Breast cancer survivors Paula Farr and Kellie Butler Farrell pictured outside the Cirque Salon in Key Largo. Three years ago, Farrell came to Farr for 3D areola tattoos and was delighted with the results. CONTRIBUTED

A cozy Key Largo skincare studio was the ideal setting for an unfiltered chat about regaining a sense of self after breast cancer.

“I lost my hair from chemotherapy. My hair fell out everywhere and then I lost my breasts,” said Paula Farr, cancer survivor and permanent makeup artist. “I can empathize with the customer.”

Inside Paula’s Skin Care at Cirque Salon, Farr and two other women recounted their ordeals with breast cancer. All three women share similar stories. They were all diagnosed with breast cancer at a younger age, they all had chemotherapy and double mastectomies, and they all wanted to feel whole after reconstruction, without having to go under the knife again.

“It was my plastic surgeon who brought it up to me. He said ‘it will make a big difference in your life’ and I said ‘why?’” said Paula Friedman, a Key Largo resident and breast cancer survivor.

“And he said, ‘All I can tell you is that when women come to see me after getting tattoos, they behave differently, they feel like women again. It’s all because they have nipples,’” Friedman recalled.

“They got their guns back,” Farr chimed in with a laugh.

For this story, I am not just the author; I am one of the participants sharing my own experience with breast cancer. I was 44 years old when I heard four words that gutted me: you have breast cancer.

Chemotherapy, bilateral mastectomy and breast reconstruction followed.

I met Farr three years ago when a friend recommended I get brow microblading; my eyebrows never came back after chemotherapy. Through the conversation, I learned that Farr was a two-time breast cancer survivor. He first diagnosed at age 42. After reconstruction, the areola tattoos changed Farr’s life, not only because of how they made her feel on her body, but the tattoos inspired a radical career change.

“I said to myself, wow, I’m in awe of the whole procedure and what it looks like, that I want to do this as a career,” she recalled.

Farr went to night school and a few years later she quit her job in the dental field and opened her permanent makeup salon in Key Largo, near Publix.

Paula Friedman is an artist and two-time breast cancer survivor who recently went to Farr for 3D areola tattoos. KELLIE BUTLER FARRELL/Keys Weekly

After thousands of brows and over a hundred sets of 3D areolas, Farr has found her calling. His tattoos on his nipples are works of art.

“It’s very realistic, it’s a 3D effect,” Farr said.

“There are many layers of the tattoo. There are shadows. And all kinds of different dots and layers; it gives that effect that the nipple really sticks out,” she added.

Paula Friedman, Farr’s client on the day of this interview, was only 38 years old when a routine mammogram detected breast cancer; she had spread to one of her lymph nodes.

“I was stunned. I was floored,” Friedman recalled.

“That was in 1987. If you had breast cancer back then and you were young, you were going to die,” Friedman said. “That was the preconception.” Friedman underwent a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation, but his battle with breast cancer was not over.

He was diagnosed with the disease a second time 21 years later. After that second diagnosis, Friedman opted for a double mastectomy.

“I just said, ‘I’ve been through this twice, I’m not going through this a third time.'”

Friedman’s daughter-in-law found out about Farr and her 3D areola permanent makeup; she decided to give it a try. Friedman is an artist and says that natural-looking tattoos give a sense of closure.

“I just felt like, ‘Okay, this is all over now, I’m back the way I should be,'” she said.

Farr charges $450 per breast for 3D areola tattoos and that includes touch-up; it is a small fraction of what the surgery would cost. She has also donated tattoos to breast cancer survivors who couldn’t afford them.

“It is good to spread the word, not only to cancer patients, but to all women and men in case there is a relative, a friend, your own wife or your daughter, or your husband because men also have cancer mom,” he said. Farr.

To learn more about Paula Farr and her work in 3D areola reconstruction, visit her on Facebook and Instagram at Paula’s Skin Care. You can also reach her by calling or texting 386-527-2075.

Esthetician Paula Farr performs eyebrow microblading on Phyllis Kronheim. Farr is a breast cancer survivor who also specializes in 3D areola tattoos. KELLIE BUTLER FARRELL/Keys Weekly

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