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Waikato woman helping breast cancer survivors

Waikato woman helping breast cancer survivors with cosmetic tattooing

Media release September 2018 For immediate release

A Waikato woman who has overcome two types of cancer is giving back by helping other women who’ve battled breast cancer.

As the founder of Lady Ink Cosmetic Tattooing, Debbie Casson helps women who have been through breast reconstruction surgery for breast cancer, by performing cosmetic nipple tattooing – something she says helps give women their self-esteem and confidence back after a tough journey.

Around 2800 New Zealand women and 20 men are diagnosed with breast cancer every year.

One in nine women will get breast cancer in their lifetime and, as a cancer survivor, Debbie wants to help raise awareness this October for breast cancer awareness month.

“Making those women feel whole again, and their reaction when they first look at themselves in the mirror, it really is the cherry on top,” Debbie said.

She was diagnosed with two forms of cancer in the space of a week in 2012, with a rare type of sinus cancer and just days later she was diagnosed with breast cancer after she'd been for a routine mammogram.

As a survivor, she understands the emotions of what cosmetic nipple tattooing can mean to a woman after undergoing breast reconstruction, along with chemotherapy and radiation.

After being diagnosed, Debbie, a former nail technician, joined Shocking Pink a nationwide charity that is for woman diagnosed with cancer, aged 45 years and younger.

The charity group has a huge impact on the women involved through an online support system, as well as grants and every year they host a retreat in both the North Island and South Island for women to attend, meet each other and form friendships.

She now helps run the charity as one of the three trustees, however, being a part of Shocking Pink is what led her to train in cosmetic tattooing.

Talking to the women within the group, she realised how financially out-of-reach it was to get areola tattooing done after they’d had breast cancer.

As part of her training she also learnt to do eyebrows, eyeliner and lips, as chemotherapy can often result in loss of eyebrows and hair.

“There is sometimes a need for cosmetic eyebrow tattooing after treatment as they don’t always grow back. Women then think about lips and eye liners as their treat afterwards as well,” Debbie said.

Another field Debbie specialises in is scar camouflage to help with scarring after surgeries or other skin issues.

The nipple repigmentation and 3D nipple cosmetic tattooing service that Debbie offers, helps post-mastectomy patients by creating the appearance of an areola after nipple reconstruction, or a 3D nipple can be created by shading with pigments giving the 3D effect.

“It gives me so much joy seeing the difference it makes in women’s lives and it makes me want to carry on doing what I’m doing,” Debbie said.

For her clients, knowing that Debbie is a survivor herself and has been where they are, helps them feel more relaxed when they come in and tell their story to her.

Shocking Pink woman and breast cancer survivor Emerald Reid said Debbie has changed her life in a huge way with such a small procedure.

“It has had an unbelievable impact on my confidence, my outlook on life, and feeling like a true survivor now. After five years of surgery and chemo, I feel like I’ve finally got to the end of a cancer journey and I was able to end it on a high note,” Emerald said.

“I knew it would make a difference getting it done but I underestimated just how much and how emotional it would be the first glance that I took. I was blown away with how realistic they look and how much more complete I felt as a woman. My partner can’t believe how great they look and has commented on how much happier I am every day - I feel like I’m now just a normal 35-year-old girl living her best life.”

Last year a contract between the Waikato DHB, Tristram Clinic and Debbie was established to help fund this service for more breast cancer survivors. The contract is a huge step forward as some DHBs still don’t fund the procedure.
“I’d love to be in a position where I could see everyone get this service,” Debbie said.

“My ultimate goal would be to travel up and down the country doing areola work to help everybody.”

Initially, Debbie’s cosmetic tattooing training was done in New Zealand, however, she has continued further training overseas, including more recently a self-funded trip to England where she trained with some of the best in the world in areola.

“I want to keep extending my training so that I am the best at what I do in New Zealand and continue to grow myself and my skills, so that I can do better and be better for these deserving ladies.”

To inquire about Debbie’s services at Lady Ink contact your specialist as you will need a referral. Insurance will also cover the procedure. To find out more information about Shocking Pink visit or for Lady Ink visit

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