I am an old fogey when it comes to tattoos. I can’t imagine having one. I can’t think of any word or image that I would want to have on my body forever. I know they can be beautiful. I know that their social stigma has almost faded away. My stepdaughter, who has several, tells me this frequently. She also talks about “when,” not “if” my 9-year-old gets a tattoo. I hope and pray that my stepdaughter is wrong about this. I can’t help it. I know it’s good to embrace change, but I’m having a hard time with the tattoo craze.

Then comes an item on the Bay Area Young Survivors listserv: Dragonfly Ink, a tattoo studio on Market Street in San Francisco, is offering free eyebrow tattoos to those who are about to start chemotherapy and expect to lose their eyebrows. My eyebrows have thinned considerably, but I haven’t lost them yet. Still, this is such a kind, such a smart use of tattoos. And it doesn’t look half bad.

Not sure I would do this, but it seems better than living without eyebrows!

This is pretty cool. The mastectomy scar becomes the spine of the lizard skeleton.

In the past, Dragonfly has also offered free areola tattoos to breast cancer survivors, and they do very cool scar camouflage tattoos.

God forbid I might have a mastectomy scar to cover up, but if I ever do, I’m calling Sasha at Dragonfly Ink.


About leftbreast

I have had breast cancer. I was diagnosed at 47, and am now 49. I have finished "active treatment," two surgeries, chemo, radiation, monoclonal antibodies. These days, I only take a drug to suppress my uptake of estrogen, since my tumor was highly reactive to that hormone. I have been married to my husband Pete for 21 years. I have a stepdaughter, Maureen, 30, and a daughter, Erin, 10. I've been a freelance magazine journalist for 20-plus years, covering everything from Chinese foreign policy to Catholic nuns to endangered species. I have had a great life. I have lived in Asia and all over the United States. I have spent nights with tree-sitters in Oregon and with astronomers at the Mauna Kea observatory in Hawaii. I've been to a cocktail party on the poopdeck of a British destroyer docked in Shanghai. I've taken the bus to Tibet, and tramped through the cloud forests of Panama with biologists. A magazine sent me on a raft trip down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon; another sent me to cooking school for a week. I have spent time with celebrities, presidents and heroin dealers. I love my work. I have a loving, supportive family and more friends than I probably deserve. I have had the space and time to camp, ski, cycle, garden, cook and spoil my pets (an Australian shepherd, a German shepherd and a tabby cat). If it all ended tomorrow, I would have to say that it has been a really, really good ride. When I was in thick of treatment, I was simply fighting for more time. Now, I'm trying to connect the experience of cancer with the rest of my life, with the time that's been won. I hope the cancer never comes back, but if it does, I'll be ready. That's what this blog is about.
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2 Responses to Inked

  1. Maureen says:

    As the inked step-daughter mentioned above, I thought I would leave my thoughts on the subject:

    Tattoos are not for everyone, I realize this fully. However, and perhaps other readers with tattoos can chime in, I love mine. Not because it scars my body permanently or shows the world what a bad-ass I am, but because I have used them to mark chapters in my life. Each one of my pieces really symbolizes a milestone or change I’ve gone through. Especially since mine (save one) are all text, they serve as my “permanent post-its” as my mom calls them.

    I got one before I left on my trip around the world, and I chose text that was both about how hopeful I was with adventure in front of me and about my reluctance to leave home (“every place I go/ I take another place with me”). Another one of my pieces says “Be the change, ” and helps to remind me that if I want the world to be different, it is up to me. Maybe the awesome lizard tattoo on the woman pictured above is her way of slaying the cancer dragon! Maybe women who have endured the pain and stigma of mastectomy and hair loss want to wear their battle in a more public way. Though tats certainly aren’t licked on by kittens, I doubt that the pain is any way akin to your surgeries or neuropathy. Perhaps a tattoo can be a symbol of getting beyond that physical pain?

    I will close by reminding you that when you were first diagnosed, I shared a favorite lyric about working with the cards you’ve been dealt and accepting a situation without looking back: “Everything that happens is from now on”. I remember that it brought me (and hopefully you) comfort and I had it tattooed on my arm as soon as I got back to the States. 🙂

    Love you,

    • leftbreast says:

      Maureen, I totally understand why you got your tattoos, and I admire the sentiments behind them. It’s just that I choose to mark milestones differently: The books on my shelves mark ideas that have been pivotal in my life, as do the pictures on the walls, the knick-knacks from trips around the world. It’s fine that you choose tattoos. I doubt I ever will, unless I end up with mastectomy some day. Then you can chuckle all the way to the tattoo parlor as I get my dragon inked on!

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