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Meet Day Spotlight Recipient - Cat Thisius!

Cat was a Day Minneapolis, MN recipient in 2019, who was initially diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2018.

In 2018, Cat was in roller derby and in the best shape of her life. Her cancer diagnosis shook her, as no one in her family had cancer and she was in such good shape. Her mission after diagnosis was to play the last game of the season, and after surgery, and the addition of a plastic chest guard, that is exactly what she did. Her reconstruction initially made her feel deep depression but her tattoos changed her life.

Cat found out about from social media and knew she wanted to do a tattoo after struggling with seeing her scars. Everything was full when she applied, but someone backed out and she got the call telling her she was selected while standing in her classroom where she teaches preschool.

We interviewed Cat to find out what her Day experience was like and what advice she has for anyone thinking about mastectomy tattoos or applying to the Personal Ink program.

How would you describe your view of yourself before and after your transformation? What's been your biggest challenge before, during, and after this experience? Your biggest "aha" moment?

Before the transformation, I was depressed, felt bad about myself, and didn’t feel like a full woman.

During the transformation I was excited. I had my mom and sister drive over from the Chicago area to be with me. I also had my daughter with me. That was amazing, my daughter sat there and held my hand while Jack tattooed me.

After the transformation, I was flashing everyone. I was very proud of them. I had 3 different sessions and on my 3rd session, I got a hummingbird. I never sit still, I’m high energy, and always going from one thing to another, so I consider myself a hummingbird. I’m not done yet, I want more.

The biggest challenge before the transformation was losing my self-confidence in myself. I knew I was in top shape of my life, and very self-confident. I was playing roller derby at a higher level than before, and the diagnosis had all that taken away. I was rebuilding but still didn’t have the same confidence.

At the event, I went in with a migraine and went into shock. That’s why we did my tattoo in 3 sessions. That put me in a tailspin, the first session was 3-3.5 hours and I got the chills and shakes. I felt horrible on the ride home, the whole 1.5-2 hour drive wrapped in blankets. That was the most challenging part of the transformation.

After it was all done, I don’t think there was anything really difficult. I was just so at peace, it was like a big veil lifted off of me. I’m done, I’m recovered, I’m cured, this is exactly what I needed.

My aha moment was when I saw the tattoo for the first time, knowing that what just happened was life-changing.

What was the highlight of your event for you? Most challenging part of the event for you?

The highlight of the event was having my family there to share this transformation with me. My mom and sister drove 5 hours to be there. My daughter was in college and she met us there.

The most challenging part was not feeling well. But the whole event in general, being there with other survivors, hearing their stories, and knowing others that went through this journey with me, gave me a sense of community.

If you had to choose one word/statement to describe how you felt during your event reveal, what would that be? Why?

Empowered. Why? Looking in the mirror for the first time I felt myself again. I didn't see the scars, I saw beautiful flowers and that was really empowering for me. I can get through this and don’t have to look in the mirror every day and feel bad. I can look in the mirror every day and feel like a badass.

What piece of advice would you share with potential future recipients? What piece of advice would you share with your younger self?

The advice I would give to future recipients is that if they have the opportunity, to go for it. It’s a life-changing event and a gift that can really change your whole outlook on life.

To my younger self, I would say you really are strong and can get through anything. Have faith, believe in yourself, and the power of prayer.

What’s one of your proudest moments?

Just sharing my story and being able to empower women to go get their mammograms, I was a pink ribbon mentor for other women diagnosed. I was helping them realize that it’s going to be okay, and it’s one chapter in your book of life.

What's next on your healing journey?

I think maybe adding a little more to the tattoo. Continuing to keep myself healthy, advocate for early detection, and speak out. Even though I am cancer free, I’m still worried about other women out there and they don’t have to go through this.

Thank you, Cat, for sharing your story! You are amazing!

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