Cancer survivor discusses journey to make her look, feel whole again
News 12 is taking a deeper dive into something not typically talked about when it comes to breast cancer – the journey of survivors to look and feel whole again.
Dawn Fortis has not had it easy. Within a year of recovering from colon cancer, she found out she had breast cancer in 2007.
Fortis got through a double mastectomy, and beat cancer, but the uphill battle, in some ways, was just beginning.
"I couldn't look at myself in the mirror," she says. "I would change my shirt. I just wouldn't look up. I wouldn't look at myself."
Fortis didn't see the beauty in herself for a long time, but one day, a real-life guardian angel who knows her way around a tattoo machine helped Dawn get her confidence back.
Carrie Maldonato, who owns a spa called CariAngel's, gave Fortis three-dimensional areolas and nipples made uniquely for her.
"Every areola color I do, I custom blend, and there's never a straight color that I use," says Maldonato.
Maldonato says she has tattooed more areolas than she can count for patients all around the world.
Fortis had her first session with Maldonato a few years ago and came back Tuesday for a touch up.
The feeling of renewed strength and confidence still overwhelms her.
"I went from not wanting to look to not being able to stop looking. She made me feel whole again," says Fortis.