LOUISIANA (KTAL/KMSS) – At the age of 45, Jamie Robert was diagnosed with breast cancer. During her routine mammogram, doctors found a lump in her breasts, and one month later, they performed a double mastectomy.
“I wish more people understood that part, the emotional side of it, the fear, it’s not just fear of death, you’re afraid you’re not a woman anymore,” said breast cancer survivor Jamie Roberts.
She said she woke up from the surgery, and her breasts were no longer there. Her chest was black and blue with scars.
Roberts underwent reconstructive surgery, but five years later, she is still dealing with the physical, mental, and emotional impacts.
“I went through a period where I didn’t care about anything because I was just going to die anyway.”
For Roberts, the mastectomy was an amputation of her womanhood. She questioned who she was, especially because she was also put on medication that suppressed her estrogen levels.
“Think about when you’re with your spouse or your significant other, and you’re with one another. Think about all the feelings that you get in your body, and then imagine that’s just gone,” said Roberts.
She says that she is still working to find the medication that works for her to regulate mood and hormones. But one aspect that has helped her journey has been covering her mastectomy and reconstruction scars with a tattoo.
Red Handed Tattoo says they began serving the community during the pandemic.
They provide free tattoos to cover the scars of those on the street, victims of trafficking, ex-gang members, ex-nationalists, and survivors.
“It’s a reprieve from torment, internal cyclical thinking. People get trapped in their heads, and they can’t get out,” said Micah Harold, owner of Red-Handed Tattoo.
Roberts and Harold were high-school friends, but Harold extends this service because he believes everyone deserves a hand.
“I get them in the chair, and they see the scars disappear. They see it replaced with artwork. If they want a tattoo of an areola so, to get a semblance of what they used to have, we provide that, or we do artwork over it,” said Harold.
Roberts says she is doing better, but her journey with breast cancer continues long after her treatment.
“To know that there’s something out there, in your body, working against you and that it could attack you at any time, is overwhelming,” said Roberts.
Harold hopes his tattoo shop can be a source of relief for any member of the community who needs support.
“The helpers are out there waiting for you. We just have to find each other and navigate through these challenging times.”