By Alyce Collins


THIS TATTOO artist transforms the lives of inspiring cancer survivors by providing them with their dream tattoos to cover their mastectomy scars, helping many to recover from body dysmorphia.


Speciality tattoo artist, Samantha Rae Carniato (37) from Vancouver Island, Canada, has been granting people their dream tattoos since 2009, but in 2014 she began transforming inspirational women’s mastectomy scars into their dream tattoos.

A mastectomy design with a poignant message.
Mediadrumimages / Samantha Rae Carniato


The incredible photographs show the intricate floral design chosen by one survivor who opted to have the poignant words ‘dancing through the fire’ written beneath the breast tattoo.


Another stunning design shows a feather motif going across the chest alongside ribbons of blue ink as the backdrop for the central words, which read ‘dance to my own rhythm’.

A nipple tattoo.
Mediadrumimages / Samantha Rae Carniato


Butterflies also feature in many of the artistic designs, with Samantha Rae having done over 40 mastectomy tattoos.


Samantha Rae adores being a part of these women’s journeys to recovery and closure by helping them to draw the line on their battles with cancer, enabling them to move on completely.

A mastectomy design with a poignant message.
Mediadrumimages / Samantha Rae Carniato


“Between 2002 and 2014 I was a full-time airbrush body paint artist, working with production companies in the entertainment and film industries in Western Canada,” said Samantha Rae.


“While I had a stunning professional art portfolio at the time, I pounded the pavement to make connections in the tattoo world, one shop at a time.

A mastectomy design with a poignant message.
Mediadrumimages / Samantha Rae Carniato


“It wasn’t until 2007 that I was welcome to sit in during sessions in a tattoo studio in Vancouver.


“Then by 2012 I was a qualified tattoo artist, working in my own studio that my husband and I built. People travel for an average of two hours to arrive for their special tattoo appointments.

The ink Samantha Rae uses.
Mediadrumimages / Samantha Rae Carniato


“My first encounter with a mastectomy client was while I was an airbrush body painter. I painted flattering torso designs with flowers and stencil designs, finished off with glitter.


“For some people, this was the first time they could look past their scars or their cancer.

Samantha’s team of tattoo artists. Mediadrumimages / Samantha Rae Carniato


“My first tattoo design over mastectomy scars was in October 2014, which was a filigree design with cherry blossoms cupping the side of each breast, and a soft hummingbird over her port scar on her left upper chest.


“My mastectomy journey really began with Stacie-Rae, my mentor. I came into her life just before her scheduled prophylactic bilateral mastectomy and I’ve been right beside since. I did my first ever areola restorative tattoo with Stacie-Rae in May 2015.

A mastectomy design with a poignant message.
Mediadrumimages / Samantha Rae Carniato


“Working with scar tissue and radiated skin while illustrating realism is a big challenge, but I was ready to embrace it.


“In my experience, everyone arrives with a wildly unique history, although I recognise a lot of similarities in my clients’ journeys.

Samantha Rae at a speaking convention.
Mediadrumimages / Samantha Rae Carniato


“Some have partners who are there every step of the way, some go through separation and divorce and have to fully start their lives again.


“Some people stay very jovial and know they will get through with a positive attitude, but some suffer from body dysmorphia and severe mental and emotional lows.

Samantha-Rae loves designing mastectomy designs.
Mediadrumimages / Samantha Rae Carniato


“For the most part, I hear stories of relief, closure and beauty once their tattoo dreams have been realised.


“I love being an artist and an intuit of visual potential. I just love lifting people up and caring for my clients and covering their scars. It’s great to be providing someone with a new lease of life with a successful tattoo.

Samantha-Rae’s studio.
Mediadrumimages / Samantha Rae Carniato


“Clients have said that the tattoos changed their lives and brought back their confidence. Others have said that it helps them be able to look in the mirror again.”


Samantha Rae now supports and advocates for many charities and organisations providing mastectomy scar tattoos.

Samantha-Rae tattooing a client. Mediadrumimages / Innocent Thunder Photography / Samantha Rae Carniato


Samantha Rae herself has suffered loss at the hands of cancer which motivates her further to create the significant tattoos designs to help them express their journey in a way they wish.


“Tattoos present a new start, closure and a happy dance across the finish line of cancer,” said Samantha Rae.

Samantha-Rae tattooing a client.
Innocent Thunder Photography / Samantha Rae Carniato


“It’s a celebration of one or more years being cancer-free. Finally, it can be about having the control over a decision after having your life altered completely by cancer.


“I have experienced loss and it motivates me to create beautiful and meaningful art for my clients.


“I can see how much joy my clients get from ‘our’ experience together.”

Mediadrumimages / Rhiannon Whitney

You can see more of Samantha Rae’s incredible work by visiting @samrtattoo and @aftercancerart.