The Amazing Way This Breast Cancer Survivor Reclaimed Her Body

October 15th 2015

Laura Donovan

Los Angeles-based comedian Nikki Black may only be 25 years old, but she has lived a lot for someone her age. When she was new to the Philadelphia standup scene two years ago, she learned that she had breast cancer. This ultimately led her to have a double mastectomy, undergo breast reconstruction surgery and chemotherapy, and move to the West Coast for a fresh start.

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Black's story went viral after she wrote an XO Jane piece about getting tattoos over her mastectomy scars to reclaim her body, and many have responded with encouragement and love.

Black, who had no family history of breast cancer and lost her hair during chemotherapy, wrote that she was displeased with the way some people sexualized her illness when she was first diagnosed. One man commented that he would miss his "second-favorite pair of boobs in Philly" while another person said she could probably do fetish porn after recovering from the mastectomy. The lack of sensitivity and physical realities of breast cancer ultimately made her feel like she no longer controlled her body.

"When you have breast cancer, you lose control of your body in so many ways," she said in a recent interview with BuzzFeed News. "I literally lost my breasts, lost feeling in parts of my chest, didn’t even get to keep my nipples, had to deal with a different type of pain every day, and on top of that, it’s an extremely sexualized disease."

She regained control, however, by getting tattoos over her breasts.

"I didn’t want my pre-cancer body back, but I wanted the body I have to be mine," she told BuzzFeed News.

While Black faced setbacks when she first got cancer, she's been pleased with the response to the tattoos.

“People love them!" she said. "I love them! 10/10. People have been so supportive — it’s been amazing!"

She also hopes her story inspires others out there going through the throes of breast cancer.

“When I was first diagnosed, I really could have used some positive reading on the whole experience, so I hope I can do that for somebody,” Black said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breast cancer is the most common cancer in women of all backgrounds and the second most common cause of death from cancer among white, black, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native women. In 2012, more than 41,000 women and 405 men in the U.S. died of breast cancer. According to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, women under 40 make up less than five percent of all diagnosed breast cancer cases in the U.S.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For more information on breast cancer, visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation's website.

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