Michelle Kolath-Arbel, from New Jersey, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 and is currently in remission. She had no choice but to have a one-sided (unilateral) mastectomy that left her with one nipple.
“I went for this surgery when I was bald, with no hair on my body; my immune system was very low and then they took off my nipple and breast,” Michelle tells Yahoo Style UK. “I was 33 and suddenly I had to deal with scars and pain and this disproportion in my body when I looked at the mirror.”
Unhappy with how her body looked, Michelle asked her surgeon for reconstruction surgery but was dismayed to be told that her skin was too tight and sensitive due to intense radiation treatment.
“It was the worst time since I was diagnosed. I remember I couldn’t even look at myself. In a way, cancer took my femininity away and that was the biggest challenge. My husband was supportive and I never felt less attractive but it was something that I felt inside. I stopped going to the gym, I didn’t want to buy a bra or go to the swimming pool. Suddenly you need to face the reality that this is how you are going to look for the rest of your life.”
But instead of sitting quietly and accepting her doctor’s words, she set out to learn how to make prosthetic nipples for women of all colours, shapes and sizes. “I felt I had to find a solution for myself,” she continues. “I realised that once I had a nipple on my reconstructed breast, I could put cancer behind me. I [didn’t want] this reminder that something is missing.”
Now, she has managed to turn her passion into a full-time business: Pink Perfect.
Women who have undergone mastectomies (both unilateral and bilateral) can be sent their own DIY nipple packages, allowing them to make their own moulds and choose from hundreds of shapes and colours.
Each nipple (which costs between £180 and £330) is made from high quality silicone and sticks onto the breast with the aim of looking as realistic as possible. They’re also waterproof, meaning there’s no awkward removal in the shower.
If women don’t feel confident about choosing the nipple that’s best for them, Michelle is happy to receive a photo and pick for them.
“When I’m sitting down to make the nipples, I feel like I’m making a piece of art,” says Michelle. “I enjoy the privilege that I have to make women like me [feel] happy and sexy.”
“The feedback I get makes me feel like it was all worth it. Women tell me that they only had the courage to show their husbands their breasts after they put on my nipples. They’re a life-changing product which make women feel whole again!”
Read more from Yahoo Style UK: