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Breast Cancer Tattoos Are More Than Skin Deep

Pink Ink For Life Encourages Co-Survivors

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Updated April 24, 2010

Patty and Katrina's Breast Cancer Tattoos

Patty and Katrina's Breast Cancer Tattoos

Photo © Katrina Krauss Photography www.katrinakrauss.com

A colorful butterfly gently hovers, looking for a good place to land. Like an animated flower petal, it lights on Katrina's arm. An equally beautiful butterfly finds its home on her mother Patty's arm. These lovely creatures will remain with them forever, because they are breast cancer tattoos.

Getting Inked For A Good Cause

These tattooed symbols of new life are poised near pink ribbons that hold special meaning for mother and daughter. Patty Krauss is a two-time breast cancer survivor, who lost her own mother to the disease. Their breast cancer tattoos were done to remember Katrina's grandmother, and celebrate Patty's survival. Breast cancer survivors and co-survivors may get inked for many reasons: to commemorate a loved one, raise breast cancer awareness, help with fundraising, or as a daily reminder of their struggle.

Tattoos For More Than Survivors

Stacey Coffing and her husband Cary are about to get their first tattoos. Stacey is a one-year breast cancer survivor and mother of two school-age boys. When asked how they decided to dive into some pink ink, Stacey said, "To keep us grounded and to remind us of our daily gifts in life and to never take anything for granted. It will also remind us of our journey that we have gone through together and individually." Her son Caleb, age 12, feels that his parents' tattoos are a great way to forever support his Mom. Jonathon, age 8, says that even though it is going to hurt getting the tattoo, it will not compare to the pain that his Mom went through when she was newly diagnosed. Envisioning her impending ink session, Stacey said, "I am getting a pink ribbon tat with my date of diagnosis on it."

Medical Tatts And Defiant Tattoos

Breast cancer treatment may bring on tattoos for medical reasons: radiation tattoos are used to help target ionizing energy to kill cancer cells, while reconstructed nipples may be tattooed to tint them with color. But some skin art is done for purely decorative purposes. Geralyn Lucas writes in her book "Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy" about choosing to skip nipple reconstruction, and have a heart tattooed on her nipple area, as a mark of survival. Lucas was 27 at her diagnosis and didn't match the stereotype of a gnarly biker chick with skull tattoos and helmet hair. Her breast cancer tattoo was a mark of survival and defiance of breast cancer - defining herself as she wished to be, not as others expected her to behave.

Tentative About Tattoos

Breast cancer tattoos are not just for young, hip survivors and supporters. Patty is 66 and has been cancer free since 1998. She got this, her first tattoo, in 2008. Her daughter Katrina got inked in October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, after having supported her mom, Patty, through surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Patty really thought Katrina's breast cancer tattoo was beautiful and after she got over the thoughts of "What will people think of me if I get a tattoo?" she went for her own ink date. Patty's caution is understandable - tattoos stay on "forever" and some pain may be involved in getting one. A small, simple tattoo may cost from $40 to $50, and take 30 to 60 minutes to apply. If you're prone to infections and don't want to bother with tattoo aftercare, don't go under the dancing needle. Try a temporary airbrushed or water-soluble tattoo as an alternative to a professional studio tattoo.

Breast Cancer Tattoos Mark Survival

A breast cancer tattoo is a very personal thing - from the decision to get a tattoo to the art, colors, and location of the design, it is your unique expression. Stacey and Cary's tattos help them look forward to raising their children and celebrating survival for many years to come. Patty and Katrina sport their matching tattoos while they remember, "strength is sometimes found in struggle and challenge." Breast cancer may leave you feeling marked for life, but a breast cancer tattoo is a mark of celebration!

Tell Your Story and Show Off Your Tattoo Here

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