Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in the world, and first most common in women. It is an invasive disease that takes an average of 40,000 lives every year, including both men and women. And if that's not terrifying enough, going through breast cancer treatment can lead to severe depression and problems with body image.
While everyone has their own methods to deal with this disease and its aftermath, post-mastectomy tattoos have been one of the most powerful ways for breast cancer patients to reclaim their bodies and gain back confidence.
In its October issue, tattoo-focused magazine Inked decided to spotlight these breast cancer survivors, aka the Dazzling Dozen, who chose to cover their scars – both physical and emotional – with art.
For its first-ever issue dedicated to breast cancer, Inked teamed up with New York-based photographer Sophy Holland and invited twelve women to proudly display their beautiful post-mastectomy tattoos in front of the camera. This is not the first time Holland's photography focused on body image and tattoos, which allowed her to skilfully capture both strength and fragility oozing from her subjects.
Among the women featured in this magazine spread, which aligns perfectly with the Breast Cancer Awareness Month, there are survivors who have been living cancer-free for 7 and more years, and there are those who had just finished their treatment a year ago. We see women of all ages and walks of life, clearly reminding us that cancer doesn't discriminate and can affect us all.
When it comes to tattoos, lots of them feature floral designs with some inspiring exceptions like the one below. Stephanie, who is five years cancer-free, wanted to get realistic nipples tattooed on her breasts. She says:
"There is nothing in this world you can do to me that would knock me down. I feel like a tank. I feel like I can tackle anything with positivity and keep pursuing happiness."
Naming the reasons to cover up their scars with tattoos, most women said they just wanted to reclaim their bodies and go back to loving themselves again. Cancer takes a huge toll on a person emotionally and physically, and after it's gone, many feel like they've lost themselves somewhere along the way.
"It’s that little bit of reclaiming what cancer took away from me. It’s taking my body back."
Women said tattoos made them break out of a shell, embrace their skin and, in some cases, feel more confident than ever before. As one survivor puts it, "Cancer doesn't define me. I am not cancer, I am a human being."
Watch the video below to hear from each and every model about their personal experience with cancer, from the very downfall to inspirational recovery: