(Photo: Photo by Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY Staff) Cancer not only took Dana Kasse Donofree’s breasts, it marred her body with permanent reminders of pain and loss.
“I didn’t want to look in the mirror every day and see the scars. I wanted to see something beautiful,” said the 33-year-old Philadephia woman, a good friend of Louisville cancer patient Jill Brzezinski-Conley.
So like a growing number of breast cancer survivors and their families, Donofree decided to cover her scars — and reclaim power over her body — with tattoos.
“Quite a few of my patients do it. It’s definitely something I’ve seen as a growing trend over time,” said Dr. Anthony Dragun, a radiation oncologist for KentuckyOne Health who has seen “survivor tattoos” on arms, shoulders and scars. “A lot of my patients think of it as a badge of honor, like people in the military after a tour of duty.”
Noel Franus, who launched an initiative called P.ink that connects survivors with tattoo artists, put it this way: “It’s like they’ve been in a dark room forever and they step out into the light. They feel liberated…This is the first time they are able to take back control, take back the personal property breast cancer stole.”
Tammy Roby of Louisville got her tattoo before she developed breast cancer. Roby, 53, joined her daughter and niece in honoring her late sister with a breast cancer ribbon turning into a butterfly. A year later, Roby had a mammogram that revealed her own disease, and underwent a double mastectomy and chemotherapy. Genetic testing showed that she and her daughter, Brianna Roby, had the BRCA2 “breast cancer gene” that puts women at very high risk of developing the disease.
“At first, the tattoo was a symbol of strength and everything my aunt went through,” said Brianna Roby. Then, after her mom’s diagnosis and the revelation they both carried the gene, “it was almost like we got them for a reason. It kind of […]