For Breast Cancer Survivors, Tattoos Are a Symbol of Strength and Recovery

tattooIn the past, tattoos were associated with the socially rebellious and the morally dubious. But in present society, tattoos can be seen everywhere — from the white collar working world to the field of education. In fact, more than 20% of U.S. adults have tattoos now.

And often times, these tattoos can hold serious meaning, particularly for breast cancer survivors.

Take Alabama native Kelli Hall, who was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer in 2009. At age 43, Hall decided to take her diagnosis in stride and approach her disease and treatment with as much bravery and humor as possible.

Shortly after her diagnosis, Hall did something she never thought she would do – she got a tattoo.

It’s a cancer thing,” she said. “You’re like, ‘Oh, I might die, I got to get a tattoo.’”

Hall’s tattoos are reminders of her struggle and perseverance as she battled her Stage II breast cancer. She has a total of four tattoos, and the one on her forearm reads, “The Journey Continues.”

And Hall’s not alone. Recently, a trend has taken place in the realm of breast cancer survivors.

For women who get mastectomies, it is often expected to get breast reconstruction after treatment. But these reconstructive surgeries can be costly, time consuming, and emotionally overwhelming for individuals who have already been faced with a number of surgeries.

Instead, they are getting tattoos. For Miriam Valderrama, getting a tattoo of a butterfly in a cherry tree helped her to improve her self-esteem and relieve pent-up feelings. Valderrama lost both breasts to cancer at the age of 40 and found the experience empowering.

And this trend isn’t only limited to breast cancer survivors. In addition, individuals who struggle with mental illness are getting semicolon tattoos on their wrists to represent the struggles of battling with mental illness and how life is meant to continue on.

Myranda Trejo Elizalda, the tattoo artist who tattooed Valderrama’s breasts, told EFE that she wants women to “understand there’s a chance to see something beautiful under their scars” and that the tattoos are “a kind of beauty” that can cover their “war wounds.”

And for women seeking fewer artistic interpretations, tattoo artists can emulate the anatomical qualities of a breast lost during a mastectomy, helping women achieve a kind of aesthetic normalcy.

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