How tattooist is helping Washington grandmother regain confidence after breast cancer
A grandmother who found out she had cancer after seeking help because she thought her silicone breast cancer had ruptured has finally been able to get rid of one of the physical reminders of her difficult journey.
Every time Claire Gibson looked in the mirror she was reminded of the "horrific" treatment she underwent after being diagnosed with cancer, due to the four blue dots tattooed across her chest during radiotherapy.
The 50-year-old, from Washington, said she is "lucky to be alive" after doctors at the Queen Elizabeth hospital diagnosed breast cancer during a routine scan, but said the blue dots are having a negative impact on her mental health.
The grandmother-of-two said: "If I have got a low-cut top on you can see the blue dot and it is a reminder of what I have been through and it's horrible.
"I just wanted to be rid of them. I'm left with four blue dots, one in the middle of my cleavage, one on my stomach and one dot on each side under my arms."
The inkings are a permanent marker of what she has been through and cost hundreds of pounds for removal.
Now Gateshead tattoo technician, Ray Cook, has stepped forward to remove the markings for free.
Based at Razalight in Wrekenton, Mr Cook said he also gives discounts to NHS patients.
Ms Gibson is grateful to Mr Cook for helping to restore her confidence and said: "He is the most lovely guy."
Since being treated for stage three breast cancer, even though she had no symptoms, Ms Gibson has been off sick for 10 months and has used her savings trying to get by, but did not have a way of paying to remove the marks.
She said: "I didn't have that money to pay to get them done but they were really bothering me.
"Then I found Ray Cook from Razalight who offered to remove my radiotherapy tattoos free of charge. I'm now onto my third session and can't tell you how much getting rid of them means."
Ms Gibson is already starting to notice the difference as the marks begin to fade and credits Mr Cook with helping her to regain her confidence.
Ms Gibson's was diagnosed with cancer after she noticed her breast implant had begun to feel hard.
It was because Ms Gibson thought one had ruptured that she ended up having a scan at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
After scanning her right breast, medics told Ms Gibson there was nothing to worry about as the problem was because the silicone was "getting old."
Fortunately, doctors also scanned Ms Gibson's left breast and they looked at it for so long that she asked if there was a problem.
Doctors simply replied "yes" and two weeks later, on 29 December, 2020, Claire was diagnosed with stage three cancer.
Ms Gibson said: "What I thought was just a routine scan turned out to be breast cancer right in the thick of Covid as well. It was just horrific."
In January 2021, Ms Gibson had a lumpectomy and also had her lymph nodes removed before beginning a clinical trial involving hormone treatment and ultimately a hysterectomy.
Within the space of three months, radiotherapy followed and it was at that point doctors tattooed her chest to ensure the treatment was targeted correctly.
As Ms Gibson looks forward to the future she urged anyone with concerns about their health to see a doctor.
"Don't leave anything just get it checked," she said. "I went there thinking it was just a routine check and two years of my life have been turned upside down."
She added: "The routine mammograms wouldn't have started until I was 50. So to get that diagnosis when I was 47, and because it was the most aggressive type of cancer which had spread to my lymph nodes, I think that if I had not gone to get it checked out I would be dead by now. I feel blessed."
Ms Gibson has now been told she is in remission and will be on daily medication for the next 10 years.
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