'Tittoos': Tattoos changing the lives of breast cancer survivors

'Tittoos': Tattoos changing the lives of breast cancer survivors
A woman getting a mammogram done in a hospital. Credit: Belga

On Jacqueline van Schaik's chest, flowers and butterflies distract from the scars where her breasts once were – a tattoo described as a "jewel" by this survivor of breast cancer.

"It's beautiful," the 56-year-old mother says, with tears in her eyes, as she examines the artwork in the mirror of a tattoo parlour in Lelystad, a town in the Netherlands. "I don't see the scars anymore; I see this jewel." Now happy, she says she has come a long way since undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy after being diagnosed in October 2020 with cancer in both breasts, RTBF reports.

About one in seven women in the Netherlands will develop breast cancer during their lifetime, according to figures from health authorities. In a third of cases, a mastectomy is necessary, according to official figures.

This was also the case for Myriam Scheffer (44). She too wants a tattoo on her chest, "probably a large bird spreading its wings," but her scars are not sufficiently healed. In the meantime, she has set up a foundation to offer women a free tattoo after a mastectomy. Jacqueline van Schaik is the first to benefit.

The principle already exists in the United States and France. The ambition of Scheffer is to develop the initiative across Europe.

Interested women can register from June with her foundation, Tittoo.org, to get a tattoo from October, the month dedicated to breast cancer screening awareness.

Thanks to the foundation, Italians and Swedes will be able to do the same this year in Florence, and in Stockholm, "where there is a very active group of 'flatties', 'flat women'," Scheffer told AFP. She then hopes to develop the initiative in Belgium and Germany in 2024.

The foundation exclusively solicits tattoo artists who have already worked with scars, such as Darryl Veer (36) who is visibly relieved after three sessions of several hours of work with van Schaik. "It's really the most beautiful thing you can do with a tattoo, to make someone so happy."

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