For women who have gone through treatment for breast cancer, the day they are told they’re in remission is a pretty fantastic one. But to really celebrate and exhale, many will wait a standard five years, just to be safe. That’s how long Sue Cook of London took to mark her recovery — and she did it with a big, beautiful tattoo, right across her chest.
“After reaching my unexpected five-year remission, I began reclaiming my body to show that cancer doesn’t always have to leave the last mark,” Cook, 62, told People. She’d had a double mastectomy during her treatment and decided against breast reconstruction; instead, she opted to have her scars covered with a black lace tattoo.
The design is inspired by a lacy pattern she had noticed in India. “I wanted to almost re-create the feeling I used to get when I wore beautiful lace underwear,” Cook said about the ink, which took about 30 hours. “Many women will be able to relate to that feeling; it gives a boost of confidence — it’s like a hidden secret, an inner smile.” She added: “It’s difficult to explain how happy my tattoo makes me feel. To me it is a thing of beauty, and every morning when I see it — it’s like it’s for the first time — it puts a smile on my face.”
She’s now among the growing number of women opting for mastectomy tattoos — with some tattoo shops, including Garnet Tattoo in San Diego, specializing in the service. “I have seen firsthand the transformation that takes place when clients take this final step in their recovery,” owner Shane Wallin told Susan G. Komen San Diego. “I want to help cancer warriors reclaim what they have lost.”
To honor women who have made this amazing choice, and to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is October, we’ve collected some other striking, inspiring examples of tattoos, covering mastectomy, lumpectomy, or reconstruction scars.
Some reimagine bras, and many incorporate flower or leaf imagery.
Others embody a more tribal or warrior look.
Whatever the style, the idea most of these survivor tattoos share is this: Breast cancer doesn’t need to leave the last mark.