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.