Friday, August 31, 2012

How a Tattoo Helped Me Get Over My 10-inch Scar

Peggy at work from my point of view.
Over a decade ago I got a 10.5 inch scar smack on the middle on my abdomen, running from the right in the center of my chest to below my belly button. This was traumatic for someone who was a 22-year-old, and we won't get into the surgery that caused it. But needless to say, I'm all right now. But this post isn't about health - it's about how scars are hard for anybody, and for years I thought about reconstructive surgery. Time does heal, but a recently a tattoo helped made an empowering difference in my attitude towards my body. And this coming from someone who wasn't that into ink for a long time.

When you're that young, and back then it was the 90s (think fashion with belly-bearing shirts, navel rings, low-cut jeans), it was crushing to me that I had such a striking mark. It was bright red for almost a year. I bought geriatric tank-inis to cover up what I thought was an eye-sore, and carried my scar around like a ginormous wart. Suffice it to say, it took me years to own that I had it -- looking at it in disbelief.. Eventually I got used to it. And now I have a drawer-ful of Brazilians bikinis, which you may have caught on Instagram. But a girl's relationship to a big scar is complicated. Scars scar you. They're hard.

Now my scar is a story, a battle wound in a sense. It's faded over time and  a part of me. But I can't say I'm not still self-conscious. I'm subject to vanity, just not wanting it to be there, like any other human being - and then there's being a beauty and style expert, which doesn't help matters. My daughter asks about it all the time, and I explain, "Mama had surgery because she was sick," and she responds, "Did it hurt?" So sweet but a poignant reminder nonetheless.

Well, as I've come to be more at peace with my scar, I decided it was time to symbolize it. Reconstructive surgery can cost tens of thousands of dollars, so I thought why not a more reasonable decorative tattoo? A way to personally beautify my scar and to reclaim what had happened. I could maybe look down and see something I'd created, instead of just seeing a healed wound. I started with a tattoo at just the bottom area, where the scar was the darkest and most prominent, leaving room for future consideration for the rest of the scar, as one should never rush into any permanent body art.

The result? Rather than feeling like I had a marked abdomen, I felt like I had a pretty, and young one, for that matter.

Reclaiming Your Scarred Skin with a Tattoo:

I printed out the Maile leaf pattern and cut it  to a desired size, taped it on and photographed it to get a sense of how it would look.
1) Find a pattern, symbol, etc. you like and print it out. Try putting it on your body to get a sense of how it will look. This helps give you and idea of how it'll cover your scar. I chose a Maile leaf, a Hawaiian symbol of love, honor and respect. 

Here, I am ready to be inked. With an artist you trust, it's sometimes good to get their opinion on your design, placement and color.
2) I took my inspiration pics and gave it to my Tattooer (find one you trust, it's good to get a personal recommendation) Peggy Jordan of Electric Paradise Tattoo in Waikiki, HI, and asked her to add some filigree. She then added a standard preview stencil for test placement.

Day 1 of healing, my Maile leaf inked by Peggy Jordan.
3) Finished: Now it's a different type of healing! Not a surgery wound, but a fun 'wound' from a piece of art created with the help of an artist. Beauty is what you make of it!


Disclaimer: Nuy Cho has no affiliation to any of the beauty companies mentioned on


Anonymous said...

Beautiful, and inspiring. Makes me think of this photo of another healing tattoo (over a mastectomy scar):

Nuy Cho said...

That's terrific to hear. Thank you for your comment, it means a lot. xo - Nuy Cho