Post-Mastectomy tattoos: “I wish I could walk around topless” by Reina

[divider] My journey began 3 weeks before my 40th birthday. I scheduled a mammogram because in my opinion, I have medical insurance and when you turn 40 as a woman and you have children, it is important to take care of yourself so you can be around to see your children grow and blossom into the great people they are meant to be. 

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I visited a breast care specialist. She examined me but could not make an assessment as to whether or not the mass in my breast was a cancer mass or just very dense breast tissue. I was referred to mammography with the possibility of an ultrasound and possibly a biopsy. December 6th, the eve of my 40th birthday party, I did end up having the full exam, including a biopsy. The radiology doctor told me it didn’t look good… Even after that I continued to tell myself it was nothing until they told me otherwise, so I continued to live life as normal, including celebrating my birthday with friends and family the next night. You may be asking “where is your husband during all of this?”. Well, the mammography appointment I honestly believed was going to be a piece of cake so I did not invite him to the appointment. Once I told him there was actually a biopsy, he cried. My response to that? “Please don’t plan my funeral yet. First we don’t know anything yet, so don’t go dark. Second, don’t plan my funeral yet, even if it is something, medicine today can help take care of it.”

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Fast forward – two days before my actual 40th I received the diagnosis. I was at work and it was a bit surreal. It still is to be honest. Remember this is mid December now. My husband and I decided not to say anything to our family or friends until after the holiday season. We didn’t want to cast a shadow over the festivities of the season, and I especially didn’t want any special treatment. Once we did share the news, the community of friends from the school our children attend reached out and helped with everything from prayer to meals to keeping the kids busy (then the children were 3 and 7).

Treatment started January 10th 2014 and included chemotherapy with other targeted medicine based on what “fed” my type of cancer. We started with chemo in order to shrink the tumor before my mastectomy. Although I only had a detectable tumor in my left breast, the statistics shared by my surgeon were enough for us to decide to remove both breasts in order to decrease the likelihood of recurrent in the opposite side within ten years. The double mastectomy occurred in June 2014. Unfortunately we did not get in touch with the plastic surgeon with enough time to have him place the expanders for reconstruction, so I had another surgery 3.5 weeks later, followed by the final surgery for the placement of implants approximately 4 weeks later. Following all of this, I began radiation which I received 25 rounds.


Life continued as a new normal after cancer and treatments. By the time everything was said and done, we were entering the holiday season, which means keeping the body covered. It was during spring break 2015 when we went on a family vacation: this included a lot of pool time. The bathing suit I wear and the style I prefer show a bit of cleavage, tasteful of course. During this particular vacation, although I am sure no one really noticed, I felt like EVERYONE noticed the scars from the mastectomy peaking out from my bathing suit. I became self conscience, (which is strange considering I did not mind walking around bald and without a wig or hat on), and began conversations with my husband on how to either “own” the scars or do something different (like a different bathing suit). Neither of us wanted me to change my bathing suit style, and we happened to notice all of the tattooed women around the pool. These were tattoos on their backs, arms, legs, shoulders. From there we started talking about covering my scars with a tattoo rather than me getting the 3D nipple tattoos. This is when I began searching tattoo artists who specialize in scar cover ups in San Diego. This was no easy feat. But when I did find an image of a mastectomy cover up tattoo, I was blown away by the work and dug further to see where this artist was located. Thankfully for me, although he is a major part of the project, he recently relocated to San Diego. I emailed him to schedule time to meet and he quickly responded and we got things moving! 

When I met with Shane, I provided him with the basic concept for my tattoo. I wanted to include Buddha, as well as the christian fish symbol and lotus flowers. I had an idea in my mind of what it would look like, but when Shane and I exchanged emails with his drawing, I was shocked by the transformation from my mind’s image to what he came up with and I was beyond ecstatic!


Shane not only exceeded my expectations with the drawing, but he works quickly and he is thoughtful as he steps back to assess the canvas he is working on and the art he is creating. He has so much to be proud of! I know I am proud to show my artwork to the world, my experience with those who want to know, and the name of this fabulous artist who takes pride in his work. THANK YOU Shane for helping me to restore inner peace with the image I see when looking in the mirror. Because of this tattoo, I have reclaimed my sense of self and I actually wish I could walk around topless to share its beauty with everyone. [divider]

tam logo3Each month we a feature the inspirational and transformative Stories of few post-mastectomy cancer survivors and the artists & ink that help change their lives. Please support these Warrior Women by sharing their stories with those you love! It’s all these women ask. And remember- schedule your exams, ladies!


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FOR MORE INSPIRATIONAL SURVIVOR STORIES, check out these Related Articles:

The Amazing Phoenix Tattoo on my post-mastectomy breast! by Anna Snachez 

Janine: “Instead of scars, I now have artwork!”

Patty’s Story: “I didn’t want scars to be all I saw!” 

“Why I wanted to get my breasts tattooed!” by Juanita!

* Shane Wallin: Matectomy Tattoos and the artist helping women reclaim their lives, their bodies and their femininity!  [divider] *To see MORE and learn about some of the MOST AMAZING tattoo artists of our age, check out these deals from Tattoo Artist Magazine! There’s a reason tattooers themselves consider TAM the most informative and important tattoo magazine ever –

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Either way, See the BEST TATTOOS from the BEST ARTISTS in the world. Add to your collection today! [divider]

Tattoo Artist since 1990 and creator/publisher of Tattoo Artist Magazine since 2003

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2 thoughts on “Post-Mastectomy tattoos: “I wish I could walk around topless” by Reina

  1. I love this. This is a beautiful story and and the art is just as beautiful as the courageous woman who wears it every day. Thank you so much for sharing. You are an inspiration to many!

  2. I’ve been reading about all the great tattoo artist who do work post mastectomy. Are there any good artists that you know of and/or recommend that are in the Portland, Oregon metro area ?

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