Art from Scars - Taking Back My Body
Each year, more than 250,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States alone. Out of those women diagnosed with early stage (I or II), 36% will undergo a mastectomy. This percentage rises with the stage of the diagnosis. 58% of the women diagnosed with late stage (III or IV) will go need surgery – losing one breast (unilateral mastectomy) or both breasts (bilateral mastectomy).
45-year-old Petrina Hamm from Apex, North Carolina was one of these women. Throughout her journey with cancer, she went through six weeks of radiation therapy, six months of chemotherapy, surgeries to remove her ovaries and her right kidney, and a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. “When you go through cancer treatment, it’s as if you completely surrender yourself” she said.
Although grateful to be cancer-free, Hamm loathed looking in the mirror and seeing the scars around her newly-reconstructed breasts staring back at her. “Having two children and nursed them, I liked my breasts. I mean, these are much less droopy, but they’re not really mine” she said. Hamm wanted to regain control over her body by getting a tattoo to cover her chest, marking a hopefully permanent end to her journey with cancer.
She founded a nonprofit called ‘Art from Scars’ that connects other breast cancer survivors with tattoo artists and helps cover the cost for decorative mastectomy tattoos or nipple regimentation tattoos. “Mastectomy, whether or not you opt for reconstruction, always leaves you with scars. And they are a brutal reminder of everything you’ve been through” said Hamm.
Read on to learn more.