When Sydney mum Alison Habbal was diagnosed with breast cancer at 36, she knew things would change. It wasn’t just her hair that would be different, she’d also be missing a nipple and have extensive scarring.
Suffering through a year of cancer treatments, that included hair loss, nausea, exhaustion and a lumpectomy, the one thing that didn’t appeal to Ms Habbal about her post-cancer life was the idea of a plastic surgery nipple.
“I didn’t want a fake nipple made from some other piece of flesh. I thought I’m just going to get a tattoo,” said Ms Habbal in speaking to the BBC.
Image via BBC, from Alison Habbal
“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 a lot of trawling, and a lot of thought, she eventually chose Makkala Rose, a New Zealand-based tattoo artist known for her bold and colour-filled style.
The tattoo came to life in Melbourne this July, in a demanding 13-hour session. The tattoo artist behind the work said that Ms Habbal was an “absolute champion” during the extended session, which included work on a number of very sensitive and painful areas. However, Makkala Rose said that she found the experience of completing the tattoo “humbling” and that it put things into perspective for her.
When the session was finally over, Ms Habbal was so happy with the result that she poster a photo of the freshly completed tattoo on both Facebook and Instagram.
image via Instagram
While the picture didn’t ‘go viral’ in a traditional sense, it would be a lie to say it didn’t attract attention. More than 23,000 people have liked the Instagram photo both at its original location, and where it has been reposted to a variety of tattoo-themed Instagram accounts. There are also thousands of comments, most positive and congratulating Ms Habbal for her strength and positive attitude.
For Ms Habbal, one of the best things about her new tattoo is that it beats the social media system:
“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 said.