How a tattoo gave Liz hope after her mastectomy

13

When Liz decided to cover her mastectomy scar with a tattoo, she didn’t know where to begin. She tells the story of finding the design, and how her tattoo inspires her and makes her hopeful for the future.

I couldn’t believe I had cancer
My cancer was picked up at a breast screening when I was 64. I had no obvious symptoms or reason to suspect that anything was wrong. I was sure that when the tests when to the pathology lab they would discovered there’d be no cancer there at all. Of course, I was wrong.

I was told I’d need a mastectomy. I had surgery aged 65 and chose not to have a reconstruction. I wanted my body to heal as quickly as possible and didn’t want it to go through any more trauma.

I’d never thought about getting a tattoo
My surgeon had done a great job and the scar was very neat, but I didn’t like looking at myself in the mirror. I didn’t like undressing in front of my husband or having a shower. I didn’t feel confident or comfortable with my body.

About five years after my surgery, I was watching a programmed about tattoos. A young woman came into the studio to cover up scars she had on her stomach. It made me sit up and think, ‘Oh! I could do that!’
In my final check-up with my surgeon I asked if it would be ok, if a tattoo would do me any harm, or be detrimental to my progress. They said not at all, and to go ahead.

I met my tattoo artist and everything fell into place
It took a lot of courage to go through the studio doors! My husband came with me for support. I met Shirley in the first studio I visited. I wanted it to be nearby in my local town, Bathgate in West Lothian, and for me it was important to have a female artist. I spoke to Shirley in a private room, and it started from there.
Shirley hadn’t done a mastectomy tattoo before, but she told me to leave it with her to do some research and make sure nothing would be harmful. I was so impressed at how seriously she took it.

The cherry blossom reminds me of hope
I originally had an idea to put daisies on and around the scar. When I came back to the shop Shirley had drawn up a beautiful cherry blossom design – I loved it. The colours reminded me of spring time and new beginnings. It’s a bit of a cliché, but to me that was something lovely. They represent hope to me, and my life after breast cancer. I won’t say it wasn’t painful! As soon as the needle stopped you didn’t feel it anymore. Across the breast bone was probably the sorest, but it was still ok.

I ended up going back to add some vines around the flowers, and eventually some butterflies on my shoulder and more cherry blossom on my foot. I wanted everyone to be able to see the gorgeous work Shirley had done.

I felt different immediately
I no longer see one lop-sided breast. My eyes now go to my tattoo and all I see is the lovely flowers.
It makes me feel so comfortable with my body. I feel very lucky to have the tattoo and to be where I am now. It reminds me to be hopeful for my future.

13 Comments

  1. Mandie Moore September 5, 2018 at 2:44 pm -  Reply

    Wow, what a story and what a woman!!! Truly inspirational the tattoo looks amazing….”you go girlfriend “ xx

  2. Lyn shortman September 5, 2018 at 5:03 pm -  Reply

    Hi Liz your story was amazing.and so are you your tattoo is beautiful you will inspired other women to do the same.Lyn xxxx

  3. Barbara Jones September 5, 2018 at 6:14 pm -  Reply

    Inspirational lady- inspirational replacement of her spirit, done in a beautiful way. She truly looks lovely.

  4. SheMag September 6, 2018 at 9:44 am -  Reply

    This has given me goosebumps. What a brilliant story. And Liz…you’re right. All we see, too, is a great tattoo!

  5. Karen B September 6, 2018 at 10:41 am -  Reply

    Bless you Liz. Your story bought a tear to my eye. What a wonderful lady you are. Such a lovely idea and you are a true inspiration to many, many women. Your tattoo looks really lovely. Well done to you, and of course the tattoo artists. What a lovely story x x

  6. Margaret September 6, 2018 at 11:43 am -  Reply

    Liz , your tattoo is beautiful !
    Shirley has made a lovely job of it . I think you were so brave to have it done after going through the trauma of surgery .
    I am not usually a big fan but after seeing yours , must say I am extremely tempted .
    Wish you Health and Happiness for the future . x

  7. Joanna Downey September 27, 2018 at 11:30 pm -  Reply

    Dear Liz, I’ve read your story several times & still I can’t find the best words to tell you how much i admire you so I’ll just write the following. Today has been a beautiful day, the sun was shining, the sky was the deepest blue, I met a dear little dog called Gertie who had been rescued, & loved, by a couple after she had been abandoned because she was old & blind & then I met up with old friends. As I said it was a beautiful day. Then I read your story & it became a day that showed that the bravery & positivity of one woman & the artistic ability of another could create beauty, confidence & inspire hope in others.
    You are wonderful.

  8. Diane September 28, 2018 at 9:26 am -  Reply

    What a beautiful courageous lady Liz is and what an inspirational story.

  9. Antoinette Browne September 28, 2018 at 6:53 pm -  Reply

    Hello Liz, you are a truly amazing lady. Wishing all the best that life offers. God bless you. Antoinette

  10. Tricia coulsonwood October 2, 2018 at 7:52 pm -  Reply

    Hello Liz,Just to say I think your tattoo is very attractive..well done you!.Tricia..

  11. Fifi October 3, 2018 at 8:27 pm -  Reply

    Dear Liz, From one breast cancer survivor to another, well done for being brave enough to share your story and photos publicly. I’m thinking of showing this to a fellow survivor who is having a hard time coming to terms with her mastectomy. Best Wishes for your continued recovery.

  12. Hayley October 4, 2018 at 9:26 am -  Reply

    You are such a courageous lady!
    And toy you are are so strong and lovely lady as it is seem. And like you I don’t think I would ever hat you a tattoo as I don’t them appealing for at all but yours is out of this league league it is a as beautiful as you can are in side & & the out sidqw!!!!!
    To be honest ii kind of feel guilty for occasionally feeling a little sorry for myself when I am feeling worse than I usually do. I have multiple scrocross ME & pulmonary embolisms and I haven’t slept laid down for overa 4 years as my chest is so painful to lean on, so back front and side.. But that is a very small blip in the ocean wiith what you & others like a you have had / are still haaveong and to go through.
    I wiah you love laughter and good health for the rest of your life.
    Thank you for sharing your story with us. And I hope I am siree that you if the same happens the same as us we have that have been read your story story than we will look back on. how strong you were _ try our best.
    And in the words of Joey Essex you’re sick you are lol
    Take care & God bless xz

    amazing lady!

  13. Jacqueline Bell October 14, 2018 at 2:07 pm -  Reply

    Hi Liz, what a wonderful idea I wish I had thought of doing something like that when I had a mastectomy. I got breast cancer in my early forties and went for breast reconstruction a year later. I am now 69 and regret going for breast reconstruction and wished I had thought about it before taking that step. I think I may have been happier having a tattoo like yours. Good luck for the future xx

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