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Recipient Spotlight:

Angie LaPorte Domkus

After 10 surgeries to treat breast cancer, Angie accomplished major feats including a pilgrimage from The Alps to Rome. But she still felt something was missing. P.ink helped her reclaim her body.

Angie LaPorte Domkus underwent 10 surgeries to treat her breast cancer. She attempted to have reconstruction surgery, but her body rejected the implants, leaving her with scars, dents, and ripply skin. She felt like a stranger in her own body and everytime she looked in the mirror, she felt like a piece of her had been taken away by cancer. Angie wanted to reclaim her body, which is when she learned about P.ink.

Angie was a P.ink Day recipient in 2019 in Moorpark, CA, working with artist Holly. Angie’s tattoo encompasses who she is. It’s a masterpiece that doesn’t just cover the scars from a mastectomy, but completely transformed Angie’s view of herself.

We interviewed Angie to find out what her P.ink Day experience was like and what advice she has for anyone thinking about mastectomy tattoos or applying to the Personal Ink program.

Why did you want to get a mastectomy tattoo?

I started researching tattoos after my first surgery. I knew that I needed to create something good from the whole thing so I wouldn’t feel like a victim. I needed a way to own it.

How did you decide on your tattoo design?

My tattoo is filled with symbols from things I love and things that mean a great deal to me. I knew I wanted the tree of life because that symbolizes something beautiful growing from something small. But I wanted the tree to reflect me, so my artist, Holly, made the tree whimsical almost like it exists in a fantasy. She added a raven because I was a literature teacher and I love the symbol of the raven as wise, dark, and otherworldly. And I went on a pilgrimage after my 10th surgery and hiked from The Alps to Vatican City along an ancient route. The Keys of St. Francis is the symbol of that pilgrimage, so Holly added that to the tree. There is even a Harry Potter symbol!

“After my tattoo, I look in the mirror and never for an instant miss what was taken from me. I see beauty.”

– Angie LaPorte Domkus

How would you describe your view of yourself before and after your transformation? 

I am so grateful for my health, but I felt that I had lost a little of my essence in the fear and pain that comes with a cancer journey. I was so excited to be chosen to receive this tattoo! I knew that I needed to do this to gain some power and closure and to turn the scars into art that meant something to me.

What was your P.ink Day experience like?

I remember walking into the parlor the morning of the event so filled with excitement for the unknown. I love change and I knew that this experience would really change me forever. I am forever grateful for the owner who opened his shop to us on a Sunday and gave so much of himself to the event, as did everyone there. I felt a connection to the other people receiving tattoos and the people working at the event. We were all there to make our lives a little more special and to heal wounded bodies and spirits. I will never forget the experience – the hope, the pain, the companionship, and the love.

How did it feel when your tattoo was revealed to you?

When I dropped the sheet and saw myself for the first time, I sobbed. I had just spent 8 hours on the table. I was exhausted. Holly was exhausted. My friend, Robin, was exhausted. I didn’t think I had any more emotion in me. But my chest is a masterpiece! It is a perfect reflection of me and my very essence. I don’t know how she did it, but Holly turned my battered body into a work of art. I hate putting on a shirt now. I feel like I’m covering up the Mona Lisa! I look in the mirror and never for an instant miss what was taken from me. I see beauty where I once saw a daily reminder of 10 surgeries and radiation and lumps and indentations. There are no traces of those scars. Now, there is only magic!

What’s changed for you since your P.ink Day experience?

I never feel sorry for myself or for what I went through over the course of two years. When I see my tattoo, I just think it was the price I paid for such a beautiful piece of art. The harder it was, the more beautiful it is. I feel confident to walk without a bra and without feeling the need to put something there to make others feel more comfortable. And you know what? People never notice that I am different. I feel proud of my chest.

What piece of advice would you share with potential future recipients? What piece of advice would you share with your younger self?

I feel that getting a post-mastectomy tattoo is the final step in a long journey. It’s the prize. I would say the most important thing to remember is how extremely personal this is. It needs to reflect you. When you see the transformation, whatever it is, you will be changed for the better. It is powerful and it gives back the power that cancer can take away. It puts beauty where there were scars. It makes it so you can’t look in the mirror and feel like a victim. For me, it added more than was ever taken.

Hear more from Angie about her P.ink experience.

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