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The Inspiring Story of One Woman's Masectomy Tattoo

Words by Emily Coates
The Inspiring Story of One Woman's Masectomy Tattoo

A delicate mix of peonies stretching across her chest and back, Karen opted for a stunning fine line tattoo to cover mastectomy scars and turn a difficult life event into a reminder of positivity. 

Here, in her own words, Karen shares her tattoo story and what this body art means to her.

"To be honest, I never thought I would be brave enough to have a tattoo as much as I’ve always loved them.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, aged 38. I had a mastectomy with immediate reconstruction, using part of my back muscle; followed by chemo and radiotherapy. Over the following years I had numerous operations in order to try and correct the shape of my new breast. However, it wasn’t successful.

tattoo over scarsTattoo by @alexa_tattooer

I started to really hate it. I hated looking at myself in the mirror and it would make me feel really low and sad that I didn’t feel complete anymore. I’m on a few Facebook groups with other women who have had breast cancer and saw that a few women were having mastectomy tattoos. So I started doing my own research into the possibility.

"I hated looking at myself in the mirror. I didn’t feel complete anymore."

I saw a tattoo artist on the tv, David Allen. He's based in America and produces such intricate and beautiful mastectomy tattoos. I could see the positive effect on the women and really wanted to feel that way about myself too.

This then sparked my interest. It became a bit of an obsession and it took a long time to decide which style was right for me. After all, it’s a massive decision, especially when it came to helping me love my body again. Do I go for colour or black and grey and what type of design?



I started trawling through Instagram and Pinterest for ideas and began narrowing it down. I was drawn to flowers and definitely preferred no colour the more I looked into design ideas. Also I preferred the lighter artwork as I wanted to keep it delicate.

As soon as I saw Alexa’s work on Instagram (@alexa_tattooer) I instantly knew she was the one I wanted to do my tattoo. Her fine line and attention to detail was just outstanding. I loved everything about her style and the type of flowers she was tattooing.

" brings tears to my eyes. Of pure happiness and self love."

On meeting her I saw the passion in her eyes and she seemed very excited, and very confident she could help design a tattoo to disguise the misshape of my breast. And my scars. All I had to do was give her a rough idea of the flowers and shapes I liked and she designed the most amazing piece.

People ask me how my tattoo makes me feel. Every time I answer this question, it brings tears to my eyes. Of pure happiness and self love. I literally went from hating my breast to loving it. I never really wanted to look at it before, but now I’m constantly looking at it and admiring it. I just love how positive and happy it makes me feel; and it’s brought out a confidence in me I never knew I had.

masectomy scar tattooTattoo by @alexa_tattooer

So my first tattoo with Alexa was my mastectomy one and my next two were to cover up my other scars as a result of breast cancer surgeries. I left the design of them to her as I have complete trust in her to know what will look good and cover the scars at the same time. They all link into one another in some form or other.

Once again I was blown away by them. They are absolutely stunning and I really couldn’t be happier with them. I’m loving how hospital staff react to them when I’m at my appointments. They attract a lot of positive attention.

"Speaking to female friends with tattoos, they sometiems feel self conscious"

Unfortunately there are people out there who have their own opinions on tattoos; especially on women. Nobody has said anything to me personally, however, speaking to my female friends with tattoos they sometimes feel quite self conscious in certain situations and worry that the appearance of their tattoos will make people behave differently towards us.

masectomy scar tattooTattoo by @alexa_tattooer

Almost as though we aren’t as well educated as them; or rebellious; and feel as though sometimes they are looked down on and pre-judged. I personally love it when people ask about my tattoos as I am super proud of them. It wasn’t as though I was ashamed of my scars as they themselves tell a story, but I much prefer the end result."