The Art of Healing

…or: From Broken to Beautiful

This entry was sparked by a series of discussions I had recently about mastectomy recovery tattoos. (It might be useful at this point to note that breast cancer and mastectomy are not my direct experience, only observations. And I love tattoos.)

For women recovering from breast cancer treatments and surgery, it is an incredible step in their healing process to reclaim the territory. I know an amazing tattoo artist, Vyvyn Lazonga in Seattle, who does some of this work. Working over scar tissue presents a special set of difficulties for the artist, because it moves differently and takes ink differently, but she revels in the opportunity to do this work (and gives seminars to other tattoo artists who want to as well) because it has such a strong purpose and satisfaction for her to help women reclaim their bodies from the physical trauma and emotional impact of the events, and to help them heal and move through. I observe that even women who don’t choose to get a tattoo can be buoyed and supported by seeing that others can and do; watching others succeed is uplifting if we allow it to be.

The conversations that brought me to this topic were about the ability – and the disappointing lack of ability – to share photos of these tattoos via social media. I found myself in a position to maybe help that change a little, and efforts are ongoing. I have nothing else to say about that, except to note that it is simply amazing to notice the moment when questions and answers intersect and we find the connections between challenges and solutions. And I’m thankful for this moment!

A physical injury or illness can be dehumanizing with all the pragmatic talk of the body and its function, examinations and treatments, and conversations that take no notice of the person in there. Emotional trauma for some people leads to simply withdrawing the self, or part of the self, from the experience of living through it. Then it’s easy to become the Victim, and for physical and emotional wellness to be dependent on other people’s (doctors’, companions’) actions. “I’d be better if they got my medications right….” A big part of healing involves reclaiming the Self from the trauma, re-writing the character in the story from Victim to Champion, returning to a sense of ownership of one’s own body and spirit. Until that is achieved, we are tossed around by life like a rowboat in the ocean, victim to changes in wind and tide and caught in the storms of our own and other people’s drama.

The Results!
These tattoos are the work of Vyvyn Lazonga, and the photos are used in this blog entry with her kind permission.

Tattoo and photo by Vyvyn Lazonga. Used with permission.

“This is MY body.”

Although it’s important to allow the surgeon and the radiologist and the other doctors to feel some ownership and responsibility for the work in progress for best success, once that work is done, ownership must be reclaimed.

Tattoo and photo by Vyvyn Lazonga. Used with permission.

“This is MY body.”

It’s no longer the dehumanized subject of laboratory results and doctors’ reports; it’s an empowered vehicle for moving Spirit through this world, this embodied experience, this life.

Tattoo and photo by Vyvyn Lazonga. Used with permission.

“This is MY body.”

It’s not the territory of the cancer, or the doctors, the paperwork, the medical bills, the pain, a prosthetic, an implant; it’s a splash of color, a celebration of victory, a work of art, and a thing of beauty.

Tattoo and photo by Vyvyn Lazonga. Used with permission.

“This is MY body.”

All of these tattoos are the work of Vyvyn Lazonga, and the photos are used in this blog entry with her kind permission. Thank you, Vyvyn. You’re amazing.

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About Real_Ale

Just walkin' the path.
This entry was posted in Spirit and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Art of Healing

  1. Elizabeth says:

    beautiful! a fantastic way to regain a sense of self and stride forth in beauty. I imagine it also feels wonderful to be able to give back in this way for the artist.

  2. Jim Collier says:

    I have always felt that this was one of the most awesome uses for tattoo art. I have spoken to women who have had this and the benefits it gave were wonderful.

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