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I had a double mastectomy — but got tattoos instead of breast reconstruction

A Michigan woman decided to “take back control” of her body and have a double mastectomy — but opted for tattoos instead of breast reconstruction.

Marisa Kimmel, 29, said she was diagnosed with alopecia at 9 years old. She recalled spending lots of time trying to fill in the bald patches on her head to fit in.

She completely shaved her head at age 19 and years later, Kimmel braved genetic testing because her family has a history of breast cancer. 

Kimmel discovered she had an 80% chance of developing breast cancer and a 40 to 60% chance of developing ovarian cancer. She underwent a double mastectomy, like Angelina Jolie, but opted to do something more “her” than reconstructive surgery.

Marisa Kimmel after her double mastectomy.
Marisa Kimmel shows off her tattoos after her double mastectomy.
Courtesy of Marisa Kimmel / SWNS

“The options were do nothing for six months then have breast and pelvis exams, or I could do preventative surgery, and it took me back to my alopecia — I wanted to take control,” she told SWNS.

“So I decided to have the surgery and take those percentages and have a chance to influence them.”

Kimmel has since tattooed her flat chest and now bares it on TikTok in hopes of inspiring her 39,000 followers to be strong.

Marisa Kimmel and effects of her alopecia.
Marisa Kimmel draws attention to the effects of her alopecia.
Courtesy of Marisa Kimmel / SWNS

“Social media can be hard, you compare and see everyone’s highlights,” she said. “And so, for me, I really try and share all the sides of myself. I know how worth it [it] is to keep choosing myself and find peace with the cards I was given.”

A sense of community is something Kimmel said she didn’t have growing up. By the time she was 14, she was getting hundreds of steroid shots in her head to try to look like her peers. It wasn’t until she Googled “alopecia” in high school that she set a path forward.

“The photos that I saw were the most heartbreaking photos. Some were bald, some had bald spots, but everyone looked miserable. So, I thought that was my future, that’s what I would be — not having a good life.

Marisa Kimmel at her wedding to her now husband Drew.
Marisa Kimmel at her wedding to her now husband Drew.

“The dermatologist at that time made me feel like it was my fault, I didn’t realize how much I internalized that for the last 20 years,” Kimmel added.

As a wife to her husband, Drew, and mother to their 4-year-old son, Abraham, she now surrounds herself with people who love her how she is. And Kimmel has another tough surgery coming up, as she will have both of her fallopian tubes removed Nov. 21.

Marisa Kimmel with her son, Abraham
Marisa Kimmel with her son, Abraham, who is 4 years old.
Courtesy of Marisa Kimmel / SWNS

“With that you are no longer able to get pregnant,” she explained. “It’s a decision that I can’t undo once I have that surgery, so it feels heavy and full of all the emotions possible. But it also feels right, and I’ve learned from my past that those hard decisions you sometimes have to make.”

“The other side of that is more freedom,” she concluded.

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