Oonagh is a carer by nature. She’s a mother, a grandmother, a friend, and a lover. Removing a ballpoint ink tattoo from her childhood was the first time she’s done something truly for herself. Here is her story.
My name’s Oonagh and I’m 52 years old. I’ve lived in London my whole life and I’m a mother of two big boys - 35 and 20 years old- and I’ve just become a grandmother for the first time to a baby girl. I’m over the moon. That’s my little life; my kids and my granddaughter. I’m also a carer for my dad and was a carer for my mum so I'm all over London traveling here, there and everywhere looking after people. This is the first time that I've ever really looked after myself and taken time to do something for me.
When I got my tattoo, I was very young, in care and my peers enticed me. Being 13 and stupid, I got the tattoo and it’s been with me right up until now. My tattoo said 'jazz' with three music notes around it. I’m sure if it was a proper tattoo, it wouldn’t have bothered me so much, but because it was homemade it felt horrible and ugly ever since.
I was at a children’s home where we were often left to our own devices. One day we were in the common room and a few of us were getting tattoos done. The person tattooing was only 16 years old, and had been drinking. They used bright blue pen ink, not proper tattoo ink. You take the end off a ballpoint Bic pen, get a sewing needle, wrap it in cotton then dip the needle into the pen ink and tap away at the skin. I’m lucky I didn’t die of septicaemia [laughs]. It’s crazy. The minute the tattoo was done I thought, 'Why did I do that?'
I felt embarrassed. It was a very embarrassing tattoo. It was ugly, and it made me feel that way. As I got older I didn’t get undressed much with new partners. When I did, they straight away asked me about my tattoo and I’d have to go through the story all again, explaining that I was 13 and wished I hadn’t gotten it.
I even used to buy that camera-ready foundation to cover it up, but eventually it rubbed off. So, I was constantly covering it up. I’ve always been an outgoing, confident person, but when it came to taking my clothes off or showing my skin, I wasn’t so confident.
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“Even though my tattoo was covered up most of the time, I knew it was there and I hated it. If it wasn't for NAAMA, I’d still have it. I’m so eternally grateful.”
When I first came to NAAMA, I didn’t know what to expect. I was welcomed through the front doors into this beautiful place with such a lovely team. They put you at ease. Rebecca, my tattoo removal technician, was brilliant. I went and sat in the chair, put the goggles on and braced myself. I’ve had two kids so I’m used to pain. But she used the laser twice and that was it. I was there for no more than 15 minutes.
Today I’m tattooless and in such a good place. It’s made me so much more confident and a lot happier. Even though my tattoo was covered up most of the time, I knew it was there and I hated it. If it wasn't for NAAMA, I’d still have it. I’m so eternally grateful to NAAMA. I recommend it to anyone who wants to make a change with their tattoos. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.
Oonagh’s tattoo before the start of her treatment.
After 3 sessions
The ink particles in Oonagh’s tattoo begin to break down. Overall appearance begins to fade.
After 6 sessions
Oonagh’s tattoo is showing amazing results, with only a few faded lines left.
After 13 sessions
Oonagh’s tattoo is fully removed, leaving her skin clear.
SECOND CHANCES is here to help
To nominate yourself or someone else for our SECOND CHANCES programme, complete the submission form with your tattoo story and what it would mean to you/your nominee to receive treatment with us.