To fulfill a wish to her dying mother, Megan Hartman underwent a preventative mastectomy in her twenties. She recently tattooed her chest in an attempt to reclaim her body and mask the physical--and emotional--scars of her experience, and shared her story on HuffPost Live.
Hartman was 24 when tests revealed that she had a BRCA-2 gene mutation, which could indicate up to a 90 percent risk of developing breast cancer and a 30 percent chance of developing ovarian cancer. Her mother, who had already been diagnosed with cancer, was skeptical of the mutation's effects.
"When they discovered the gene mutation, she was like 'well, things can change' or 'you might be lucky, it might not happen,'" Hartman explained to host Caitlyn Becker. "But as she got sicker and sicker and as we became more aware that she was not going to make it, she became much more serious about me and my treatment."
"She made me promise that I would go to the doctors and I would do what they told me to do. I remember her words. She said, 'do whatever they tell you to do.' She said, 'it's not a joke, you don't want to be in this bed like I am.'"
She added, "And I just feel like I made her a promise and I meant it. I will fight. I will fight for my life, and I will fight for my children."
Hartman had a preventative mastectomy at age 27, which brought her cancer risk down to 3 percent. But the scarring left her self-conscious, especially when in gym locker rooms or when swimming.
Personal Ink, an organization that provides tattoo ideas for breast cancer and mastectomy survivors, crowdfunded an event to connect survivors with tattoo artists and mask some of the scarring from surgeries. Hartman opted to tattoo an aster flower as well as an inspirational quote: "You never know how strong you can be until strong is all you have left."
When asked if Hartman felt that she had fulfilled her mother's wish, she said, "I feel like I will work on it until the day I die. It's never fulfilled. It's never fulfilled until my daughter doesn't have to worry about this, and her daughter doesn't have to worry about this. Or until survivors can say, 'I'm a survivor because there's a cure.' And nobody ever has to die from this again. No more mothers, no more sisters, no more daughters."