Reason 546,563,987 why breast cancer fucking sucks: Even after going through chemo, radiation, and surgery, most survivors are left with large mastectomy scars and often lose their nipples. When 47-year-old breast cancer survivor Molly Ortwein found out that her surgeon couldn't get her breasts or her nipples even close to the way they looked before she was diagnosed with cancer she thought, why don't I re-think the canvas?
Instead of looking in the mirror and hating her scars, which symbolised everything cancer took from her, Ortwein wanted to transform them into something she could smile at. She went to see a tattoo artist, and the two worked together to design a tattoo of Brazilian pernambuco blossoms (rare and resilient perennials) to cover them. After the seven-hour tattooing process, Ortwein's scars were replaced with a piece of art she created, helping her reclaim her sense of identity and ownership over her breasts and her body. "I'm so excited about being naked with no reserve," she laughs.
From Ortwein's inspiring story, the organisation P.Ink, or Personal Ink, was born. Because it turns out, with 3.1 million breast cancer survivors in the United States, there are more than a handful of women who are inspired to ink over their mastectomy reminders. The organisation, started in 2013, curated a directory of tattoo artists who have mastectomy experience and matches them with breast cancer survivors seeking their artistry. "We built a directory, we found all the artists that we could who had a reputation for having a strong bedside manner, excellent technical capabilities, and were extremely strong artistically," explains P.Ink founder and Ortwein's brother-in-law Noel Franus. "You can search our directory of artists that we support, and hopefully find one close to you, hire them out, and take that next step in writing your own chapter."
Ahead, some of the most badass breast tattoos designed by cancer warriors and the tattoo artists helping them heal.