These tattoos give women a new lease on life
Throughout the month of October, you’ll notice a lot of people sporting pink ribbons, clothing, and accessories all to raise awareness about the big problem of breast cancer. It’s believed that 12% of women in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer at some point during their lives. The non-profit organization Breastcancer.org estimated that about 253,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in 2017 alone. Men can also develop the ailment, though it is much more prevalent among women. Though new cases of breast cancer ― and deaths due to the disease ― have been decreasing over the past two decades, it’s likely that over 40,000 women will die from the illness this year.
In order to keep cancer cells from spreading in the body, many women have to undergo single or double mastectomies which leave them scarred and without breasts. Their bodies can be reminders of what they’ve been through even after they go into remission. Nowadays, women who lose their breasts are turning to tattoo artists to help them reclaim their bodies from the ravages of cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, after a woman undergoes a mastectomy, which is the removal of breast tissue and sometimes the nipple, she may have the option to receive breast reconstruction. The patient could have implants or their own tissues sourced from other parts of the body placed in their chest during the mastectomy; a nipple implant may also be placed in the new breast. Once that’s done, and the breast has healed, she can opt to cover her skin with a piece of art designed to make her look like her breast is natural or give it a whole new look.
Tattoo artist Vinnie Myers is highly sought-after for his incredibly-realistic nipple tattoos. He began this specialized work in 2001 when a doctor reached out to him wanting help making his patients whole. Administrative director of the Johns Hopkins Breast Center and breast cancer survivor Lillie Shockney went to Vinnie to get work done on herself, then set him up with a huge list of clients. She said about her new look, “When he finished, he turned my chair so I could face the mirror, and I burst into tears. I said, ‘Oh my God, these look real,’ and my husband said, ‘They sure do. I haven’t seen these for almost 20 years.’”
A Beautiful Thing
Vinnie is happy to provide women with tattoos that make them feel whole again. He’s got clients coming to him from all over the world. He told TODAY about his efforts:
“When you’re looking at those breasts, all you see are the scars, and all you’re reminded of is cancer. So when you put this finishing touch on there, it distracts your eye from all those other imperfections because you have something to look at that’s very pleasing, and it’s an incredibly emotional finishing touch.”
Not every woman who has had her breasts removed wants a realistic nipple tattoo, though. They use this opportunity to totally redefine their body. Personal Ink (P.Ink) is a non-profit that helps mastectomy patients find skilled tattoo artists who can help cover their scars and provides them with inspirational designs. Co-founder and cancer survivor Molly Ortwein said about her floral design that wraps around her reconstructed breasts, “10 days after I found out I had cancer, my breasts were gone. I’m getting this tattoo to have something else instead of these big scars that are a daily reminder.”
Her artist Colby Butler was happy to provide her with the twin tattoos that took six hours to complete. She said about how tattoos can help heal, “Tattoos can help in the healing process. If you’ve gone through cancer or surgery, or had an accident, sometimes putting a tattoo in that spot can help you move forward to either forget or make it a more beautiful thing.”
A New You
For one day each year, P.Ink asks tattoo artists through America to donate their talents to tattooing breast cancer survivors. On October 10, 2017 tattoo parlors in 15 cities provided dozens of women with $10,000 worth of awe-inspiring tattoos to cover their scars. Scott Barbier of Electric Ladyland Tattoos in New Orleans, LA was happy to take part in the event because he lost his mother to breast cancer in 1998. He explained the power that these tattoos can have to WWL TV, “I think it definitely gives them a sense of ownership of the scar. A scar that was given to them, that they didn’t really want. Now they can have something that’s their choosing.”
Hidden scar tattooing and other procedures are becoming increasingly sophisticated and recommended by healthcare professionals for emotional well-being. Do you think that tattoos can have a therapeutic effect? Let us know in the comments and SHARE this story!