Cherie, could you tell us a little bit more about yourself and your journey?

“I’m sorry, you have carcinoma in situ.” That is a stark and sobering sentence to hear your doctor say. Yet, after a bilateral mastectomy and several breast reconstruction surgeries later, I still consider myself as being one very lucky gal. My breast cancer was at stage zero — the “best case scenario possible.” For extenuating medical reasons, I opted for a bilateral. Being that I escaped having to do radiation or chemotherapy treatments, I felt like I got to ‘dance’ through my breast cancer.

I looked great, on the outside. I started eating better, exercising and got in good shape. But after all was said and done, I knew there was an ugly secret underneath my clothing. Whenever I got out of the shower or got dressed, there was the ugly secret … Double thick, eight-inch long, angry red scars across each breast — screaming at me — no matter how ‘good trooper’ my attitude was.

How did you learn about P.ink ?

From a breast cancer page on Facebook. They had shared a P.ink post that one spot unexpectedly became available at the last minute. I did a short post about my three, yes THREE, botched areola tattoo episodes, that I had given up hope of it ever getting corrected. P.ink contacted me and asked me if I wanted the last spot in their first-ever event.

What was the reaction of your friends and family when you told them that you were getting tattooed?

My family is very conservative. I have nothing against tattoos, but never considered getting one. I just wasn’t into tattoos for myself. Oddly enough, my family was very supportive. A friend asked me, “Chérie, how will you feel if you do NOT do this?” I realized I’d regret not grabbing at the chance to free myself from seeing the horrid scars across both breasts for the rest of my life.

I’ve only had one friend be ashamed of what I’ve done — I discovered this after having posed for “Modern Women” in an article about P.ink. I sincerely pray that she will be free of ever having to endure the ravages of breast cancer.

How did you choose your design?

Total honesty … I just couldn’t see myself looking up at my lover and them looking down at me and seeing a bunch of flowers and bugs on my boobs! So, I decided to embrace old Hollywood, classy lingerie my lover would want to instantly peel off of me. I asked my tattoo artist, Shannon Purvis Barron, to draw up a demi-cup bra that Rita Hayworth or Sophia Loren would wear. Now I have a ‘forever bra’ underneath my clothing. It is gorgeous! Shannon did an outstanding job. The fine lacework that she tattooed is phenomenal. I feel classy and sexy, all the time!

Tell us about the day you got your tattoo. It must have been such an emotional moment!

I thought I had learned how to tune out the horrific bilateral mastectomy carnage — Double thick, eight inch long angry scars on each breast. I thought I had, that is until the moment I went to look in the mirror my first breast’s beautiful tattoo that P.ink and my tattoo artist, Shannon Purvis Barron, had gifted me. Without the ugly scars as a visual recognition point, my brain literally couldn’t compute who the reflection in the mirror was! It didn’t recognize me! For a few seconds my eyes darted all over my body, then it finally realized it was me.

I’ll never forget that moment as long as I live. It was humbling, sweet and liberating. All those emotions welled up in my throat and then my eyes. I turned to Shannon and whispered, “It’s not ugly anymore. I’m not ugly anymore.”

P.ink and the participating tattoo artists are providing us mastectomy scar survivors with a gift that is nearly impossible to articulate. How can we survivors ever express the depth of appreciation, liberation, and healing that this forever artwork gives us survivors? Because of everyone’s volunteer time, donations and talents, we survivors get to smile back into the face of cancer with graceful defiance.

How did getting tattooed change your relationship with your body?

I’m free from feeling like I’m a walking lie … That I look great on the outside, but underneath is the ugly truth of the carnage that eradicating cancer leaves behind — heinous scars. In all of my most intimate of moments — getting out of the shower, getting dressed, revealing my body — there’s a beautiful lacy bra — not scars to overlook.

Because of everyone involved with P.ink, I get to smile back into the face of cancer with graceful defiance.