LONDON Cancer can leave survivors feeling as if their bodies are no longer their own.
After breast cancer surviver Sue Cook reached her five year remission hurdle, she wanted to do something to reclaim her body, something that would show cancer doesn’t always have to leave the last mark.
“It had always been my choice not to wear prostheses and it was also my choice not to have reconstruction,” Cook told Mashable.
“I decided the a tattoo would transform my scars into art. Now, every morning I can wake up to see a beautiful piece of body art,” said the 62-year-old art teacher from Wrightington, near Wigan.
Cook was diagnosed in 2009 with aggressive, inflammatory locally-advanced breast cancer and given a 40% chance of surviving the next five years of her life.
After consulting with her surgeon and oncologist, it was decided she would have a mastectomy to remove her right breast and therefore reduce the risk of recurrence, and she was later advised to have a mastectomy to remove her left breast.
Cook sees her tattoo as a celebration of the “new me” and her victory over cancer.
“Although a life-saving necessity, a mastectomy could be seen as something quite brutal. After all, cutting away a breast often results in women feeling less feminine. And, like any other amputation it can be seen as disfiguring,” Cook continued.
However, Cook didn’t want to put her body or mind through an extensive reconstruction process.
“I had already lived through a big enough battle, now was the time to acknowledge that fight. It could be seen as a form of vanity I suppose, but it also represents survival,” said Cook.
Cook had travelled to India with students and had loved the artwork she’d seen during the trip, particularly mandalas circular figures representing the universe in Hindu and Buddhist symbolism.
“I wanted to almost recreate the feeling I used to get when I wore beautiful lace underwear. Many women will be able to relate to that feeling, it gives a boost of confidence its like a hidden secret, an inner smile,” Cook continued.
While the tattoo initially only began as a chest piece, Cook loved it so much that she wanted to extend it onto her shoulders so she could choose to show as much or as little as she liked.
“This was me making a decision for myself about my body. It is empowering and gives me a feeling of strength,” says Cook.
“To me it is a thing of beauty and every morning when I see it, its like its for the first time. It puts a smile on my face,” Cook continued.
Cook is holding an art auction to raise money for Cancer Research UK.