“I also have a dragon that curves around my right hip, down to my knee, where I had rods surgically inserted into my femur to support my bones, where the cancer had spread; this hides the scars. To me, dragons symbolize spring, generosity, independence, free-mindedness, and creativity. I’m also right-handed, so having the dragon on my dominant side is also significant.” —A.J.
“Butterflies represent transformation, bursting forth from the darkness and isolation of the chrysalis, which is not unlike what has happened to me as a result of my MBC diagnosis. This tattoo represents how I’ve burst out of my shell. I have my kiddos’ names in the wings, because they give me wings, and my husband’s name in the body of the butterfly, since he is my rock, centering and grounding me. Wearing art on my body allows me to redefine the scars and effects of MBC treatment.” —A.J.
“My tattoos are part of who I am as a woman, kind of like my scars have become. As an artist and as a woman living with metastatic breast cancer, I have a story to tell, and I just happen to wear my story on my skin. I’ve spent my 21-year career in the field of tattooing, so not every tattoo has an intention behind it. They do, however, all speak to me. They serve as reminders of where I was at any given moment, physically or mentally, over the last 20 years, as well as how far I’ve come in life. Some of my favorites are my children’s names, my grandparents’ portraits, and the Hindu god Ganesha—the remover of obstacles—on my throat, which I got just after my terminal breast cancer diagnosis. —Beth Fairchild
(Editor’s note: Read more of Beth’s story—and see more of her tattoos—here.)