It’s the day after October 20th, my 15th cancerversary, as I write this post. Yes, I was diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time on October 20th, 2004. I’m still alive and I’m still working to help women transform their lives after going through a mastectomy. After all I have survived, I am profoundly grateful that I am alive and able to do good work today.
Let me start by stating that having your breast(s) cut off is in essence an amputation. Losing a leg or an arm or a breast is NOT EASY. Your life and identity must shift. You no longer have an essential part of your body. Suddenly you have to rework your understanding of who you are and how you move in the world.
I’ve thankfully never lost an arm or a leg. My experience is with what it is like to lose a breast. Because I had gone through chemo and radiation, the skin on my right breast was very thin and doing breast reconstruction would have required taking skin from another part of my body to strengthen the skin over the reconstructed breast.
In 2010, when I needed to make the decision about reconstruction, I opted to have a flat chest on my right side. I had no evidence of disease in my left breast, so I decided to have a unilateral mastectomy. It was an intuitive decision. I confess, I like my breasts. I am a CIS identified woman to my core, and I didn’t want to lose both breasts if I didn’t absolutely have to.
After the mastectomy, which was no easy recovery, I realized I hated seeing my body in the mirror. I did not appreciate or like the 9 inch scar across my chest. I found the scar disturbing and very unattractive. It bothered me that I disliked it so much. I had been a long time daily Vipassana meditation practitioner, and I hoped that eventually I would learn to be with what is. After six years of working to accept my body minus one breast, I knew I needed to figure out another option.
That’s when I found out about Personal Ink. In 2013, I was in the first group of 10 women that got to go to New York City to get the first round of no cost tattooing from 10 volunteer tattoo artists. My life transformed. And I knew deep in my bones that helping other mastectomy survivors have a similar transformation was my next step.
October 20th, 2019, our Minneapolis, MN volunteer organizing team successfully got 17 women a transformational healing tattoo over her mastectomy scars! The 18th woman will get her tattoo in a few weeks, as her artist injured his back and was unable to tattoo. These 18 women bring our Minneapolis number to 61 women who’ve gotten a healing tattoo with our shops and incredible artists over the past six years.
AMAZING!! It was powerful and super magical!
I want to give a BIG shout out of gratitude to our food donors:
Glam Doll Donuts donated 7 dozen donuts! Yum!
Sister Sludge Coffee and Wine Bar donated coffee for BlackEnd Tattoo Atelier
Caribou Coffee donated coffee for Creative Images
Pizza Luce gave a massive discount on pizza and salad for BlackEnd and Tailorbird Tattoo
Pizza Hut donated pizza for Canvas Tattoo
Rocky Rococo Pizza donated pizza and pasta for Creative Images
The food was amazing and tasty and we are profoundly grateful for all the generous donations.
And finally, the artists.
The artists make the day one of the most thoughtful, healing, transformative days in the life of a woman who has endured a mastectomy.
The artists are kind, talented, generous humans who donate their ink, their time and their deep skill and artistic talent to this event. We have 18 amazing humans that agreed to participate this year.
All of them made a huge contribution to the lives of these women.
At BlackEnd we had: Sarah Biloon, Bradley Trotter, Matt Grant, Joe Andrews, Matt Kolling and Heather Kim.
At Creative Images we had: Erin Torola, Jack Poulsen, Adam Underwood, Tony Denny and Braxton Anderson.
At Tailorbird Tattoo we had: Ariel Cafarelli, Alli Shelly and Lana Bosak.
At Canvas Tattoo we had: Jerome James, Erin Mathews, Jessica Madison and Wiley Crotty.
October 20th, 2019 was a long and beautiful day. Seeing the faces of the women when they saw their artwork was priceless! Take a look at our Facebook page for videos of the day and lots and lots of amazing photos.
If you have to have a body part involuntarily amputated, at least it’s possible to get some healing, transformative art on the scars.