Breast cancer survivor reclaims her body with striking tattoo following a double mastectomy
Breast cancer survivor Wendy Dresner, 54, from Leeds, has had a tattoo inked across her mastectomy scars by David Beckham’s ‘angel’ tattooist, Louis Molloy, in a captivating video for Race for Life.
Two years on from a double mastectomy, she decided it was time to celebrate her scars and transform her body into an incredible piece of art. To mark her impressive new tattoo, Wendy will be taking part in her local Race for Life event this summer and raising money to help beat cancer.
Wendy has been diagnosed with breast cancer twice in the past 10 years. Following a double mastectomy in 2017, she struggled with her body confidence, feeling uncomfortable in her clothes and less feminine. However, with the support of her husband and two children, she was able to rebuild her self-confidence. Speaking about her scars, Wendy said: “I don’t see these mastectomy scars as something to be ashamed of. I want to embrace them.”
Wanting to take back control of her body and turn her scars into art, Wendy decided to get “the mother of all tattoos”. A friend recommended a tattoo studio in Manchester and it was a stroke of luck that when Wendy called the parlour it was Louis Molloy, famous for inking the ‘angel’ tattoo on David Beckham’s back, who answered the phone. Hearing what Wendy wanted, Louis instantly became interested and took her up as a customer. Wendy said: “People are always asking me how I managed to get Louis to do my tattoo because his waiting list is usually backed up, but it was just pure coincidence that he picked up my call to the studio and happened to be free.”
The video shows Wendy getting a lizard across her chest, to accompany various flowers, swirls and geckos coming over her shoulder and back. Speaking about Wendy, Louis remarked: “It’s been good working on Wendy’s tattoo, because it just seemed to flow on its own accord. We both went with it and Wendy’s really happy with the result.”
For Wendy, her tattoos are a symbol of strength and a celebration of overcoming breast cancer not once, but twice: “I wanted to reclaim my body and redefine my scars. At first, I hated looking at them, and tried to hide them away, but now I just want to show them off to anyone who’ll look!”
The tattoo has taken 24 hours so far and she’s already thinking about what she’ll have next. “I have no regrets. I absolutely love how my tattoos have turned out and what they’re evolving into as well. This is my way of celebrating and saying, ‘Look I’ve been through it, I’m out the other side, I survived it. Come on, bring it on, what’s next?!’”
Wendy, a former part-time model and qualified plumber, found a lump in her breast in 2009. She went through a difficult few months of treatment, having a lumpectomy and then radiotherapy. Reflecting on this, Wendy remembers her first diagnosis being very hard. Her children were young and it was tough on her husband, Martin, who had sadly lost his own mother to breast cancer in the late 1980s. “The first time I had cancer the kids were really young, so I didn’t talk about it. I bottled it up.”
She had a five-year scan in 2014 and celebrated when it came back clear. However, in 2016 Wendy felt a knotty mass in the same breast she’d had the lumpectomy and cancerous cells were found in her milk ducts. Speaking about her second diagnosis, Wendy said: “The second time I was diagnosed my kids were grown up and I talked about my feelings. The feedback and support they gave me was amazing. It was really cathartic.” In January 2017 Wendy made the difficult decision to undergo a double mastectomy and opted against reconstruction: “I thought, I’m in my 50s and they’re getting a bit old and saggy anyway.”
Wendy is taking part in her local Pretty Muddy event in Leeds this summer with her two children, Hani and Fred. Speaking about this, Wendy said: “I’m doing a Pretty Muddy Race for Life event with my two kids and we’re so excited! I wanted to celebrate getting my tattoo done and this seemed like the perfect way to do that. It’s my first time taking part in a Pretty Muddy, so I’m looking forward to climbing the obstacles, getting muddy and fundraising all in support of a brilliant cause.”
Over 400 Race for Life events are taking place across the UK between May and October, raising money for vital cancer research into all 200 types of cancer. All events are non-competitive and open to everyone, including men, women and children of all abilities. Join your local event at raceforlife.org and make a difference in beating cancer.
Join the Race for Life at raceforlife.org
For media enquiries please contact the Cancer Research UK press office on +44 203 469 8300 or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on +44 7050 264 059.