Young Cancer Survivors’ Tattoo Photo Exhibition

Calvary Mater Newcastle photo exhibition

A photo exhibition showcasing the inspiration and determination of eight young cancer survivors will be on display at Calvary Mater Newcastle from Monday 14 2016.

The photo exhibition depicts the stories of eight young adults thoughts on surviving cancer and their journey by way of tattoo. The group is now forever linked, not only by their health battle but the reasons behind their body art.

Julia Drake, Exhibition Curator and Social Worker, Calvary Mater Newcastle, says,

“Working with the young cancer survivors on the ‘Link to Ink’ photo exhibition has been inspirational. We decided to organise this photo exhibition as we noticed a large number of the hospital’s young patients had turned to tattoos. Through self-expression and body art they have all told their inspiring stories.”

One patient’s tattoo reveals wings flying away with a blue ribbon representing the cancer, while another has a picture of a girl boxing, representing strength, with the teal and purple colours signifying the type of cancer fought.

Julia continues, “These tattooed personal messages and symbols are assisting young cancer patients to overcome the anxiety and depression that comes with undergoing something as daunting as chemotherapy. For some their tattoo was a motivational tool and spirit lifter, for others it was to document the end of their treatment.”

Mark Matthews is one such survivor whose photo features in the exhibition. Tattooed on Mark’s torso is the Irish proverb “Do not resent growing old, many are denied the privilege” originally etched in remembrance of his two school friends who passed away years before his diagnosis. Ironically, Mark’s tattoo is now also a reminder of the journey he went through following a diagnosis of testicular cancer at the age of 23.

Mark endured a “touch and go” week in Intensive Care, followed by chemotherapy and major surgery to remove a mass found slightly above his tattoo. Despite this tough journey, Mark continued to plan his wedding with his fiancé, Nadine, and work casually as a Diesel Mechanic. Mark says, “You have to stay positive and live in the moment. My tattoo was initially someone else’s journey that became mine. I liked living too much to give up! It was a tough journey but I fought it and have now been given the all clear.”

The project was carried out as part of the Hunter and Northern NSW Youth Cancer Service based at Calvary Mater Newcastle. It is a free service for young people aged 15-25 with a recent diagnosis of cancer. The service is based in Newcastle with staff located at Calvary Mater Newcastle and John Hunter Children’s Hospital. The team are experts in providing treatment and care to young people with cancer with services designed specifically for this age group.

Photo caption: L-R Mark Matthews, former cancer patient and Julia Drake, Exhibition Curator and Social Worker at Calvary Mater Newcastle.