In honor of “Girlfriends” month and My 2nd Act Stage show coming to Raleigh, we’re taking a moment to learn more about everyone’s favorite Gal­Pal 3D Tattoo Artist, Tara Dunsmore. From the onset one might throw their head back and laugh, thinking this journey was a huge step back changing careers from a nurse to a tattoo artist, but for Raleigh My 2nd Act Producer, Tara Dunsmore, it was a giant step forward into a new life and a new commitment to educate women on more choices for their life after a mastectomy. Unconditionally Her’s Cindy Chafin interviews Tara as she and her company, Pink Ink Tattoo, prepare to bring a 2nd Act to the stage of North Carolina.

Tara, you were living your life as a nurse and as a mom, when at 39 years old when you were diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma ­ breast cancer. Some people may be shocked to find out you traded your nurse needle for a tattoo needle.  That decision was a very personal one and one that required dramatic changes to your life. Tell us about those changes.

You are absolutely correct, it was a huge decision but one I knew I needed to do for my fellow survivors. After my own personal experience with areola tattooing I knew I deserved better, I knew WE deserved the best. I had an overwhelming feeling and a drive to help and to learn the art of 3 dimensional tattooing. My family was 100% supportive, probably thought I was a bit crazy but they knew this was not just a whim of an idea but more of a passion inside of me.

What are some of the unique challenges your diagnosis brought to your life and how those challenges brought personal inspiration to your Unconditionally Her life after cancer?

Being diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 39 really hit me hard. I thought I had my life planned out pretty well what my future would be, where I wanted to work and where I wanted to take my nursing career. Losing part of my body, especially the parts that had defined me as a woman and leave me with 22 inches of scars and permanent prosthetic implants in my chest was a hard process to swallow, but of course I felt grateful to be “alive” and to have the option of reconstruction.  It still was hard to look in the mirror and see a different body with areola tattoos that looked so fake and so unrealistic, and I think it made the process harder to just move on –  ya know I have to look at myself everyday.

I know those personal challenges are what drove me to say enough! What we survivors are offered for that final step is unacceptable, I don’t want another woman or man to settle for “color” on a breast mound, no I want that survivor to feel amazing, to feel more beautiful than they had felt since before cancer that’s my inspiration. The women I’ve tattooed from the young age of 23 to 72 the self confidence and the feeling of wholeness they express to me and I see in their eyes that’s my inspiration! 

Our magazine is called Unconditionally Her (NEW+YOU). Because of your cancer journey, you birthed Pink Ink Tattoo. This is clearly part of your Unconditionally Her life – a 2nd Act, perhaps. What do you hope to accomplish with this next phase of your life?

My hope is to be able to reach as many women and men as possible. I hope to help give them that sense of closer with their cancer journey, helping them so they can focus on family and friends, Life! I want them to be able to leave my chair and feel confident and beautiful. 

You are a very accomplished businesswoman and entrepreneur, but now you have taken it to another level through education and opportunity to provide choices for women. What is the best part of this Unconditionally Her life for you and how do you see that enhancing the landscape of your career in the future?

I truly do feel blessed. I feel so honored to be able to help survivors and not only with that final step in the reconstruction process with areola tattooing but in healing through events, fundraisers, celebrations and education. I know that if I have a voice and a platform, however small or large I will use it and use it for good. I feel so driven and inspired when I met survivors who come up to me and say “thank you Tara for all you do, I had my mammogram because of you.” That makes me so happy! Knowing my voice or my actions can have such an impact on another person’s life is just heartwarming. We have to be proactive in our health and if I can help women become more aware of doing that then I know I’m doing something right.

Tara, someone reading this will no doubt be inspired by that type of drive and may encourage them to make some much needed 2nd Act changes in their life. What advice can you offer them?

I say to that person trying to find their 2nd act, you know in your heart and soul what you want to do, just listen, then follow your dream. The sky is the limit and no one can stop you but you! I never in a million years would have thought I would be owning my own business and doing areola 3d tattooing, but life put me on a different path and I am so grateful I listened to that voice inside of me and followed it. I had many challenges just coming out of many surgeries and our financial situation was horrible. We almost lost our home, our cars, and the lights were disconnected. For me to look at my family and tell them I was going to go train and start my own business sounds crazy. Thankfully they knew the importance of it and somehow, someway I did it.   Financially this was such a huge investment. I just trusted in my faith and stayed focused. Now I am at multiple plastic surgeon offices in Raleigh, Durham and Wilmington , North Carolina and by the end of 2016, I will be traveling to Texas and Long Island offering my services.

What’s next for you?

I have no limits! I want to travel around the country helping survivors, reaching women unable to travel to me. I don’t put restrictions or let obstacles and fear get in my way.  I surround myself with positive people and try to stay positive.  Life is so precious.