Of­fer­ing a new be­gin­ning for breast can­cer sur­vivors

Jamaica Gleaner - - SEX & RELATIONSHIPS - – AP

NOT EV­ERY tat­too client at Iron Age Stu­dios on the Del­mar Loop wants trendy art, a Bi­ble verse or a Ja­panese sym­bol. A grow­ing num­ber of clients are breast can­cer sur­vivors deal­ing with mas­tec­tomies.

Tat­too artist Kerry So­raci typ­i­cally works with three or four breast can­cer sur­vivors ev­ery month, the St Louis Post-Dis­patch re­ported.

The Amer­i­can Can­cer So­ci­ety says more than one-third of women with early-stage breast can­cer opt for a mas­tec­tomy, and the num­ber of women who choose to have a healthy breast re­moved as a pre­ven­tive mea­sure has tripled in the past decade.

Theresa Schwartz, a breast sur­geon at Saint Louis Uni­ver­sity, said that af­ter a pa­tient heals, the pa­tient can re­main flatch­ested or un­dergo breast re­con­struc­tion. If the nip­ple and are­ola have been re­moved, the woman can de­cide whether she wants to get a tat­too to mimic the look, or she may seek some­thing artis­tic to cre­ate a new ap­pear­ance.

“It’s the one thing they have con­trol over af­ter 18 months of treat­ment,” Schwartz said, not­ing that the post-op tat­too can help re­lieve a pa­tient’s anx­i­ety.

So­raci, 49, can blend an in­fi­nite com­bi­na­tion of pinks and browns to com­ple­ment skin tone, and use shad­ing and high­lights for a three-di­men­sional il­lu­sion.

“Plas­tic sur­geons are not graphic artists,” Schwartz said. “And they can’t do any­thing dif­fer­ent,” like a cas­cade of ivy or a bloom­ing sun­flower. “The tat­toos are a means of self-ex­pres­sion. It’s re­al­is­ing you have a new be­gin­ning once you’re done with treat­ment.”

Schwartz found out about So­raci a cou­ple of years ago and sends her clients there. So­raci, who has a de­gree in fine arts from Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­sity, finds ful­fil­ment help­ing women fig­ure out how they want to look and feel in their new bod­ies.


“Post-mas­tec­tomy tat­toos en­com­pass the true na­ture of tat­too­ing,” So­raci said. “They mark a real rite of pas­sage, a cel­e­bra­tion to an end of a very trau­matic jour­ney.”

The nip­ple tat­toos for Melissa McHale, 34, of St Peters, mark her sixth and sev­enth tat­toos. Af­ter a stage 4 can­cer di­ag­no­sis she en­dured two years of chemo, surgery and ra­di­a­tion.

“Af­ter ev­ery step that I’ve been through, this is the end of my jour­ney,” McHale said. “Ev­ery­thing has worked up to this: It’s the light at the end of the tun­nel.

“I think I’m just go­ing to feel com­plete.”

Breast can­cer sur­vivor Judy Law­ley shows her breast can­cer rib­bon tat­too on the Lub­bock Chris­tian Uni­ver­sity cam­pus where she is at­tend­ing classes, in Lub­bock, Texas.

Den­nis Turner hugs his wife and breast can­cer sur­vivor Deb­bie Turner of Ring­wood in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on Sun­day, Oc­to­ber 9. Turner sports an air­brushed tat­too from the ‘Cel­e­bra­tion Life and Lib­erty’ event hosted by the John Theurer Can­cer Cen­ter at Hack­en­sack UMC for can­cer pa­tients, their fam­i­lies and sur­vivors at MetLife Sta­dium on Sun­day. Turner cel­e­brated be­ing five years can­cer-free last week.

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