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Published: Monday, 10/19/2009

Tattoo artists ink in pink for cancer research funds

BY MEGHAN GILBERT-CUNNINGHAM
BLADE STAFF
Pat Nopper's tattoo by artist Brian Finn honors her sister, who has Stage 4 breast cancer. Pat Nopper's tattoo by artist Brian Finn honors her sister, who has Stage 4 breast cancer.
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Every time Carlene McLaughlin looks down at her leg, she'll be reminded of how lucky she is.

The breast cancer survivor participated in "Tattoo the Cure" on Sunday to raise money for cancer research.

"I'll remember how very lucky I am and how fortunate I am that I survived it," said Mrs. McLaughlin, 62, of West Toledo.

She didn't flinch as Ryan Thomas, a tattoo artist at Body Design, 2712 Sylvania Ave., inked the signature pink breast cancer ribbon with a butterfly next to it onto Mrs. McLaughlin's left calf.

"I wanted it where I can see it, where I can enjoy it," she said.

It matches the celebratory purple butterfly tattoo she got on her chest when she was declared cancer-free two years ago.

She learned she had cancer in December, 2006, when she went for a routine mammogram. The disease was caught early. Now Mrs. McLaughlin encourages nearly every woman she meets to get regular mammograms.

Most people who came to the "Tattoo the Cure" fund-raising event got tattoos in honor of someone they know who has or had breast cancer.

Pat Nopper's mother-in-law died of breast cancer and her sister is undergoing treatment for the disease.

"Oh, I just love it," she said as she glanced in the mirror at the pink ribbon with a red heart in the middle on her left shoulder.

"It will always remind me of them," said Ms. Nopper, 58, of West Toledo, getting emotional. "When I think of the pain they went through and are going through, this is nothing."

Her granddaughter, Paige Nowak, 16, came with her to support "Nanny" and was disappointed she was too young to get a tattoo. It seemed everyone else got one, including her mom, which inspired Ms. Nopper to get hers. "It's just a really neat idea," Ms. Nopper said. "It's permanent. I'll always have it."

She planned to go right to her sister and show her the tattoo.

A steady stream of people came to Body Design yesterday to honor their loved ones with the tattoos and support the cause, said Boomer Reynolds, a co-owner of the business that started two years ago.

"We had so many people coming in for cancer ribbons on a regular basis, it really is big in tattooing, so we wanted to do this as a way to help those people and to raise money," he said.

It was personal for him, too, because his mom died seven years ago of breast cancer.

For $50, which is less expensive than the traditional $75 minimum, customers could choose from a variety of ribbon designs.

The ribbons with butterflies, cherry blossoms, and wings were among the most popular. People opted to get them on their wrists, ankles, backs, and biceps.

Another option: A temporary tattoo for $10, for younger clients or those uncomfortable with needles. Paige did get one of those.

T-shirts were on sale, too, for $10.

Aubri Hill, 21, of West Toledo donated a total of $120 and got two tattoos, a temporary one, and a T-shirt.

She got a ribbon with a butterfly on her ankle and a ribbon with the cherry blossom tattooed on her back to honor her cousin and neighbor, both of whom are breast cancer survivors.

"Breast cancer is such a hard thing to go through and I wanted to do this for them," she said. "It's a really good cause."

Meghan Best, a local income development coordinator with the American Cancer Society, came to thank the tattoo shop workers for organizing the event. "It's definitely one of the more unique events for us, and it's just so creative," she said. "I think maybe it provides some closure and some healing with that constant reminder. It's like wearing heirloom jewelry. People like to remember their loved ones."

For those squeamish about getting a tattoo, everyone yesterday described it like the sensation of a foot or hand falling asleep and little pulses of pressure.

If you missed it this time around, don't worry.

Mr. Reynolds said organizers plan to make the cancer fund-raiser an annual event and are also plan an autism awareness event for the early spring.



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