Kelly Davidson is proud of her chest. Much of the surface between her collarbone and ribs has been transformed into an intricately inked enchanted forest, complete with beautifully drawn butterflies and a fairy releasing them into the sky.
But there’s real magic to this design, too. Davidson, a 34-year-old Ottawa resident, has taken on cancer three times and each time, she's emerged victorious. The tattoos cover the surface where her breasts used to sit, now removed to make sure her breast cancer never returns.
“It’s my badge of honour and strength,” she writes on the photo caption. “It reminds me every day of the battles that I’ve overcome. I’ve won this war and hopefully I’ve beat it completely.”
Davidson underwent a double mastectomy after learning, at 28, that her breasts were hosting cancerous cells. By that point, the medical assistant already had ample experience with this sort of diagnosis. At 11, she received the news that she had Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer she also managed to beat.
Three years ago she did it all over again by tackling and destroying her thyroid cancer.
Also see: Cancer survivor's chest tattoo goes viral after Facebook tries to remove it
So when it came time to consider reconstructive breast surgery, Davidson knew what exactly she wanted – and that didn’t involve a new pair.
“They were just breasts. They weren’t me. . . . I don’t need to have breasts to be feminine or sexy,” she tells the Toronto Star.
A longtime fan of tattoo art, she wanted instead to sport a tableau that included butterflies, creatures that would symbolize the cancer leaving her body for good.
Proud of the finished result, she uploaded a photo of her chest to Why We Ink, a Facebook group dedicated to sharing images of those who have gotten tattoos inspired by the fight with cancer.
These tattoos can range from body mosaics, like Davidson’s, to symbolize beauty where there was once the threat of death, while others post pictures of their tattoos that honour loved ones who weren’t as fortunate.
Since uploading her photo, Davidson’s image and story have gone viral, racking up more than 700,000 “likes” and receiving 95,000 shares across the social media ubersite.
And so far, Facebook’s arbitrary nudity police have left the image up, a definite improvement over the furor caused when they removed a similar image of a tattooed cancer survivor’s bare chest in February.
Whether the image stays put or not, Davidson has already drawn great satisfaction from the messages of love and support that have poured in as a result of her bravery, strength and vulnerability.
She plans to carry that strength forward this summer as she weds her fiancé, all the while knowing that her cancer could return.
“I’m not going to let cancer get me down,” she says. “If it does come back, I’m just going to keep beating it like I have before.”
At this point cancer would have to be a crazy fool to take her on again.