About one in eight women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.* This stunning statistic means that nearly everyone will be affected in one way or the other by this terrible disease.
For Marisa Kimmel (@marisakimmel), breast cancer became a pressing threat a few years ago when she was diagnosed with the BRCA1 gene, a gene mutation that put her chances of developing the disease at 80 percent. She had two options: Live under a constant shadow or undergo a double mastectomy, removing her breasts. She chose the latter and opted to adorn her new body with a gorgeous tattoo.
“My chest tattoos have helped me feel more at home in my own body. Having the opportunity to create an outer appearance for myself that I love — that for me is such a privilege and I don’t take it for granted,” she says.
Kimmel made the decision to leave her mastectomy scars visible while adorning her chest. “My first tattoos by my scars were my heart and my moths. To me, those tattoos symbolize my rebirth after my surgery. That I would go in the most grace after this body change of mine. I also have a portrait of myself breastfeeding my son right in the center of my chest,” she says. “Breastfeeding was such a beautiful part of my motherhood and I’ll never get to have that experience again so I wanted to give space on my body to that time of my life.”
Whether through a preventive diagnosis like Kimmel’s or as a treatment to fight the disease after it has taken hold, an increasing number of breast cancer survivors are opting for tattoos to cover or highlight their scars. Here’s a look at some gorgeous options and the artists who created them.
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the superheroes who fight, and the people who love them, BRANWYN is donating 10 percent of all sales from its limited-edition, naturally sustainable Merino Bra for the Cure to the Susan G Komen Foundation and Casting for Recovery.
Credit: Katie Rogers / @kerogersphotography
1. Personal tapestry tattoo
Created by Shane Miller, Rai, and Trish Donnelly, Kimmel says her tattoos “symbolize that even the hard things are deserving of all the love.” She explains, “All of my chest tattoos never touch my mastectomy scars on purpose. I wanted to create the visual that my mastectomy is a part of myself that is just as beautiful as the rest of my being.” See more from these artists: @shanemillertattoos & @raitattoos & @trish.donnelly.tattoos
2. Woodland forest tattoo
3. Ethereal florals tattoo
The current head of WNDR Museum, artist David Allen’s mastectomy tattoos have been showcased in the MOMA. He says the powerful experience of mastectomy tattoos “is the most wonderful thing I've given myself to... well, besides being a father.” See more: @davidallen
4. Tropical waters tattoo
After artist Nikki Thompson of Nikki’s Tattoo Studio in North Carolina lost her mother to breast cancer, she’s helped other women commemorate their fight against the disease with scar cover-up tattoos. See more: @nikkistattoostudio
5. Graphic garden tattoo
Co-owner of the collective THIS TIME TMRW in Brooklyn, NY, Virginia Elwood says her acclaimed art is focused on “how art (and tattooing) can be used as an agent for personal and political growth.” See more: @virginiaelwood
6. Serene cherry blossoms tattoo
The Salt Lake City Tribune has said of Fallen Angels Tattoos in Salt Lake City, “This all-women Utah tattoo studio specializes in covering up pains of the past.” Founder Terrina specializes in mastectomy tattoo, nipple pigmentation, and reconstruction. See more: @fallenangelutah
7. Spiritual movement tattoo
Samantha Rae of Sam R Tattoo Studio in Vancouver Island, British Columbia has said, “Tattoos present a new start, closure and a happy dance across the finish line of cancer.” Her beautiful, individualized designs capture her clients’ triumph. See more: @samrtattoo
8. Natural beauty tattoo
Jackie, founder of Pretty in Ink in Bowie, MD, created this floral masterpiece: “At Pretty in Ink, we like to learn about your journey, your cancer, and your scars…our mission is to create artwork that helps tell the story of survival, resilience, and perseverance.” See more: @prettyininktattoos
9. Sacred swirls tattoo
Specializing in graphite drawing, Mike Trimboli of Divine Arts Tattoo in Phoenix, AZ, is partnered with Inked Phoenix Project, a nonprofit helping breast cancer survivors cover up their scars like beautiful, custom art. See more: @amish_mike
10. Sweet sea anemone tattoo
Award-winning tattoo artist Dawn Grace of Bella Rose Tattoo in Chicago, IL, specializes in both post-mastectomy scar cover ups and nipple restoration. She says she was inspired to do this work after “being frustrated with the pink or brown circles pretending to be nipples I saw on survivors and knowing I could do a better job.” See more: @tattoosbydawngrace
Shop the Bra for the Cure for a limited time to experience the wonder of sustainable, ethically sourced Merino while joining us in the fight against breast cancer. Ten percent of all sales go directly to the Susan G Komen Foundation and Casting for Recovery.