Monday, April 27, 2009

Mastectomy tattoos

Some women have chosen tattoos over reconstruction of the breast(s) after radical mastectomy. This is their way of reclaiming their body, making something beautiful out of an ugly scar, changing their chest into an aesthetic display rather than the medical display it had been. I learned about this in a video that my classmate Karen made in graduate school - she gave me permission to include it here, but I can't get it loaded. Instead, I've included quotes and links to some examples:

"It took me ages to pluck up the courage....I'm quite proud of my 'war wound' and wanted to make it a bit prettier. People tell me it is lively and some people even think it's sexy - which is quite nice." ~Sally Arnold
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“The entire process was wonderful. Lizards have always had a special meaning for me and I wanted to use that symbol, with all its rich, very personal and empowering energy my sense of wholeness, not a shame based ‘cover up’ or to try to make a terrible experience more tolerable, but to claim my selfhood and the empowerment that gave me." ~Jane Fox
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"Getting my tattoo was the culmination of a three year dance with Breast Cancer. The tattoo changed my mastectomy scar into my shield." ~Pam Huntley
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"I wanted to know that I had survived. I wanted to wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and know I had honored my journey." ~Jackie Floyd
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"There was a fine red line across my chest where a knife entered, but now a branch winds about the scar and travels from arm to heart." ~Deena Metzger

17 comments:

  1. Hey there. I really like this post. I do a weekly blog for breast cancer awareness and I was wondering if I could quote you. You can email me at boobiewed@yahoo.com and check out our site if you want :)

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  2. Hello
    I found your tattoo photograph by chance and was very moved by it.

    I’m writing on behalf of the Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation. Over the past few months, we’ve been working with some artists and young adults who have cancer as well as young adults living with people who have cancer in art workshops, culminating in an exhibition called ‘The C Word’ that will be exhibited in June this year.

    The aim of the exhibition is to explore questions of identity and issues young adults face when confronted with a cancer diagnosis, as well as to demystify cancer and to celebrate the idea that though we may be diagnosed with cancer, cancer does not define us. The head artist for the project is Rae Leung, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2007 – she is also a voice-over artist and an avid blogger and was keen to share with other young adults who have cancer how they might find writing a good way to deal and process with the issues that they face. Partnering with her is a professional visual artist / sculptor who is working with the participants to create collages and other work that will be on display in the project.

    We’re currently doing an open call for submission of written work, video or photography by young adults who have cancer to be included in our video installation. As such, I was wondering if maybe it would be possible for you to help us reach out to your community to see if any of them would be interested. The project is a community art project and we would love to be able to include work from around the world.
    If you can help us to inform your community that would be amazing! Our website for the project is: http://www.hkyaf.com/projects/VA/2010/TheCWordArtSubmission/eng/ I’ve also attached the document that provides the details on the project and the submission process.
    Please contact Patricia Chiu at pat@hkyaf.com should you require additional information.

    Thanks in advance for your time!
    Lindsey
    lindsey@hkyaf.com

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  3. what a wonderful way to say good ridance to a journey with a terrible disease. Good for these women.!

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  4. I had to have both breast removed a month ago, so I am in a very earlie stage of healing, I hurt lots and knowit will bee sometime before I could get a tatoo. but I would love to talk to others that have had it done, or know of a good artist around the Las Vegas area I could contact, I want to get help with jus the perfect design, for it will be my shirt for the rest of my life, I dont want to want to change it and can't . Talk with me,
    email lilroo49@yahoo.com Im Elaine,

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  5. Thank you for sharing your photos and sentiments. I am currently undergoing reconstruction from my mastectomy. I have decided to have body art tattoos rather than nipple reconstruction. I have large scars because I had a reduction a few years prior to my diagnosis. Your tattoo is beautiful..It gives me hope that I won't feel badly about my body forever. Thank you!

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  6. Thank you for sharing. There are so many great artists out there. Check mine out by David Allen:

    http://www.needlesandsins.com/cgi-bin/mt/mt-search1.cgi?blog_id=2&tag=breast%20cancer%20tattoo&limit=20

    I cannot say how choosing art versus traditional reconstruction can empower you.

    Adriana

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  7. Thank you so much. I came online tonight looking for answers to what might happen if my test results turn up positive for cancer. I was terrified by the images of mastectomy scars and what effect this might have on my self image. Your article has given me a whole new way of thinking about this and for the first time I feel like I might just be able to deal with whatever answer I receive tomorrow. Thank you, Annie

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  8. Anneliese Hastings7/07/2011 6:48 PM

    Fantastic! Inspirational and so empowering! I will now tell any women I know who may be in a similar situation.

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  9. Who is the tattoo artist for the image above?

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  10. My photo link has broken, but it may be from Dragonfly Ink (www.dragonflyinkcustomtattoo.com) - not sure cuz I can't get the images to download...

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  11. Just had a double mastectomy, no reconstruction. Where can one get tatoo in Southern California. I'm in Orange County, so looking for someone there or even Long Beach or Los Angeles.

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  12. Don't know offhand. Try googling masectomy+tattoo+studio+calif or similar search string or (hate to be sexist, but) check for women-owned studios in your area~

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  13. May I have permission to use this photo in a book I'm writing about being sexy after cancer?

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  14. I don't have the rights to the photo - I linked to the source, but the link has broken. Sorry!

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  15. Amazing! I've been looking for that woman's tattoo for a couple of years now! I first saw her on an episode of...i want to say the History Channel's documentary of Tattoos (they do several) and the last 15 min. was on mastectomy tattoos and this woman was one of them. Hers is the best I've ever seen. You should post her continued back piece too. Here's her new link http://scottbruceduncan.com/2001/06/06/tattoos/

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  16. I am wondering if somebody can recommend tattoo artists and shops in Canada (preferably east coast) for mastectomy tattoos...

    Thanks

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  17. Because at 18, my USAF career and life was more important than months of cosmetic recovery with a croissant expander to remove third-degree burns from an ATV accident when I was twelve, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if I ever had a mastectomy, this is what I'd do to reconstruct my body. ♥ this and glad I found the article!

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