These days, Myers immerses himself in a gig that involves the same basic vision, day after day: implanting pigment into skin to create the illusion of a real nipple and areola.

What may be lost in artistic freedom is more than made up for in job satisfaction, Myers says. For thousands of women, his tattoo chair has been the last stop in the long process of what he calls “being made whole again” after reconstructive surgery following breast cancer.

“What a woman’s face can say explains it in a glance,” Myers says. “Every time I see them look in the mirror and well up with tears, or even cry, or hug me. … It’s hard to explain what that makes me feel like. But every day I’m wowed by it.”

Myers, who has been tattooing since he was a U.S. Army medic in the 1980s, didn’t always dream of being a tattoo artist for mastectomy patients. As he chronicled in a blog for those with breast cancer, it never even crossed his mind for most of his career. “Twenty-five years ago or so, if someone had said to me, ‘One day you’ll be tattooing nipples on women who have battled breast cancer,’ I would have said they were crazy,” he wrote.