A woman who was told she had the same cancer-causing gene as actress Angelina Jolie – and had a double mastectomy to avert the disease – has visited a Kingston tattoo parlour to have new nipples inked on.
Three-and-a-half years ago, Claire Whittaker was told she carried the potentially deadly BRCA2 gene.
Last Friday, she took the final step in her journey, visiting Old London Road Tattoos after having searched “up and down the country” to find a willing tattooist.
Mrs Whittaker, 40, from Newbury in Berkshire, said: “I can’t tell you how realistic my breasts look. I’ve shown everybody. I keep saying ‘right, stand there and look at this’.
“I wouldn’t have wanted to go anywhere else. They were really professional, but positive, and I felt really at ease.
“Even though [the nipples] are completely flat, he’s done a 3D effect – they’re absolutely brilliant.
“It’s one of those funny things, having to go through magazines and thinking, ‘what colour do I want?’”
Parlour owner Ren O’Grady said: “I’ve known Claire for many years, just through mutual friends.
“When she was looking to get this done she didn’t know where to start.
“It’s something that we would love to be able to offer, if it’s going to help.”
Mrs Whittaker has tried to raise awareness of the gene through her blog, Claire and the Genie.
She said: “It all came down my father’s side. He had spent his life saying to me ‘I think there’s something in the blood’. I didn’t really take it seriously at first.
“After he died, I then thought, actually, I’m going to speak to my GP. That blood test is giving you a heads-up that you have a risk.”
She added that the operations meant she has been able to tell her children, Jemma, seven, and Ben, five, that “mummy’s not going to die”.
Mrs Whittaker said: “We took the option of telling them everything, right from the beginning, to take the drama out of the whole experience.”
Husband Dickson has been “amazing”, she said.
For more information about the mutated BRCA 1 and BRCA2 genes click here.