As October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we wanted to take the opportunity to introduce you to Lucy Thompson, the founder of the charity The Nipple Innovation Project (NIP).
The Nipple Innovation Project is the UK’s first cancer tattoo charity dedicated to empowering breast cancer survivors and helping them to feel comfortable in their new skin after mastectomy surgery. Their goal is to help breast cancer survivors reclaim ownership over their bodies, providing access to free safe, realistic and permanent 3D nipple tattoos, which are an alternative to the hospital tattoos that fade away quickly. The tattoos are painted with permanent pigment that is designed to be long-lasting, and a source of hope and confidence.
NIP aims to connect breast cancer survivors with a directory of specially trained artists throughout the UK, ensuring that these services are easily accessible to those who need it, and raising awareness within the breast cancer community. The charity believes that anyone living with breast cancer shouldn’t have to experience losing their nipples twice, and that was the motivation behind setting up the UK-based charity.
What is the story behind the Nipple Innovation Project?
I decided to set up a charity after I started to offer out free, non-fading, 3D nipple tattoos for breast cancer survivors and found how important this service was to those who needed it. Specifically, my auntie who had experienced a fading areola tattoo not too long after she had it done, which left her with low self-esteem, withdrawn and unable to look at her breast in the mirror despite being a ten-year breast cancer survivor! I really wanted to help her feel whole again so after lots of questions and reassurances, she allowed me to give her the gift of tattooing a realistic and permanent nipple tattoo over her mastectomy scarring. The confidence this gave my auntie was immeasurable and I got to see her flourish and grow in confidence! I really wanted to help other people feel this empowered without worrying about the cost and so the Nipple Innovation Project was born in 2018.
What is the concept of the charity?
The idea behind NIP is to provide a directory of suitably trained artists who offer safe and realistic permanent 3D nipple tattoos free of charge. We provide funding for these tattoos so that breast cancer survivors don’t have to take on the burden of the costs. We believe that everyone who needs this life enhancing service should have access to it, regardless of financial circumstances.
At what stage after mastectomy and reconstructive surgery can they reach out to you to get a tattoo?
People can contact us at any stage during their breast cancer journey; we are here to answer any questions and queries that people may have. We understand how important it is to have something to look forward to when facing a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery and we do everything in our power to instil a sense of hope after breast cancer.
What would you tell breast cancer survivors who are worried about taking the step of getting a nipple tattoo?
We have lots of beneficiaries who have bravely shared their story with us through videos and would also be happy to discuss their experiences in private if people felt anxious or worried about the process. We have answers to lots of frequently asked questions on our website too so we would always recommend checking them out first. Equally, if you have any other questions that aren’t answered on there, one of our artists would be happy to assist you in any way possible!
What message would you like to give to people, especially women who have been affected by breast cancer?
You deserve to feel the best you possibly can after going through cancer. I know it’s not easy and I understand how a breast cancer diagnosis can take over your life, but there is often light at the end of the tunnel. You deserve to feel good and comfortable in your own skin after everything you have been through. Please never forget that and don’t hesitate to contact the charity for any extra support you may need. We have a community group on Facebook for people who have had a 3D nipple tattoo or are waiting for surgery, it’s a very open group full of supportive folk who have been through breast cancer. It’s a great place to connect and speak with likeminded people.