Meet Tarah Una, a tattoo model whose life was turned upside down after getting into a car accident exactly ten years ago. However, in this case, things aren't what they seem. Take a look at her inspiring story through life's biggest trials and tribulations below and let us know your thoughts on this story in the comments section.
What was your childhood like and when did you develop an interest in tattoos?
As a child, I was always different. I loved dressing in costumes and having colored hair. As a kid, I begged to get my ears pierced twice. So you can say the need to different started early in my childhood.
How did you lose your arm in 2009 and what was that experience like?
In 2009, I was in a bad car accident resulting in an injury to my left side. The scan from that injury showed a mass in the imaging and they found a tumor. The doctor ordered a biopsy ASAP and found it to be a very rare cancer called synovial cell sarcoma. This led to an emergency amputation of my left arm mid humerus. So in a way, I guess you could say that car accident was a good thing and ultimately saved my life.
Tell us your cancer survival story and how it’s helped you grow over the years?
After the amputation of my arm, cancer, unfortunately, found its way to other parts of my body. Soft tissue cancers, like sarcomas, are known to go to other parts of the body. The cancer I had went to my right lung and I battled cancer on-and-off for a total of seven years. The tumor resulted in the collapse of my lung and I had to have an emergency pleural effusion. The cancer was relentless in my lung and came for me again. I received MANY surgeries and chemotherapy treatments lasting for six months: five times a week for five hours a day. The process was grueling to say the least.
The amputation of my arm made everyday life a challenge. Everything I once knew had to be relearned. But I've successfully adapted to do everything I once did, I just do it differently. I always say the inner strength I've found through this experience has made me who I am today and if I had to go through it all again to be who I’ve grown to be I’d happily do it again.
What is Doll Parts Girls and what inspired you to found it?
I had a friend by the name of Mina Kahn, a local Las Vegas fashion designer. She asked me to fill in for a model who canceled on her for a runway show. Being as I'd never modeled, I was reluctant but excited. I walked the runway, forgetting I had one arm. Many photos were taken that day and a few photographers from the show told me how inspired they were to see something different on the runway. I'd never thought of myself as inspirational but chose to do a shoot with one of the photographers I met that day. The photo was well received at art shows and online. I had a lot of emails from others telling me how me embracing my flaws was inspiring to them. I knew I probably wasn’t the only amputee model, so I set out to find them.
I found myself inspired by the stories and other amputee women I met, and knew others would be as well. So Doll Parts Girls was born. It’s an achievement and idea that is unique and never been done before. I’m proud to help inspire someone out there in the same way I'd been. And I hope everyone that comes by the Doll Parts Girls page is inspired too.
Do you have any tattoos dedicated to your cancer/ amputee story, if so, what are they?
I do, I have "Fxck cancer" with cancer ribbon behind my left ear and "NUB LIFE" in script on my amputated arm. Life should never be taken too seriously and if I’m in line at a grocery store and someone is starring at me, I want them to have a nice chuckle. Cancer is seriously evil and deadly, but I’ll NEVER let cancer take my sense of humor. I also have "Doll Parts" in large script over my upper stomach.
What are the biggest challenges you experience because of your physical circumstances?
What inspired you to hold on throughout your struggles and what advice do you give to others in similar situations?
Cancer can take lives, organs, and limbs, but it can only take your smile if you let it. A sense of humor goes a long way.
What does it mean to be a role model and how do you hope to inspire others with your story?
I don’t see myself as one, I’m just me living up to my own expectations. My intention isn’t to influence anyone, but if I do or have, I hope they use the inspiration to become a better them, for themselves! Because at the end of the day, all we truly have is ourselves and who we’ve worked hard to become.
Where do you hope to be in five years time?
Hopefully still alive, well, and cancer free. I’m apprenticing to do saltwater tattoo removal in Pacific Beach at Embellish PB. The pair both openly welcomed me when I injured about learning, with no judgment to me being an amputee. They both said if it can be done properly and safely, we believe in you enough to let you try. So we will see where that path takes me.
What’s up next for Tarah Una?
Going back to work for the US Military doing amputee medical training. One of the more honorable things that have come out of my amputation is being able to use it to train our troops to hopefully save a life. For that, I'm truly humbled.