BUDDY CHECK 3: Springfield tattoo artist offers help to patients recovering from breast surgeries

Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 4:41 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 3, 2021 at 5:26 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Friday marks another Buddy Check 3 Day, which falls on the third day of every month. It’s a time when we remind you to remind a buddy to troubleshoot breast cancer.

Since this is the gift-giving season, here’s a story of a local tattoo artist who has been giving back year-round to help people recover from breast surgeries that may have saved their lives.

A mastectomy is life-saving. It’s a procedure to remove the breast to get rid of cancer or prevent it for patients at high risk of the disease. While the breast can be reconstructed, the areola is typically removed. Until recent years, most patients have just accepted that as part of the price of recovery.

Now, they know better, thanks in part to a Springfield tattoo artist who is giving local patients a realistic version of what they lost in surgery. It’s nothing like a doctor’s office or surgery suite, but Springfield-based business Transformation Gallery & Tattoo is where some doctors are sending a lot of breast surgery patients these days, and other local doctors have noticed.

Dr. John Bumberry says, “I’m talking about the nipple tattoos. They really look realistic. They’re awesome.”

Dr. Bumberry is a longtime surgeon who specializes in breast surgery. Gabriel Tenneson is an artist for Transformation Gallery & Tattoo, and he specializes in full-body tattoos.

Holly Abshier is thankful for them both. Dr. Bumberry did her mastectomy.

Holly and her husband are a blended family with six kids and three grandchildren. Because of family history and some genetic mutations, she was relieved to get the double mastectomy and even resigned to her new look.

Holly said, “I teased and called them my Barbie Boobs, because there was nothing there you know it was just flesh.”

Then the surgeon who did Holly’s reconstruction told her about Gabriel Tenneson’s work at Transformation Gallery and Tattoo. While Gabriel’s career is focused on full-body art, about 10 years ago, he saw a customer with one of the worst versions of an areola ever drawn. Since then he has tattooed 1,000 very realistic 3D areolas, all at no charge.

Gabriel said, “I became aware of this fairly prolific need and understood that my skill set and a minimal investment of our time would result in a really strong result for these ladies and it just made sense to me.

While other tattoo artists can create a positive result as well, Gabriel attributes his reputation among doctors to practicing his art:

He says there’s a lot of craftsmanship that develops through using the medium over time. So that’s one component of executing a tattoo that’s going to last a really long time and have the saturation that communicates the type of realism we’re going for in this case.

Realism has changed what Holly sees in the mirror now.

“I went from feeling kind of mangled to normal again. I told my husband it’s the grand finale, and it just makes you feel complete.”

Gabriel went on to say, “I think they’re always caught off guard by the realism and the efficacy of the tattoo. They’re just surprised to see them back when they had already accepted that they were gone.”

Holly calls Gabriel’s pro-bono work a beautiful gift. While Gabriel says he’s just meeting a need, even he is still affected by what he accomplishes with his art. He told us it’s usually a very joyful real reaction and there’s often tears.

If you or someone you know would like more information on Gabriel’s pro-bono service, contact Transformation Gallery and Tattoo. There is a waiting list, but patients say it is well worth the wait.

Remember, you can still sign up for our Buddy Check 3 program HERE. It could save a life.

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