Tattoos: a tool to help women recover from mastectomy trauma

Click to play video: 'Tattoos: a tool to help women recover from mastectomy trauma'
Tattoos: a tool to help women recover from mastectomy trauma
WATCH: For women who've had a mastectomy, seeing the scars and other evidence of their surgery can be very stressful. As Phil Carpenter reports, some have found a way to lessen the impact of the scars and are using breast cancer awareness month to let others know that there are options – Oct 1, 2021

Megan Sewell and Loraine Snelgrove both had breast cancer.

“I announced it to friends and family today, four years ago,” said Snelgrove.

Sewell was diagnosed in 2016.

While both had double mastectomies, they said it isn’t the idea of not having breasts that is an issue now – it’s the scars.

“People seem to think that women, all women, need to have breasts in order to feel whole or to feel feminine,” Sewell told Global News, “and I wasn’t one of those people.”

The two women, along with three others, met in Montreal on Friday to get tattoos.

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“Because I wanted to look at something on my chest that I put there, and that is a positive,” explained Snelgrove.

Click to play video: 'Cosmetic tattooing for breast cancer survivors'
Cosmetic tattooing for breast cancer survivors

Artists at Uptown Tatoos at Decarie Square volunteered to do the tattoos.

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This is the fifth year that Karen Malkin-Lazarovitz has been gathering women who’ve had mastectomies for tattoo sessions.

“These women now look in the mirror and they don’t associate their breasts with trauma or cancer,” she said. “They now see something beautiful.”

Erica Hawkshaw says that’s the case for her.

She doesn’t think her scars are unpleasant to look at, but felt the tattoos would fill a void.

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“But it’s like there’s something missing,” she pointed out. “So I just wanted something to take the focus so that you’re not just looking at something empty.”

Click to play video: 'Healing tattoos for breast cancer survivors'
Healing tattoos for breast cancer survivors

Malkin-Lazarovitz got a tattoo to cover her own mastectomy scar six years ago.

She began inviting women from across the country to do the same because, she said, not many women even know there was an alternative to surgery.

She said, in her case, a physician tried to get her to do something she didn’t want.

“The doctor’s constantly trying to pressure me to have my nipples reconstructed and my areolas reconstructed,” she recalled.

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Snelgrove agrees that not enough doctors tell their patients about tattoos.

“There’s no brochures in the doctors’ office,” she noted.

These women say they are just glad to be able to decide something for themselves, after having so much happen to them that’s beyond their control.

“I’m taking my ugly and making it beauty,” Hawkshaw laughed.

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