I had thought I would never get a tattoo. I worried about having to live with something gained in a moment of whimsy but that would not travel through time. I wanted to keep the canvas of my skin bare. Clear. Untouched. But when my mother got cancer her illness and death made me question who I was. When she died I wanted to make a mark that said to me, ‘I am here, this is me’. I wanted something totemic and I started to think that this might be in the form of a tattoo.
Meanwhile, I had been asked by tattoo artists to make a healing balm for aftercare, but it wasn’t until a woman asked me if I could make her something to heal a tattoo she had done on her reconstructed breast after having a mastectomy that I really moved this work forward. Like me, she had never considered getting a tattoo but now it had become something significant, it became part of taking her body back for herself. Tattoo enabled her to write over cancer. This wasn’t just ink. It was empowerment.
Tattoo enabled her to write over cancer. This wasn’t just ink. It was empowerment.
I was incredibly touched that, through the oils and balms I had made, I was contributing to this beautiful woman’s healing journey. I was helping Nature contribute to her healing journey. Suddenly her journey coinciding with mine made the art of tattoo incredibly relevant and I wanted to make my balms and oils available to others.
I started selling my tattoo balms and oils in 2015. Within a short time, my tattoo oil was selected as a finalist for Best New Natural Product by the Pure Beauty Awards in the UK. Today many tattoo artists around the country and abroad (including Dean Sacred pictured above) use my aftercare line. I also have a product called Botanic Repair that I developed for use after cosmetic tattoo/micropigmentation procedures such as new eyebrows after hair loss.
Within a short time, my tattoo oil was selected as a finalist for Best New Natural Product by the Pure Beauty Awards in the UK
So how can a tattoo help a cancer patient? The wonderful counselor Sheila Hight, of Esperanza Counselling in Hawke’s Bay, works with many cancer patients. She emphasised to me how profound it is for cancer patients to feel they have regained some control over their bodies, how tattoo's ability to transform can be a power for good, and how it can be a powerful part of the healing journey.
Cancer patients need to feel they have regained some control over their bodies
I could relate to this as for me the idea of a tattoo transformed from the unfamiliar to the deeply personal. It became something liberating, totemic, a definite mark that recognised the cycle of life as well as my own journey. Once that thought got hold of me it felt empowering.
If you have a story to share about how you used tattoo or micropigmentation to help claim your body back after cancer treatment we'd love to hear about it below.