Helping Herself by Helping Others
Niki Lannigan used to think that when she grew up, she would “move to a big city … but it never happened,” she said. Instead, this married mother of four spends her days in Lancaster County living, working, and helping others in many different ways.
Lannigan is a licensed medical aesthetician, a certified laser technician, and a certified oncology skincare therapist and is currently studying for her phlebotomy and master esthetician certification. Presently, she is working as a licensed medical aesthetician at Ultra Med Spa in Lititz, but she started out on a very different path.
“I worked in the corporate world for many years, launching events for skincare, makeup, and fragrances,” she said.
Lannigan recalls leading the team that brought Paris Hilton to Park City in 2009 and working with Usher to launch his fragrance in Macy’s, New York. But when she was told to lay off a large part of her team during the Christmas season, she “decided I was tired of the corporate world,” she said.
She then became certified in doing weddings and events, often doing up to 22 weddings a year, plus charity events and launches. Lannigan later opened her own boutique, selling items for those events, and hosted special fun nights in her shop, such as “Diva Night” for the ladies and “Bourbon and Beards” for the guys so they didn’t feel left out.
Yet she felt strongly that she wanted to help others in more ways than just doing charity events or fundraisers, so Lannigan went to school for her esthetician license.
“I worked in a few salons doing facials and waxing, but I wanted to do treatments that were more clinical,” she said.
She worked for a time in a medical spa that had different locations and traveled among those, but later on she helped open a medical spa in the Harrisburg area as their lead medical esthetician.
“I absolutely loved it,” she said. “Then I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer.”
Around the same time, she was approached to interview at Ultra Med Spa, and when she got the job there, she realized what a blessing it was.
“It is three minutes from my home and three minutes from where I receive my chemo treatments,” Lannigan said. “The staff is great, and they let me hold events, so I get to help patients, plus add my experience with events. And we are fortunate to have just opened another location in Lancaster called Ultra Aesthetics.”
Lannigan provides a variety of services that include tattoo removal, medical-grade chemical peels, acne and aging treatments, oncology facials, and scar removal.
“My favorite part is helping patients feel good and look good,” she said.
One of the biggest ways Lannigan is making a difference for others is by providing the removal of tattoos from survivors of sex trafficking.
“I was contacted by a friend who works at a nonprofit who said she had a survivor that had a tattoo she wanted removed … I told her to bring her in; it would be free,” Lannigan said.
“When I met this beautiful and smart young girl, it changed my life forever. I didn’t want to ask questions, not sure if she wanted to speak about it, but she just started talking,” she said.
Often these victims are marked with a tattoo on their forehead, eyelid, cheek, or fingers.
“Children are marked differently — they have their captor’s initials on them,” Lannigan said. “I went to a meeting about local sex-trafficking in the state and was shocked at how prevalent it is … There are local hotels in Lancaster County where this is happening. Some kids are snatched or kidnapped, some are preyed upon. At Ultra Med Spa, survivors can call us if they have been a victim of sex trafficking, and we will remove the tattoo for free.”
Always wanting to give back, Lannigan once started a nonprofit cheering squad with a friend because “we were signing our daughter up for cheering, and there were multiple families that could not afford the fee … so we started our own group,” she said.
There were no fees for uniforms or competitions, but the members of the group had to participate in fundraisers to participate.
“In turn, we taught them to give back to the community,” she said.
That giving back included having the squad members perform in various residential nursing homes in the area, the holding of food drives for local families, and putting together baskets for local families in need.
“That one squad we started with turned into three,” Lannigan said. “We even placed third at nationals!”
Even before she was diagnosed with breast cancer herself, Lannigan also felt a strong calling to help women who were battling cancer.
“Treatment can wreak havoc on the skin,” she said. “It can make women mentally sad that their appearance has been affected … plus a facial is relaxing and feels good.”
So she and two other aestheticians went to a facility on the West Shore and provided facials for women from a cancer support group where “every single one of them either cried or hugged us and thanked us … saying they had not been that relaxed or felt that good in months.”
Lannigan was providing these treatments right around the time of her own diagnosis, and said when she got in touch with her contact for the event, “she asked me if there was anything wrong,” Lannigan recalls.
“I told her I was just diagnosed with breast cancer. She told me she believed our paths crossed for a reason, and she knew the surgeon I was going to see. She explained to me everything that was going to happen — the group of women that I was treating would become my support group.”
Last year, Lannigan was nominated for the Goodwill Ambassador Award at the Conference for Women, something she said was quite an honor. As someone who has spent her life helping others in so many ways, Lannigan is now learning from her own experience battling cancer that there are many ways in which she can continue to do so.
“I have recently undergone a double mastectomy with reconstruction surgery,” she said. “I have eight months of immunology possibly with chemo for the next eight months and 32 radiation treatments … but I’m a survivor, so I will beat this.”