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Diet & Nutrition

How nipple tattoos have changed my life

Cass Boyle with the ink for her nipple tattoo.
Not many women would voluntarily have their nipples tattooed but for Cass Boyle, it was a life-changing procedure that marked the end of her breast cancer nightmare and the beginning of her second chance at life.
Cass Boyle was 34 years old and just weeks away from the birth of her first child when she felt something strange underneath her collarbone.
It wasn't quite a lump, but it felt strange and to be safe, she decided to get it checked out.
It was breast cancer and five days later Cass was in surgery having a lumpectomy. It wasn't successful and the following week Cass was back under the knife having a mastectomy.
"It was 10 days from finding the lump to losing my breast," Cass says. "It was so sudden and brutal."
Cass started chemotherapy six weeks later on January 11, 2011. Her partner gave birth to their first child on January 19.
After weeks of chemo and radiation therapy, Cass attempted to go back to her normal life. She lasted 18 months.
"For the first few months I was just so thankful to be alive but this time last year I realised I was a lot unhappier than I was willing to admit physically," Cass says.
"I had no breasts and I had gone into early menopause. I was a 36-year-old in the body of a 60-year-old.
"I just got to this point where I thought, 'Oh my god, I'm just so miserable'. Something had to change and I started looking for a plastic surgeon the next day."
Cass found a surgeon she liked and booked in for a breast reconstruction, but not before she got one more piece of bad news.
"My surgeon said I was very likely to get another cancer in my other breast," she says. "I couldn't live with that risk and decided to have my other breast removed too."
In April this year, Cass went into surgery to have her second mastectomy and a complete breast reconstruction.
The gruelling procedure took 11 hours and involved using skin and muscles from her stomach to create new breasts.
"When I woke up I was bandaged from ankle to neck and completely incapacitated, bent over like a banana because of the skin missing from my stomach. I'd never been in so much pain," she says.
"For five days I wondered if I'd made a terrible mistake. I was in a very dark place and then I just decided I had to do something. I grabbed a walker and started hobbling."
In July, Cass had her nipples reconstructed and a few weeks ago, finished the procedure by having her new nipples tattooed a natural colour.
"My new breasts have completely changed my life," she says.
"They look so natural my surgeon says even medical students wouldn't know they're not real.
"They've completely transformed me. I work out five days a week, I've overhauled my diet. When I look at pictures of myself from a year ago I don't even recognise the person looking back at me."
Cass and her partner are expecting their second child, another daughter, in seven weeks and it was this impending new arrival that inspired Cass to take the final step and have her nipples tattooed.
"I had my nipples tattooed at the same point in this pregnancy that I got diagnosed with cancer in the last pregnancy. I feel like this really was my second chance.
"My daughter used to sit in the bath and try to scrub my mastectomy scars off with a nail brush. I didn't want her or our new daughter growing up knowing about breast cancer.
"A child shouldn't have to deal with that. I don't want them growing up knowing I'm different, I'm scarred. Now I look like any other mum and I feel great. I honestly can't describe how much the reconstruction has changed my life."
Watch more of Cass Boyle's story onThe Feedon SBS 2 tomorrow night at 7.30pm.

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