There are many challenges that come with breast cancer, but perhaps one that is often overlooked is the issue of self-esteem following a mastectomy.
As a means to combat that loss of self, some breast cancer patients are turning towards tattoos to cover up scaring and feel better about their appearance.
The Bohemian Tattoo Club, 206 N. Main St., is known around Kokomo for the high-quality work their tattoo artists do, so it’s no surprise women have asked the business to help them following breast cancer surgeries.
Tim Boor, one of Bohemian’s artists, has been working on a design that features cherry blossoms flowing across one woman’s torso. When completed, the art will cover up the scarring left from her double mastectomy.
“She came to me and said she really liked cherry blossoms and just wanted very pretty, flowing cherry blossoms,” Boor said.
Both Boor and Bradley Pearce have done multiple chest tattoos for women and also have worked on nipple tattoos, which is a tattoo made to look like the areola and nipple that is color matched to the remaining breast.
“It’s life-changing for them when they get that done, and they are happy with it,” Pearce said. “That surgery can leave them devastated. And it’s really nice to be able to help them. I think it gives them their sense of confidence back.”
There are some things to consider before getting a tattoo, the artists said. One of the key things is to have patience. Boor said to wait for scars to fully heal before beginning the process.
“You want the scar to settle a little bit,” he said. “You don’t want to start doing a tattoo over a scar a month after. You want it where it’s not as pink anymore. I’m someone who is really honest with customers. I tell them there are some areas I will have to go back into again because scar tissue — the way it holds ink — might look different than the rest of the body. Even when it looks done we will probably have to do another session.”
Pearce recommends to think about a design choice and to be sure a tattoo is something you want. Boor also recommends careful consideration of the design. He said to go with an idea one would have considered before breast cancer surgery.
“Think about that situation never happening to you, and you are just getting a really cool tattoo on your chest,” said Boor. “What would you want? That way you end up with something you want instead of something you felt like you had to get because of the situation. Some people just want that area to look beautiful to them again, and the scars are distracting from that.”
Patience is also needed in the wait for the project to be completed. Boor estimates the cherry blossom tattoos may take up to 30 hours. And, if choosing The Bohemian Tattoo Club, be prepared to wait for an appointment. Because of their talent, Boor and Pearce are booked far in advance, said manager Jearrie Burleson-Massey.
“Don’t rush it. Be open minded,” she said. “I always tell people if you are open to the artist’s ideas, nine times out of ten you get something better than you could ever imagine. I tell people it’s like Christmas. You have an idea of what you are going to get, but it’s always better than you even imagined. Trust the process, trust the artist. There is a reason they are booked out as far as they are.”
Pearce also recommends researching tattoo artists and making sure they can accomplish a particular design choice, and they will be comfortable working with the artist.
Burleson-Massey said The Bohemian Tattoo Club strives to create an inviting environment for women.
“When we have received phone calls from women who have gone through breast cancer and they are wanting to cover their scars or wanting to know what their options are, it’s a very private experience for them, which is one of the main things we strive for,” she said. “It’s about the experience that we strive for. We want it to be spectacular — they have already gone through enough. From the time they make the phone call to when they come in, we make sure they have everything they need and they know that they are being cared for.”
Pearce said a completed tattoo can be life-changing for breast cancer survivors.
“That surgery can leave them devastated,” he said. “And it’s really nice to be able to help them. I think it gives them their sense of confidence back.”
“A lot of times the women we have come in and are upset because of their scars,” Burleson-Massey said. “They don’t feel as beautiful as they once did. And then the confidence that they get after their scars are covered — it’s something to not remind them of what they have been through.”
“Going through a surgery like that, you shouldn’t feel bad about your body,” Pearce said. “If a tattoo can help alleviate that, then absolutely go for it. Pick something that you are going to be proud of. Turn something bad into something good.”
For more information visit https://bohemiantattooclub.com/.