As a man with no tattoos, Noel Franus is an unlikely candidate as the founder of P.INK: an organization that connects breast cancer survivors with tattoo ideas and artists.
But as anyone with a family member who is also a breast cancer survivor can attest, the urge to do something to help can be strong. For Franus, the urge struck when his sister-in-law Molly was diagnosed with breast cancer and was surprised to learn that after her mastectomy she’d be short two nipples.
“There were no resources for women with breast cancer, doing reconstruction, wanting to do something completely different,” explains Molly.
That something completely different ended up being tattoos. Historically reserved for the riff-raff and alternative, tattoos have only recently began making an appearance in the mainstream, and Molly and Noel believe they can also play a significant role in the experience of body reclamation.
P.INK quickly expanded beyond Noel and Molly into a nights-and-weekends project by the people at CP+B, an advertising agency based in Boulder, Colorado.
P.INK started out with a modest goal: inspire survivors with design ideas and connect them with experienced tattoo artists who can help them move on. It began with a Pinterest board with a curated collection of breast, chest, and nipple tattoos. Then the group started to solicit design submissions, reached out to tattoo artists, asked people to share their stories, and eventually filmed the seven-hour experience of Molly getting her Brazil-inspired tattoo.
While some women worry over their new body image and go to lengths to hide their scars, Molly, empowered by her tattoo, can’t wait to go to the beaches, topless. “I wish you could hear the excitement and joy in her voice,” Noel says during his interview, having just received a phone call from Molly. “There’s a huge boost in confidence compared to how most survivors feel once cancer’s left is mark.
And today, P.INK held its first P.INK Tattoo Day. Held in Williamsburg, New York, 10 of New York City’s best tattoo artists came together to ink reconstructive tattoos on 10 breast cancer survivors.
“We’re hearing from many women who never thought of themselves as ‘tattoo people’ yet once exposed to P.INK they’re interested in post-mastectomy tattoos to help them move on,” says Noel.
One of the survivors, in anticipation of getting her tattoo on P.INK day said to Noel: “Every time I look in the mirror I don’t see a nice new pair of breasts, I see the thing that tried to kill me. It’s the final chapter of the ugliness of cancer. It will be something beautiful to look at. It’s like it comes full circle. I’ve been to counseling, but nothing is going to help as much as this.”
Molly is just one of 2.6 million breast cancer survivors in the US. After surgery 56% of these women were left with mastectomy scars and often no nipples.
P.INK is in the final stretch of an IndieGoGo campaign to take P.INK Tattoo Day national.