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Why This Woman's Breast Cancer Tattoo Is Getting People Talking

Alison Habbal knew her body would never be quite the same following her breast cancer diagnosis, but that hasn't stopped her from celebrating her body in her own way.

Habbal, 36, underwent a lumpectomy following her diagnosis, during which the tumor and some surrounding tissue — including her nipple — had to be removed. Though a lumpectomy only involves partial breast removal (as opposed to a mastectomy, in which the entire breast is removed), in cases where cancerous cells are detected around or at the site of the nipple, the nipple itself has to be removed and patients are given the option to reconstruct.

However, Habbal was uninterested in having her nipple reconstructed. Instead, like some women have, she opted to tattoo her breast following surgery. "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.
In fact, throughout her treatment, which included surgery to remove the tumour followed by chemotherapy that made her nauseous and exhausted, she thought a lot about her post-illness look, she explained to the BBC: "During the year I was sick, I had the idea of me with the blonde crop and the tattoo. The whole time I was sick, I would trawl tattoo artists over the internet."

After careful consideration, Habbal decided to consult New Zealand-based artist Makkala Rose for a tattoo design, and the result is stunning.

"It's quite humbling and it puts a lot of things into perspective," Rose told the BBC about the tattoo's 13-hour process. "That made it really cool to be able to do for her," she continued, adding that Habbal was an "absolute champ" throughout.

And it seems a lot of people agree: photos of Habbal's tattoos have received hundreds and thousands of likes on Instagram, accompanied with encouraging comments.

"What a gorgeous work of art! It really reflects life, beauty, and hope," one Instagram user wrote. "Love and vibes to you for good health and much happiness. Thank you for sharing your story."

In addition to Habbal's strength and courage in undergoing treatment and deciding to make something beautiful out of it, the fact that she decided not to reconstruct her nipple means that her photos aren't subjected to censorship on Instagram or Facebook.

"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," she told BBC.

#FreeTheNipple, indeed.