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Sunday, October 14, 2007 - 21:40
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Bakersfield, CA, 93308
Saving The Boobies Through Healing Arts
Duo generates healing, artistic atmosphere for survivors of breast cancer
(Aimee Shaw, front, and France Garcia, 2007)
By Jackie Gibson, Bakotopia contributor
Breast cancer. Think about those two words for a second.
Many brave and heroic men and women have had those two little words spoken to them. Those two little words can make a huge impact on a person’s life.
In a matter of seconds the security you thought you had invested into living a long life can disappear. The shock of learning that you or a loved one or even a friend now has to climb an upward battle can be positively overwhelming. But overwhelming doesn’t always have to mean bad.
There are medical advances being made every day in order to help find a cure for breast cancer. Most of you may already know that the survival rate for overcoming breast cancer is the highest it’s ever been.
What you may not know is that art has become a growing form of free expression for breast cancer survivors.
Here in Bakersfield we are lucky to have the Healing Art Foundation, 124 North Chester. France Garcia and her husband are the founders of this non-profit organization. Aimee Shaw is a survivor. Through their shared love of art Garcia and Shaw have made many people aware of their cause. Together they have a strong message.
Garcia started the foundation when she lost her cousin, Monica, to breast cancer.
“In the same month my husband had a heart attack and I was injured. Starting the foundation was a way to honor my cousin and to raise breast cancer awareness,” said Garcia.
The foundation provides art work for breast cancer survivors and offers a wide range of services: including tattoo artists, permanent makeup artists, piercing artists, merchandise, and graphic arts.
Shaw is a 34-year-old Southern California native who was 30 when she was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer. She has since undergone a double mastectomy. After Shaw’s double mastectomy she was faced with the decision of whether or not to have reconstructive breast surgery. She didn’t.
“When my husband and I met, I had tattoos,” said Shaw. “He was the kind of man who didn’t really like tattoos on woman. Not anymore though. Now he has a huge back piece.”
Shaw told told her husband she didn’t want the reconstructive surgery and would rather get body art – tattoos.
“I made an appointment with a doctor for an orientation anyways just so my husband could see,” said Shaw. “The doctor got out his portfolio and we looked at it. My husband said, ‘OK, you should think about the tattoos you want.’”
So the research began. Shaw looked online for breast cancer survivor art and tattoos.
Garcia’s Healing Art Foundation kept coming up, and the two began conversing by e-mail, becoming friends over time. The two have kept in touch since Aimee was diagnosed in 2003.
After talking and getting to know each other, they were able to meet for the first time at the first Bakersfield Tattoo Convention.
“It was great being able to finally meet France,” said Shaw.
The foundation started as an organization that offered free art to cancer survivors. Artists were members who donated their time and talents to many people. Now with the growing popularity and the national recognition the foundation has received, the operation has changed.
“Now instead of the survivors having to choose a member to get art from, they can choose whoever they want,” said Garcia, who also said the foundation organizes fundraisers.
“When we started the Healing Art Foundation it was a little taboo. Now it’s grown so much. I think that with shows like ‘Inked’ or ‘L.A. Ink’ it’s gotten more acceptable,” said Garcia.
The foundation has helped many survivors get their wanted ink. It’s a badge of courage. Shaw sports the awareness ribbon. It wraps her whole body, and inside the ribbon are meaningful images that inspire hope and represent what Shaw holds dear. Right around Shaw’s lower shower is the upper oval of the awareness ribbon with the image of the hands of Jesus.
(The front and back of Aimee Shaw's cancer awareness ribbon tattoo)
“I chose the hands because I’m a Christian. It’s like ... He’s in charge,” said Shaw, who also chose blue butterflies in honor of the movie “The Blue Butterfly,” a true story about a little boy surviving cancer.
(The front of Aimee Shaw's cancer awareness ribbon tattoo)
“My mom has been very supportive in my decisions,” said Shaw. “She has a blue butterfly. My daughter wants one when she is 18, too. It’s something that we will all carry through life together.”
Garcia's favorite piece is a nurse wearing the ribbon on Shaw’s lower right arm.
“It stands for the healing and the love and what we do. We try to make people feel better. It’s our goal to get out there tell people it’s OK. We’ll help,” said Shaw.
When asked if these two courageous women have anything to say about breast cancer awareness, Garcia said, “Awareness. Be aware of your breasts. Do self exams. Also, think about it. How often do you give yourself a physical breast exam? Sometimes having someone else do it can help detect something even better. Like your boyfriend or husband! They probably play with them more than you do! Have them check.”
The Healing Art Foundation will be at the Bakersfield Tattoo Expo this year at Rabobank Convention Center - October 6-7, 2007, so come and say hi just in case you missed their 2006 Save the Boobies tour.
They will also be holding their first annual Tats & Art for a Cure Convention March 14-16, 2008! SO STAY IN THE LOOP!
Originally printed in Bakotopia Magazine, issue 12, 10 - 5 - 07