Artist works to restore happiness to survivors

Published 11:56 am Sunday, October 22, 2023

BROOKHAVEN — Tattoo artist Azha Sanders has always hoped to bring joy and happiness to her clients with her art. Medical tattoos to cover up the scars of mastectomy and breast cancer are another way for her to do so. 

Sanders was born and raised in Kosciusko, sharing a hometown with Oprah, but has lived most of her life in Jackson. She moved to the coast for a little bit before going back to Jackson, following the shop down to Brookhaven and recently moved to Colorado about 30 minutes north of Denver and south of Boulder. 

She still visits her family in Jackson and tattoos when she can at Forged True. Sanders first met Forged True Owner Lorin King at his shop in Richland and through persistence found a job there. 

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“I kept showing up and bringing my art. I didn’t stop going to visit,” Sanders said. “He helped me with work by drawing. It grew into me running a tattoo machine and the equipment. I showed up and didn’t leave. We have remained good friends for 15 years now.”

About six years ago, she started tattooing the survivors of breast cancer at Face and Body Spa in Flowood. Sanders said the technical name for what she does is 3D Areola Tattooing. It is a cosmetic tattoo which is flat to the touch but becomes 3D when you look at it. 

“I’m basically tattooing optical illusions,” Sanders said. 

Face and Body Spa reached out to her and asked if she could work on reconstruction of patients’ nipples and areolas. Sanders said she had to learn more about the skin because it had gone through cancer, surgeries and radiation treatments. She applies her years of experience tattooing in the process to make everything look good. 

“I’m grateful they asked me to do it. It is an important service and its totally doable to make women feel like themselves once they have gone through so much pain,” Sanders said. “They feel like they are losing pieces of themselves. I’m glad I can provide what is a happy ending after all they went through. It means so much to me to be a part of that.” 

Sanders said she blocks out a couple of hours to consult with the clients so they get what they want. It is a thorough process as she checks out the skin to make sure it is healed enough to tattoo. 

She works on the drawing of templates and does color splotches of the skin. Each detail is very important to her. 

Sanders said her grandmother had breast cancer and her husband’s mom had breast cancer. Her mother-in-law is very active in the breast cancer awareness community and has been a great resource for Sanders to gain a better understanding. 

“It is great to talk to her about this. She helps remind me how important it is. I work to make someone feel happier about their body and life in general,” Sanders said. “This is something that makes life extra special. They have something pretty. Getting tattooed has given me autonomy and a healthy connection with my body. I want to share it with other people. I want it to be something they are excited about. In the reconstruction setting, it is more private and medical. I try to make them feel comfortable and laid back. They are in a safe space.” 

She hopes to find a clinic in Colorado to continue tattooing breast cancer survivors but is happy coming back to Flowood on visits to tattoo patients. Sanders said she is grateful Face and Body Spa and clients trust her. 

“It makes me happy if we can make something cool despite what they have been through,” Sanders said. “It is okay to do something for yourself. It is an aesthetic procedure but it is important to feel good about yourself and feel happy about your body. I think that is why people get tattooed in general.”