Finding My Gift Through My Breast Cancer Journey

Written by Tara Dunsmore,

When I was 39 years old, I found out I had breast cancer.

Surely the doctors had me confused with someone else. I had no family history, after all, and I couldn’t feel any anything.

The biopsy results spoke otherwise: positive. Immediately, dread took over my body, I was in complete shock. It made no sense. My heart was beating out of my chest.

As a nurse, I grabbed every medical book I had, reading chapter after chapter, researching online and spending every second praying and talking with my family.

The choice for my treatment was clear: bilateral mastectomy and, if possible, immediate reconstruction. I wanted these toxic breasts off and I wanted to live. Feeling like I had some control over my body was important to me, so I wanted to be aggressive.

I thought that it was going to be a trip to the plastic surgeon’s office and then surgery, but God’s timing wasn’t going along with mine. The morning of March 13, 2012, two days before my surgery, the breast surgeon called to reschedule because of insurance issues. Devastation took hold of me.

I cried for hours, only to receive more horrific news: my dad was dying. I rushed to be by his side, and sadly he passed away on March 16, his 62nd birthday.

Driving back to North Carolina to plan my father’s funeral, my breast surgeon called again with a new plan; a lumpectomy to get the tumor out, and to reschedule the bilateral surgery for a different date.

[Tweet “I wanted these toxic breasts off and I wanted to live.”]

Once again, I felt helpless and powerless over my body

On March 29, 2012, I woke up in the recovery room to find out the doctor had implanted rods for radiation.

I couldn’t believe what was happening.

During the post-op. I got the story: the cancer had advanced and was now high-grade invasive ductal carcinoma. After an intense conversation with the doctor about my body, my life, and my choice, we scheduled a date for the bilateral mastectomy.

Months later, my plastic surgeon talked to me about 3D areola tattooing, a special artistic process for women who lost their breast to cancer. We searched for months for an expert artist, but sadly there was no one in my state.

Out of frustration and exhaustion, I settled for having the procedure done by someone who did the best she could, just not what I thought we survivors deserved. She gave me three options: chocolate brown, bubble gum pink, or nude. I almost fell out of my chair.

Are you kidding me, this is my last hoorah?

Survivors deserve more! Survivors deserve the best. I deserve the best.

That’s when my life changed.

After my painful experience, I made another decision: I was going to train with the best areola tattoo instructor to deliver much-needed options to survivors. Yep, formally trained as a nurse, I traded one needle for another.

When they handed me that tattoo needle, I knew this was my purpose, my gift, and my answer to why me. God had a higher meaning for my life and I was ready to live it. In April 2014, I founded Pink Ink Tattoo.

Pink Ink Tattoo has now expanded nationally. Now practicing in two states, I travel to reach survivors who may not be able to reach me, working alongside many wonderful plastic surgeons.

The power of survivorship starts within ourselves.

I give back every chance I get and help other women hurting just like I was. Today, I have the opportunity to give survivors that finishing touch to the long, emotional journey of breast cancer, restoring their confidence and helping them feel whole again.

The most amazing thing throughout this journey is I have learned that the second act of your life can be far more important than your first, but you’re the only one who can get yourself there.

[Tweet “I have learned that the second act of your life can be far more important than your first”]

I’m a nurse, a mom of three beautiful children, a wife, a kidney donor to my sister (yes, I donated my kidney along the way), a certified 3D areola tattoo artist, and I even helped produce a television show featuring women who overcame breast cancer.

But most of all, I am a survivor.

Today, I wouldn’t trade my life for any other road I could have chosen to travel. I am right where I belong.

Tara is a four-year breast cancer survivor, nurse and certified areola tattoo artist. Tara founded Pink Ink Tattoo after her struggle with post-mastectomy tattoo artists, and as a result now works with plastic surgeon in North Carolina, in addition to a private practice in Fort Worth, Texas. She has been nationally recolonized, and on January 22 her live stage show featuring 10 women cancer survivors called My Second Act was aired in over 142 countries. Contact Tara for more information at 919–592–5580 or If you would like to learn more about Tara and Pink Ink Tattoo please visit,

Originally published at The Wisdonian.