WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Classically trained in England, some of the best artwork that Sarah Peacock has painted won’t be found on museum walls, or in a local art show. In fact, most people will never see her most meaningful art because they can only be seen by cancer survivors or the people, they choose to share the art with.
For the last seven or eight years, Peacock, the co-owner of Artfuel Inc. tattoo parlor in Wilmington, has been tattooing nipples for breast cancer survivors who have undergone reconstructive surgery.
“It’s like anything you’re meant to do, it just happens. It’s not like I just set out and did it,” Peacock said.
A motorcycle accident in 2009 put her husband and business partner, Dave Tollefson, in the hospital. It was during that time when she was surrounded by members of the medical community that she felt a need to give back.
“I tattooed a woman who was doing them for patients at a plastic surgeon’s office,” Peacock said. “Dr. Kenneth White referred a woman to me, I tattooed her and when Dr. White saw her, they started passing my business cards to the ladies telling them they had someone that they recommend.”
Customers have either had their nipples reconstructed by a plastic surgeon, or they’re gone, replaced by scar tissue. For many, reconstruction is the final step in the rebuilding process. So, when they make their way to Artfuel, it’s the last stop on a very long and painful road.
“You know you have one normal breast and one that looks like a Barbie boob, you kind of want to balance yourself out if you can,” said April Radford who was tattooed by Peacock after a single mastectomy in 2018.
“The word cancer didn’t stop me,” Radford said. “When I was told I have cancer I said,“ok.” When they told me I would have to have chemo and surgery I said, “ok.” Then he said you’re going to lose your hair, and that’s when I cried. It was such a vanity thing.”
Peacock has recreated nipples for countless women and has a knack for putting them at ease in what can be a very delicate situation.
“My objective is to give these ladies the best experience ever, and then by the time they leave, they’re laughing and they’re happy because they’ve done it, and they can move on to their new normal," Peacock explained.
Peacock charges $50 for the service to those who can afford it, but she doesn’t turn anyone away.
“I don’t know if I would say it was closure, but it was more a feeling of I’ve accomplished everything in the battle of cancer,” Radford said. “I went through all of the emotions up until here and now it’s the survivor emotions and that was just a finishing touch to make me feel almost whole again.”