I’ve written before about how getting tattoos has helped recapture and redeem the parts of my body that have been adversely affected by breast cancer. You can access my initial post, Tattoos, Part I, and read about the first four (4) tattoos that I had done starting in 2019. In the latter part of 2020, I was also honored to be included in a Glamour article all about how some of us in the MBC community are utilizing tattoos to reclaim body autonomy and our self-image through ink, which you can access here.
I realize that tattoos are not always considered “mainstream” and there are still prejudices about getting tattoos, even for those of us with scars and irrevocable changes to our bodies. It’s still astonishing to me how many looks and stares I get when I wear something that reveals my tattoos to anyone who is looking, a little like when I would walk around with a bald head during chemo or would breastfeed in public. While I do understand curiosity (and have often been in that position myself), it is disconcerting how so many people feel that they can stare with impunity.
And yet I’m literally using my body to tell my story and I’m always happy to enlighten people who really want to know the meaning of the ink I’ve chosen — each of my tattoos are part of my experience with MBC, representing either how I’ve reclaimed a part of my body affected by cancer or the treatments or how I’ve learned to live with and overcome the affect on me as a whole.
After the first post I wrote about tattoos, my husband and I chose to get matching ink to celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary. We chose a modified infinity symbol to echo the “8s” in our wedding date and also to signify how our love, our connection, our relationship will last even after we have died. Since I’ll likely be the one to die first, I’ll have left my mark, literally, on his skin, in addition to our lives and our children. This is my fourth (4th) tattoo and my husband’s first (1st).
While the pandemic did affect the speed of getting my fifth (5th) tattoo, I kept at it! This one takes up the majority of my back and extends down to link to the tattoos on my thighs as well. I chose a butterfly this time. Butterflies are symbols of renewal and transformation, overcoming the dark time of the chrysalis and bursting free into a beautiful creature that soars above the land. If you look closely, you can see my husband’s name woven into the body of the butterfly (since he’s my rock) and my boys’ names on the wings (since they give both of us wings!). I chose gray and purple to be the colors since purple is my favorite color. I’m really happy with the way it turned out!
I carry so many invisible pieces of what it means to be a terminal cancer patient. Tattoos have been a way of expressing how I feel, demonstrating the affect of this experience, and reclaiming some amount of control over my body. Plus, they are just beautiful!
And now I need to supplement my wardrobe with some backless shirts/dresses to show this off!