• Terry Lively

Fighting for Your Life on the Battlefield of Breast Cancer


I am a medical tattoo artist, and  I work on breast cancer survivors daily at my shop.  I hear their stories, and am constantly amazed at the fighting spirit within each breast cancer warrior.  They tell me about the first diagnosis, how they initially felt, the surgery, the chemo, the radiation, losing their hair, sometimes more surgeries, the loving support of a spouse (or the spouse that left them). Well the list goes on and on.  


I think of them as warriors,  and the female Samurai comes to mind. Japan's Onna-Bugeisha were fearless Samurai women fighting alongside men in deadly battles. They were trained to ride horses, master the use of a long sword called a katana, and some were even skilled archers.  They were "bad ass".  


In 1868, a group of female warriors known as Joshitai, were led by a 21 year old woman by the name of Nakano Takeko.   Takeko was highly skilled in the use of a special sword built for smaller women, called a naginata.  Takeko was also trained in martial arts, and was highly educated.  Takeko is widely considered to be the last great female samurai warrior. 


Takeko was a young solder.  Last week  I tattooed a young breast cancer warrior who was only 37 when diagnosed.  I was amazed at her spirit.  She told me that when she was about to have her mastectomy, she wrote letters to her children and family members, just in case she didn't make it off the battlefield.  She had her surgery, radiation, then reconstruction, and was now with me.  We had a lot in common, talking about how we both enjoyed gardening, our pets, our children.  


I went home that evening thinking about how fortunate I am to meet these strong women.  The print above is hanging in my treatment room.  The artist is Beth Hedley.  

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