Tattooing has been a major art form of self-expression for decades. But what was once viewed as a permanent decision, can now be reversed with the help of a laser and with patience.

Five years ago, Emily Whitten defined her own self-expression in a complex, floral tattoo. It starts on her foot, climbs and blossoms across her right leg. While the ink is still bright, its meaning is fading out of her life.

"In the last year, I’ve changed my life a lot,” explained Whitten, “so that's when I decided it's not me anymore."

Friday was Whitten's first treatment at the Abilene Tattoo Removal Clinic.

As the high-speed laser light hit her tattoo, the ink absorbed the light and essentially shattered the ink into millions of pieces – leaving behind only a faded memory of what used to be.

It could take 10 more visits before it's all gone, and there's a strict waiting period between sessions, says owner, Tracy Yoder.

“That's where we give the six weeks, you come back and you do it again and break it up a little bit more,” said Yoder.

Yoder also says that despite what people may think tattoo removal doesn't hurt like it used to. A decade ago, clinics swapped Argon and CO2 lasers for light types and that has helped ease the pain.

"A lot of people will say it feels like being popped with a rubber band."

For Whitten, the pain is worth it to begin the next chapter of her life.

“I am pleased, I am very pleased and I’m really not in pain,” said Whitten.