These Post-Mastectomy Tattoos Are Works Of Art

Photographed by Ashley Armitage.
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 symbolized 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 organization 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 organization, 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.
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Ortwein's design, the first collaboration through P.Ink, was created by Miami tattoo artist Colby Butler. The tattoo design was inspired by Ortwein's love affair with Brazil, where the pernambuco blossoms are native.
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Some women decide not to undergo reconstruction after breast cancer. As seen here, the flowers blossoming signify a kind of re-birth and are popular for many women who get post-mastectomy tattoos.
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Through P.Ink, cancer survivor Diane de Jesús was matched with Roxx, a San Francisco-based tattoo artist, and the two came up with a design that symbolized peace and comfort.

"After I got my tattoo, I realized I'd been avoiding looking at my chest," says de Jesús. "Now when I look, I don't see my scar — I see this beautiful art. My tattoo allowed me to get on with the rest of my life."
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A sign of spiritual awakening, the peacock feather makes sense for a new beginning after beating cancer.
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This colorful design of a lotus flower and a blue butterfly brings good vibes.
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“My tattoos look like branches coming down from my shoulders, with three different cats perched in different positions,” says breast cancer survivor Karen Richards. “It was so unique and stunning — It’s just perfect for me.”
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This design works the light pink ribbon into the intricate black tat — and does so in the least frilly pink way.
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Some reconstruction scars only show on the side of the breasts, which means you can get creative with how you want your tattoo to cover your body. This one is particularly stunning from the side.
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There's a feeling of movement in this design that represents a renewed sense of self after cancer.
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Another side body design, this one shows swirling roots and flowers coming to life.
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One of the raddest tats of the bunch, this rainbow art is a true "fuck you" to cancer.
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