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Read How This 23-year-old Reclaimed Her Body After Breast Cancer

  • IWB Post
  •  October 24, 2015


When people started telling ‘You’re a Hero’ to Nikki Black, she chose to not disappoint them and strongly fight breast cancer.  

Nikki’s treatment included double mastectomy and chemotherapy that resulted in loss of hair and breasts. To cope up, she indulged in art, makeup and photography.

Post mastectomy and breast reconstruction, she decided to reclaim her lost body with tattoo art. First she got her bald head tattooed in a floral pattern, later her breasts too were decorated with ink-art to hide the cancer marks.

Read her story in her own words:

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 23, I had only been doing stand-up comedy in Philadelphia for a few months. I was not prepared for that kind of blow.971875185

After the initial shock of the diagnosis, I threw myself headfirst into performing and did my first set about the diagnosis only a week after I had received it. It was the best way I had to process my emotions and make sense of a chaotic universe.

People openly asked me how I was going to handle reconstruction before I had even made that decision myself.

Shortly after my mastectomy, the doctors told me I would need to start chemotherapy after all, which they at first insisted wouldn’t be necessary. People told me I was brave, inspiring, a hero, but sitting up on that pedestal, it became nearly impossible to ask for help. I didn’t want to disappoint those who believed in me. I let myself down instead of those around me.

It was a traumatizing experience that made me feel as though any expression of sadness and frustration would make me seem hysterical. I shut down.

I contacted Holly Feneht, owner of The Gilded Lily, and met with her to talk through some of my interests and what I was looking for in a tattoo. 309411420

I could already feel myself crawling back into my own skin, emboldened by the process of reclaiming my body. When she sent me the final design for the tattoo, it was so beautiful I almost cried at my office desk.

The tattooing was like therapy, a surgery for the soul.

It’s not that I wanted my pre-mastectomy body back — now that I am beginning to see the light I am grateful for the good things even terrible experiences give you –I just want the body I have to feel like it is mine.892845483

Art got me through cancer. I may have felt like I lost that voice for a few months, and I will mourn the time I spent shutdown and feeling worthless. 

It seems appropriate, now, to have a collaborative effort on my body, a reminder to open myself up to trusting others and give myself over to a support system. At 25, I finally feel renewed and ready to work on the most important piece of all — myself.

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