My Mastectomy Tattoo Story

I got a surprise recently when I spotted pictures of my tattoo on pinterest.  Scott posted pictures of it on his blog years ago and apparently the tattoo has taken on a life of its own. It has been pinned nearly 500 times and is linked on as many websites. Since that many people are being exposed to it, I guess it is time that I moved the pictures to my own blog and wrote its story myself. I’ll keep this post short but I’ll move it to a “breast cancer” tab and keep adding to it as I go.

I have had so many positive comments from women about how much my art has helped them to come to terms with their bodies and their scars that I want this to be a more permanent resource that people can refer their friends to and revisit as they wish. I promise to get some professional pictures done along the way as well.

My Mastectomy Tattoo

This tattoo was a collaboration between Tina Bafaro, the tattooist, and me to cover the scars from a bilateral mastectomy.  It took one Sunday a month over two and a half years to complete.

Both Tina and I were featured in a documentary on MSNBC called “MSNBC Investigates: Tattooed Women” which aired Mar. 26 of 2001. The show included several other women tattoo artists and their clients and is worth seeing if you have the chance to do so. The documentary was the “child” of  Michelle Smawley, an amazing producer who came out from New York with her film crew and turned our house into a film studio for an afternoon. They moved furniture, lights, had us take tags off of all the animals, and tried to, as she said, “make the place look less like a library.” 🙂

In future posts I’ll try to answer all the questions I’ve been asked over the years:

  • About my decision to have a mastectomy
  • Why I opted not to get reconstruction
  • How Tina and I developed the tattoo
  • How it was to get tattooed … there
  • Feedback I have received about the documentary
  • And to answer any new questions

Mastectomy Tattoo Resources:

Click here to visit Tina’s website.

Here is a newer video interview with Tina:

Here is an interview with Vyvyn Lazonga specifically about mastectomy tattoos, Tina shared Vyvyn’s shop when we started my project:

Comments from Scott’s blog:

  1. sheu

    dear inga, i happened to find ur beautiful pix while i was preparing my speech about the rising breast cancer incidence in asia. i am a breast surgeon and have never ever seen such a beautiful “postmastectomy result”. i learned from ur pix. this idea of beauty opens a new perspective. i hope u allow me to share ur pix with my patients. just to remind them that this creative option does exist.

  2. Bobbie Kennedy

    dear artist, I am a 61 year old woman that will be having a double mastectomy on the 14th of Sept. Till yesterday I was going to have reconsturtion surgery, and have now changed my mind,, I am interested in having my scars covered with a beautiful tatoo,, but since a tatoo is a permenrnt as removing your breast , I dont want a bad job, could you advise me where I should start looking for a person, and prices, It will still be 6 months out before I could even start with something, but I would like to know something in advance, any help you can send my way would be of great help, not many people my age just start looking for tatoos (smile) Thanks Bobbie

  3. Diane

    I’m facing a double mastectomy in November…and I think this is so beautiful. I’ve looked at pics of reconstructive surgery..and was somewhat horrified at the scarring. I have one tattoo, and was looking to get another – pink ribbon involved, of course. I LOVE, LOVE this. You’re an inspiration to me. Thanks.

  4. Diane A.

    I posted one of the comments above, more than a year ago. I have finished my reconstruction surgeries, and got my tattoos. : ) You were my inspiration…thank you.

  5. I have never liked tattoos and never saw the point of having them – until I saw what you created for this beautiful woman! I hope you are letting the tattoo community and the breast cancer community know of your fabulous work…

  6. July 20, 2012 at 6:29 pm

I am also a BCS. Mine was S1 & fortunately found early. I applaud how brave Inga is with every thing she has been through. What a beautiful gift Tina has given such a strong woman!