By Jaclyn Seebsitt
For the past 26 years, Tysons Corner Nurse Practitioner Janet Tuller has been helping men and women with the final steps of their breast cancer journeys. By the time these patients get to Janet, they’ve been through rounds of treatments, surgeries, and reconstructions. The final step is the finishing touch: a breast tattoo.
Janet has done about 1,000 breast tattoos over her tenure with KP, working most recently with Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group plastic surgeons, Dr. Chun Rhim and Dr. William Epps. “I’m a big advocate for tattooing,” Janet said. “These patients are finally at the end of their long journey with breast cancer, and this is a time where they’re getting to be able to see themselves again. Many patients have told me they’re finally able to look at themselves in the mirror again.”
The breast tattooing procedure helps to color the area around the patient’s nipple to complement the skin tone and create a more natural look. After color matching, dye is rubbed onto the patient’s skin and tattooed under local anesthesia. The whole process takes about an hour to an hour and a half per breast, Janet explained.
Janet has worked for KP since May 1990 and has expanded her skill set over the years to include breast tattooing, along with wound care, ostomy care for colorectal patients, and she also rounds at sub-acute nursing facilities throughout the region. She also started the wound care clinic in Northern Virginia. “I love working for Kaiser, so I always want to make sure I have some skill that allows me to stay within Kaiser,” she said.
Janet has been a nurse for 31 years and became one because she wanted to help people. “I don’t do this for myself,” she said. “I do it for my patients.”
And the most rewarding part of what she does for breast cancer patients is being able to see that they’ve finally gotten back to where they feel more comfortable with themselves and that their breast cancer journey is over. “I’m the final part of this journey for them,” she said. “I feel like it’s a good visit for the patients because they’re ready to be done with their cancer, and I am the final touch to let them move on with their life. Breast cancer patients are the most grateful, thankful patients. You’re able to give them some color back into their breast. They are no longer not looking at themselves in the mirror and being constantly reminded of their cancer. They say, ‘I don’t look at myself as a breast cancer victim.’”
Every October, we recognize the impact breast cancer has on so many men and women around the world. Here at Kaiser Permanente, our patient-centered cancer care teams are committed to caring for the whole patient — body, mind, and spirit — at every point of treatment, down to the final step in breast cancer treatment with tattooing. This kind of world-class, compassionate care has led Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States to be the No. 1-rated health care organization in breast cancer screening in the United States.