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Cancer survivor’s mastectomy tattoo goes viral

This photo posted by Kelly Davidson on a Facebook page has drawn over 700,000 likes in less than a week, Apr. 9, 2013. FACEBOOK.COM/WhyWeInk

A photo of a 34-year-old Ottawa cancer survivor’s tattooed chest has drawn hundreds of thousands of ‘likes’ on Facebook.

Kelly Davidson has beat cancer three times – the first when she was only 11-years-old (Hodgkin’s lymphoma) and most recently two years ago with thyroid cancer. But it was the double mastectomy she had when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at 28 that has drawn international attention online.

Instead of going through painful reconstructive surgery, Davidson decided to get a tattoo where her breasts used to be.

“I went to a seminar in regards to reconstructive surgery I decided that I wasn’t going to have reconstruction,” she explained to CityNews. “I thought about it and talked to my parents and thought there’s more to me than breasts so that’s kind of how the whole tattoo was born.”

Davidson said once the idea crossed her mind she never looked back.

On Thursday she uploaded a photo of her tattoo to the Facebook page Why We Ink, which is dedicated to images of memorial and survival tattoos for cancer. Five days later the image has been viewed over 700,000 times and shared over 90,000 times.

When it came to what images would adorn her body, she said she picked things she loves but also symbols of her journey and her future.

“The butterflies, you’ll notice, the fairy girl is kind of letting them go and for me it was like the cancers are gone, they’re leaving. And it also symbolizes transformation, my metamorphosis. I’m still me but my body has changed.”

She said she considers the work a badge of honour.

“I have this beautiful piece of art that I get to look at every day and it doesn’t bother me to think that I don’t have breasts.”

She said since the posting she has received hundreds of messages of support from other breast cancer survivors, women going through treatment and people who have just said she has inspired them.

Jules Fitzsimmons, a Toronto casting director who started the Facebook page last year, is creating a coffee table book from the images and stories shared on the page. All proceeds from the book will go to cancer support groups.