Pictures of tattoos are certainly not rare on social media, but there’s something particularly special about Alison Habbal’s.
It’s a symbol of survival.
After being diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoing a lumpectomy earlier this year, the 37 year old from Sydney decided not to have her nipple reconstructed.
“I didn’t want a fake nipple made from some other piece of flesh. I thought I’m just going to get a tattoo,” she told the BBC.
“The lump had been there for a while and it was hurting. I’d had visions of removing it myself, wanting to cut it out. When I got it removed, I was so happy. I’ve never been so happy in my life. It probably wasn’t the normal reaction – I didn’t mind the scar.” (Post continues after gallery.)
Habbel spent hours during the year researching artists and trawling tattoo pages in the search for the right one, before deciding on 24 year-old New Zealand-based artist Makkala Rose.
In July, Habbel headed to Melbourne. Thirteen hours in the chair later, she had a colourful floral design covering her scar, breast and chest.
A photo posted by Makkala Rose (@makkalarosetattoos) on Jun 30, 2016 at 9:06am PDT
Rose told the BBC Habbal was an “absolute champion” during the “blood-curdingly horrific” session.
“Tattooing a breast is quite different to tattooing a leg or a back or something. It’s a bit challenging to design something that would fit and work around it,” she said.
“It’s quite humbling and it puts a lot of things in to perspective. That made it really cool to be able to do for her.”
Garnering thousands of likes across her personal account and Rose’s accounts, it’s since gone viral after been regrammed by several tattoo art accounts.
With many unaware of Habbal’s back story, there are some ignorant comments but others (including Habbal herself) are quick to correct them on the truth behind the tattoo and its placement.
@makkalarosetattoos this a beautiful peice on @secretary925 #inkspirational #inkedinpink #thinkpink @Regrann from @pinkjunkeyz – Amazing piece on @secretary925 by @makkalarosetattoos! #pinkjunkeyz #mastectomytattoo #breastcancertattoo #inkjunkeyz #Regrann
A photo posted by Ink Angelz Magazine (@inkedangelzmagazine) on Aug 14, 2016 at 5:41pm PDT
It’s also inspired plenty of fellow breast cancer sufferers and survivors.
“Amazing … am with you all the way, I have a reconstruction tattoo which I love,” wrote one commenter, while another added “You absolute superstar! Came across your story in my FB feed and I’ve had a few friends suffer cancer and fight it, and it’s awesome to see another true fighter!! #fuckcancer”
However there’s a slightly ironic reason behind the photo has been able to go viral in the first place.
“Because there’s no nipple, I can blast it everywhere all over Facebook and Instagram, and they can’t censor it, which I think is really funny,” Habbal said.
And the finished artwork by @makkalarosetattoos 13 hours, one sitting #painismybitch #likeaboss #inked #inkedgirls #tattoo #customtattoo #bowtattoo #floraltattoo #startattoo #breastcancer #fuckcancer #fxckcancer #lumpectomy #lifeaftercancer #scarcoverup #breastcancertattoo #survivortattoo #mastectomytattoos #momswithink #freethenipple Just kidding, no nipple! ⭐️⭐️⭐️
A photo posted by Alison (@secretary925) on Jun 30, 2016 at 4:24pm PDT
She also believes that the fact she’s smiling in the photo has something to do with its success compared to other post-mastectomy tattoos.
“There are pages of collections, but mine tends to get more likes. Even on the one that went up yesterday, the page is full of hot models, and even to be on that page is an honour,” she said.