Inked for Life
When you look at Liz Taylor of Suntree, it is hard to envision her as anything less than healthy. The 36-year-old mom of two runs regularly and works as a nurse. Two years ago, though, Taylor was diagnosed with colon cancer. Seven months of chemotherapy followed and she is cancer free today. The experience is one that will always stick with her, though, and she wanted a permanent way to remember.
The small scar on her right shoulder where her cancer treatments were ported into her body is hard to find. That’s because about one year after the port was removed, Taylor had the scar incorporated into a tattoo of violets. She took her idea to Lisa Murphy, owner of Against the Grain Tattoo in Melbourne, who designed the custom body art.
“I wanted to remember the experience but make it something beautiful. I am so happy with how it turned out,” Taylor said.
Murphy said that the tattoo artists at Against the Grain get a variety of requests for art that incorporates or covers scars or wounds.
“We get women who have mastectomy scars and C-section scars, and other general surgery scars for men and women. They are looking for something to make them feel confident about whatever part of their body it is we are tattooing,” Murphy said.
Brandon Gray is a tattoo artist in the shop who says he regularly receives requests to tattoo over self-inflicted scars on adults who used to cut themselves in their youth.
“That happens a lot more than you would think,” Gray said.
Tiffany Baierl is one of those patrons, and Against the Grain’s Alex Wilson was the tattoo artist who completed her self-injury scar coverup art that includes a painted Indian elephant on her thighs and a Mary Poppins scene on her arms.
“I’ve struggled with self injury for about 25 years, I had terrible scars on my thighs and couldn’t even wear shorts” Baierl said. “Mary Poppins was my favorite movie as a child and it was my way to escape. It always made me feel good, peaceful.”
To cover smaller arm scars, Baierl also had a mechanical dragonfly, a cat and a lotus tattooed.
“When I entered recovery, the lotus reminded of growing from muck and turning into something beautiful,” Baierl said.
Teresa McReynolds is a tattoo-cover up work in progress. She’s undergone seven breast surgeries in the past year and a half to correct issues stemming from breast cancer surgery 20 years ago. The latest round of surgeries left her severely scarred and lacking confidence.
“For me, these scars are a body image issue. I needed something to make me feel better about myself, to make it look beautiful there again,” McReynolds said. She had heard good things about Gray and got on a waiting list for several months to get in and have him tattoo the scar lines underneath one breast. She plans to have the other side completed soon, too.
Kelly Bryan of Port St. Lucie was also a customer of Murphy’s, coming to her after a bilateral mastectomy and reconstructive surgery stemming from breast cancer. Her tattoos are variations of lotus flowers.
“Getting the tattoos after everything I had been through and lost gave me back the confidence that my new breasts could still be beautiful even after breast cancer,” Bryan said. “For me, it replaced what I had lost as a woman.”
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