‘I decided to get a tattoo at 57 – and it has a very special meaning’

Oct 31, 2020
Janine Griffen is pictured here with her daughter and son, alongside a close up of her tattoo. Source: Supplied.

When you think of people with tattoos, I guess grandmothers don’t come to mind. I’m proud of my tattoo though. It gets people talking and, with the inspiration behind my design, it’s a topic I could talk about to anyone who will listen.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer about 15 months ago, but I can safely say I’m now cancer-free! I wanted to replace the dreaded July 25, 2019 diagnosis date with the date that gave me a new lease on life — October 20, 2020 — and I figured there’s nothing more permanent than a tattoo.

Getting a tattoo is liberating. It’s like having one thing you can control amidst a world of complete lack of control — from scheduled medications and doctor visits to invasive tests and worse, losing your identity – physically and psychologically. I think the pink ribbon has become universally synonymous with strength, courage and resilience that breast cancer forces you to find, and I never want to let that fight in me go.

This marks both an end and a beginning for me. It really does signal to me that the tests, chemotherapy, losing my hair, and having a mastectomy and the added reconstruction surgeries are all behind me. My body belongs to me again!

There’s a lot of ugliness with cancer. A lot of darkness. It’s natural that I’ve been caught up in this a bit for the past year, but one thing I’ve learned is that I can choose my state. I can be in pain and still be grateful. I can think of the past, or I can plan for the future. And I can hide from my hair loss and mastectomy, or I can embrace it and be the reason another woman goes and gets checked.

I’m the author and narrator of my own story, and I’m ecstatic to jump back into a life where I can dial up the brightness! I purposely chose a tattoo design that had bright colours, pretty flowers and the iconic pink ribbon, so that I can look back at this time in my rocking chair one day and smile.

Janine’s colourful tattoo design. Source: Supplied.

I guess tattoos have been a method of telling stories for centuries. This is my unique story, but too many of us have them. I’m seeing so many young women in their 20s battling this and it needs to stop. I know I can’t stop it, but I can talk about it to make sure it stays top of mind. I love that people stop me to ask about my tattoo. It gives me a chance to spread awareness for early detection.

And I’m not done yet! I have had my eye on getting a few words tattooed onto my back. The saying is, “Proud of the woman I am today because it’s been a hell of a time getting here.” I love this as I have conquered and can move forward. I am stronger and have learned not to sweat the small stuff — it’s the big stuff that matters. My husband and I have our daughter’s wedding and our son and partner’s new baby to look forward to next year, so out with the bad and in with the wonderful!

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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