How a tattoo gave Liz hope after her mastectomy

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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.

6 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

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