TATTOOING is more than a form of art for Lucy Thompson.
It is an outlet for her creativity which she is now using to help create realistic areolas for women who have undergone breast cancer surgery.
Fittingly, one of Lucy’s first clients is her Auntie Pam who is due to undergo the procedure later this year.
It is 10 years since her Auntie was diagnosed with breast cancer after she discovered a scab on her nipple.
Lucy explains following her mastectomy, her Auntie Pam underwent a breast re-construction, a nipple graft and tattoo in hospital but over the years it has faded prompting Lucy to offer her services to help her Auntie and other women who have undergone a mastectomy.
“I asked her what it would mean to her and she said it would help her feel whole again,” says Lucy.
With her Auntie Pam’s son due to get married and another grandchild on the way Lucy says her Auntie is proud of the fact that she is a 10 year survivor.
Lucy says she feels ‘honoured and privileged’ to be able to use her artistic talents to help her.
“It’s really nice she is thinking about it. She deserves it and to ‘feel whole’ like she said,” explains Lucy.
“I feel proud that I can give that to her because she deserves it.
“It’s like a gift, I need to use it for good and what better way to start than with your family. Your family are everything. It is a pleasure to be able to do this for her and use my talent for good for her and for others. It’s pretty special,” adds Lucy.
She explains there is a history of breast cancer in her family. Her great Auntie had it too and her Mum, Jen, discovered a benign tumour which is being monitored.
Inspired by her Auntie Pam, who underwent her initial areola tattoo in hospital, Lucy decided to research the procedure.
Since then Lucy, who became a tattoo artist four years ago, has travelled 5,000 miles to undergo specialist training with her mentor, Stacie Rae, at The House of A.R.T (Areola Restorative Tattooing) in San Antonio, Texas.
It is understood she is the first UK artist to seek and achieve specialist training in the craft of tattooing realistic areolas on breast cancer patients and is now offering what she believes to be a groundbreaking new service for women who’ve had a mastectomy.
Part of a globally growing movement, with colleagues in Canada, France and America, Lucy is believed to be the pioneer in the UK working to raise the current industry standards.
She is also believed to be the only tattoo artist in the UK using ‘The Pink Ribbon Series ‘ from World Famous Ink’, made specifically for this cause, which she uses with specialist techniques from her advance training, making it possible to achieve 3D results that are permanent.
“Currently UK women only have the option of medical or cosmetic tattoo treatment – using micro pigmentation – this will wear away and require annual top ups. There are also issues with this in terms of real representation of the nipple as limited artistic skills mean women are often left with a result that could be much improved upon with specific tattoo skills,” explains Lucy.
“After the trauma of going through cancer, I want to make the restorative period as stress free as possible and help women feel whole again, drawing a line under the arduous journey they have been through. Why should they have to return for future treatment when it can be done in one process.”
Since becoming a tattooist four years ago, the 27-year-old from Cullingworth has seen first-hand the positive impact having a tattoo can have on someone’s life.
“The tattoos I do mean so much to people and it can help change your life and being able to help people in that way it helps me,” explains Lucy.
She already provides free cover up tattoos once a month to domestic violence survivors or people with scar tissue from self-harming through her Keighley-based business, Skinflicted.
“I was always into art growing up and I struggled a lot with finding what was right for me. Years ago I started to get tattoos and I thought ‘I could do this.’”
As well as helping others, Lucy credits tattooing with helping her through her own battle with depression.
“Getting into tattooing has helped me with my mental health – given me a meaning and purpose and I want to take this further now and give something back. I have battled depression since the age of 15 and tattoos have helped me feel more like me.
“I know how different you can feel, thanks to a tattoo – it can be just amazing, and to be giving at the end of that is a fantastic feeling. I’m in the best place that I have been in my whole life,” says Lucy.
“My depression was related to not feeling worthy – and things have changed now I’ve found focus on how to help others – it’s not about me anymore.”
Lucy, who has a son, Tyler, had her first tattoo 10 years ago. She decided to turn her passion into a profession after her textiles teacher saw her working in her dad’s pub – and was shocked to find her not working with her artistic talent.
Working in the pub helped Lucy to fund her training while achieving an 18 month apprenticeship. After qualifying she decided to set up her own business which she is now expanding.
She is keen to gain recognition from surgeons and doctors for referrals of patients, enabling more women to benefit from the service. She is also looking into opportunities for working with local health authorities to enable funding for clients.
To coincide with Breast Cancer Awareness month (October) Lucy has special offers available at her all-female studio. Long-term, she hopes to open a clinic specifically for post medical treatment.
Lucy also plans to run drop in clinics throughout the country by visiting other studios and enabling others further afield to benefit from her skills.
She recalls when she initially started tattooing she gained so much satisfaction from it – and still does.
“It helped me so much and gave me a really positive focus and I have met people through that. I truly feel it has changed my life. It is so humbling to meet these women and give them the best they deserve, and to work hard to raise awareness, it is the whole industry,” adds Lucy.