‘Rewrite the trauma’: Calgary clinic offers free tattoos for breast cancer survivors
NOTE: The following story contains images of a sensitive nature.
As part of an international event called Pink Day, a clinic in Calgary is offering breast cancer survivors free tattoos.
Jacalyn Swindlehurst was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000 after finding a lump. Her older sister was also diagnosed with the disease.
“There were more tumors there than what showed up in the mammogram, so we had to go in for a mastectomy, just for survival rates,” she said.
In 2002, Swindlehurst went to get tested for a BRCA mutation and, after testing positive, she chose to have her other breast removed. She was left with scars from reconstruction surgery and radiation burns.
Tattoo artist Stacie-Rae Weir tattooed 3D nipples on Swindlehurst a couple years ago, but now she wants a larger design to cover the scars.
“Instead of me having flowers or jewels, I really like to downhill ski and winter sports so we’re going to have some snowflakes in there,” Swindlehurst said of the design.
The tattoos can vary, from a realistic areola to a more cosmetic design. Swindlehurst called it a big boost for body confidence.
“I have no problem going swimming,” she said. “We own a boat, I have multiple swimsuits and stuff like that. But it would be nice to look in the mirror and have it have more symmetry and not have the scars showing.”
Weir has been tattooing since she was a teenager and has been full-time at it since 1996. After 15 years of regular tattooing, she started doing more specialized work.
“It makes such a difference in people’s lives,” Weir said. “It’s really fulfilling and rewarding work.”
“The breast cancer journey can take away so much from a survivor,” she said. “It can chip away their confidence in little ways that they don’t even recognize. Tattooing can be a great way to rewrite the trauma. You can rewrite the experience.”
Jody Stoski, owner of the Cinnamon Girl Clinic, is offering the free tattoos to a select number of applicants for Pink Day. In the community, it’s a respected procedure, Stoski said.
“For our community and the people that we work with, it’s very well known,” she said. “It’s a very respected art to have put on your body that’s safe and okay and is not going to interfere with your healing or anything related to cancer.”
— With files from Blake Lough
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