By Laura Phillips
EDGEWATER, Colo. (CBS4) – For many breast cancer patients, a mastectomy is life-saving and life-changing procedure.
Whether the women get reconstructive surgery or not, the procedure leaves scars. Now some women are choosing to cover their scars with art.
On Wednesday, a local tattoo studio donated their time, and ink, to some pretty incredible women.
Nonprofit organization Personal Ink, known as “P.ink,” teamed up with All Sacred Tattoo in Edgewater to give six survivors complimentary tattoos.
“It’s something that allows us to reclaim our relationship with a mirror, our relationship with our lovers and to just love our bodies again,” said Karen Richards.
Richards is a 15-year breast cancer survivor and organizer of the “P.ink Day” event.
This year alone, there are P.ink Day events in 13 cities with 68 artists creating tattoos for 66 survivors.
Andrea Ema was 31 when she had her mastectomy. That was 31 years ago.
“Back in the day you weren’t given a lot of options,” Ema said, “I had a radical mastectomy. My lymph nodes were removed. It was treated very aggressively. I felt kind of butchered, but I survived. And that’s the important thing.”
Ema read about “P.ink Day” on Facebook in 2013.
She put in her application and got an appointment at this year’s event. She traveled here from the Chicago area and says it’s an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.
“One thing about having this mastectomy tattoo is that it’s something that I’m doing for me. One hundred percent for me. Nobody else. Not my business. Not my family. Not my friends. It’s mine and own it,” Ema said.
Many of the tattoo artists participating in the event have long wait lists.
Shop owner Aries Rhysing says he loves celebrating survival stories.
He said, “Cancer is something that has touched my family to a profound degree. I’m the oldest living member of my family. Everyone else has passed away form cancer, including my own mother. So for me survivors are particularly special.”
It’s not just the artists who made donations.
Brother Mobile Solutions is a company out of Westminster. They co-sponsored the event and donated a PocketJet mobile thermal full-page printer, then showed the artists how to use the device to create detailed stencils of the artwork.
The breast cancer survivors may have walked into the tattoo shop with scars, but they walked out with a new sense of empowerment.
“The pure joy and the emotion that bubbles up out of these women when they first see the complete artwork on these bodies that have been just ravaged by cancer, it’s nothing I could really describe,” Richards said, “The women come in unsure of themselves, but they come out like warriors and it’s an amazing thing to witness.”
LINK: All Sacred Tattoo Studio
Laura Phillips produces CBS4 News at 10 and various special projects. She has been producing news in Denver since 2006. Follow her on Twitter @LA_Phillips.