Making Post-Mastectomy Tattoos Possible: The Personal Ink (P.INK) Project
Lots of women decide a tattoo is the badge of courage they need. Read about a non-profit helping make it happen.
Not long ago, when you mentioned tattoos and breast cancer in the same sentence, you would be talking about the small “tattooed” dots many women have placed on their breasts prior to radiation treatment, or maybe tattooed nipples that some women choose to have with their reconstructive surgeries — not the elaborate post-mastectomy tattoos many patients choose to have designed today. But times have changed, indeed, and now getting tattoos post-mastectomy is hip, trendy and most important, empowering. More and more women are doing this for themselves, to celebrate their lives after breast cancer surgery and to make a statement.
One organization in the U.S., Personal Ink (P.INK) has helped change the conversation.
Where do I go to find post-mastectomy tattoo information?
P.INK, which is considered a post-mastectomy tattoo support platform, was created to help educate post-mastectomy patients about tattoos as an alternative healing option, designed to help them take creative control of their post-op bodies.
The brainchild of Noel Franus and a group of co-workers at CP+B Agency (Crispin Porter + Bogusky) in Colorado, P.INK is part support network, and part starter-fund to give women who want to get their scars tattooed the ability to do so without having to pay for it themselves.
The site invites artists, collectors, patients, supporters and the curious or simply intrigued, to share or pin their own post-mastectomy tattoo stories, design ideas, and favorite artists.
A Gallery of Post Mastectomy Tattoo Designs
One of the highlights of their website is a video created to showcase the potential healing power of reconstructive ink. The film follows Los Angeles breast cancer survivor Molly Ortwein as she receives her post-mastectomy scar-covering tattoo from Miami-based tattoo artist Colby Butler, who inked her two-year-old mastectomy scars.
“I was the last person you’d expect to get a tattoo,” said Ortwein. “But I rethought my options after my doctor told me that I wouldn’t get my nipples back. My coverage tattoos gave me the confidence to close that chapter and move forward.”
Noel Franus, who happens to be Molly’s brother-in-law, helped create this non-profit passion project because, as he says, “When reconstruction doesn’t cut it, we want to give survivors a chance to re-envision themselves with an entirely blank slate.”
Their intent is to help women “make friends with the mirror again,” which is a sentiment we can get behind completely. It goes hand in hand with #supportingconfidence.
For those who feel inspired enough and are ready to take the step of getting a post-mastectomy tattoo, P.INK encourages a few things.
- First, seek your doctor’s approval. Make sure your skin and surgery site is fully healed before you begin, and it’s probably a good idea to let your doctor know what you’re planning.
- Find an artist you like — one with mastectomy experience. This isn’t very common — many artists have experience working with scars. But many survivors have skin that’s been exposed to radiation, and that requires special expertise. P.INK has created a directory of artists they trust at http://p-ink.org.
- Get to work! If you need design inspirations, browse the P.INK Pinterest boards of mastectomy-specific tattoo designs at http://p-ink.org.
P.INK Day Celebrations – A Nod to Post-Mastectomy Tattoos in October
Since 2013, P.INK has sponsored “P.INK Day” in October, breast cancer awareness month, in different cities, raising funds to provide post-mastectomy tattoos to the women who apply with the organization; they’re then matched to an artist or organization near them locally.
And in the meantime, if you’ve been through this experience and want to share your story to help inspire others, P.INK encourages you to send them your pictures and thoughts by emailing [email protected]