paramedical tattoo artist.

Now, the 39-year veteran healthcare worker at Edgerton Hospital is combining her talents, opening a clinic to tattoo areolas on breast cancer survivors to help complete their recovery process.

“As part of my recovery and my reconstruction I had my areolas tattooed on,” Rudel said. “I feel like I’ve finally come full circle in that I’m able to now give back to people who’ve gone through the same thing that I have.”

The monthly clinic opened on Tuesday, and because it’s at a hospital, the procedure can be covered by insurance. Patients otherwise have to travel to big cities or pay thousands of dollars upfront at private clinics, fighting afterward to be reimbursed by their insurance companies.

Having been through this experience herself, she connects with her patients on a deep level.

“I hope that they know that when they’re laying there wondering what’s going on they know that I’ve also been there and had my areolas tattooed, I know how it feels for the first time to look at yourself and not see a blank slate,” Rudel said.

It’s a personal process, she said: “Nobody really knows until you’ve been in the shoes of looking at yourself without your breasts, seeing scars, seeing radiation burns, it really does alter how you feel about yourself.”

The procedure also provides closure for survivors.

“Tattooing these areolas on and having them have the effect of being three-dimensional, is just, it helps you feel a little bit more complete and helps with the closing process,” she said. 

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