Breast cancer survivor shares her story of hope, return to normalcy

Four years ago, Annmarie Otis found the dreaded lump.

The 40-year-old mother of four boys quickly navigated the worlds of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and drugs. But says it turned her world upside down.

She came out alive, but a very different person.

“You look in the mirror and wonder, ‘Who are you and how do you get here?’,” she said. “I’ll admit when I was first diagnosed I was like, ‘Get rid of my nipple. I don’t care. Get rid of it.’ And then you look at yourself and you’re like, ‘Crap it’s gone. Who am I where am I?'”

Annmarie, like many breast cancer survivors, opted to reconstruct her breasts, yet was left without a nipple. Nipples are removed as they too can harbor cancer cells. Surgeons can offer some women nipple re-construction, or tattoos. But those fade due to using iron-free ink to prevent women from being burned during MRI’s.

“First of all I had no idea my nipples were going to be removed,” Otis said. “I had no idea about that. I had thought about a nipple tattoo. But I really didn’t want another procedure. I had had seven or eight procedures and surgeries. I really didn’t want another one. But I really felt like there was something really missing.”

Michelle Kolath-Arbel, who couldn’t do nipple reconstruction or tattooing, and wanted something better after beating out cancer.

The prosthetic nipple maker says she felt compelled to master nipple making with her company PinkPerfect. Waterproof, swim proof, wearable for up to seven days at a time. Michelle will match skin color and size, and look. She’s now helped thousands of women to finally feel like themselves.

Otis remembers the day she got hers. “I put them on and I started to cry. I looked like a woman, they look real and they feel real. I felt whole, like a woman, I felt sexy.”