The Ink Link: The journey of removing a tattoo with Claire Terink

The Ink Link is an ongoing project at CN&CO that showcases tattoos in the workplace. One of the great things about a tattoo is it goes against the commonly-held viewpoint that “what you see is what you get”. There’s a misguided belief in certain quarters that in order to be a working professional, it is categorically *impossible* to have a tattoo… because how can someone with a tattoo be a professional? We are putting paid to that perception through the stories showcased in the Ink Link. This month we feature Claire Terink, a mother and entrepreneur who shares her journey of removing a tattoo.

Meet my friend Claire Terink, a mother of two fantastic boys Gabriel (11) and Keanin (9). Her boys have been the motivation for her work in family dynamic coaching, where she help families, blended and standard, communicate effectively, work on discipline and roles played out in a family unit. She started off as a injury rehabilitation specialist (working with the spine and pelvis mainly) but realised that most injuries came with a level of trauma and so she studied TRE (trauma and tension releasing process), trauma counselling and mindfulness to help the mind and body connect in a world that easily steers away from self-awareness. She aims to help others find balance through an integration of mind and body practices.

When did you get your first tattoo?

I’ve only had two tattoos. I had my first one, a butterfly at the top of my back, when I was 16. Honestly, it was new and exciting and I didn’t quite get the permanency of a tattoo. A few years later I covered this up with a much bigger and beautiful tattoo of a tiger.

Why did you decide to remove your tattoo?

I changed. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the tattoo – I just changed.

Being a parent and starting my own business, I grew and continue to grow. The tattoo was a representation of a time in my life and I finally grasped the permanency that a tattoo signified. I want to continue growing and changing.

It was at this time that I was offered an opportunity to remove it.

What does it take to remove a tattoo?

It has been a long, long journey. I started almost two years ago. Starting with a procedure that injects a chemical under the tattooed skin that aggravates the skin and sends the ink particles to the surface of the skin, where it develops a thick scab. This procedure was very painful and took eight weeks between each session to recover.

After three sessions with about a third of the tattoo gone. I had unsightly scars on my back. A client of mine and renowned plastic surgeon Dr Francis Duminy offered to remove it for me. This entailed me stretching the skin on my back for a few weeks. He then cut part of the tattoo out, and stitching up along my spine. When it had healed enough I’d stretch it again.

It has taken three procedures to remove the tattoo. It was a big tattoo – 30cm wide and 40cm long. During this process I was unable to gym, hike or undertake any other active hobby. It was incredibly difficult, but it taught me to slow down and focus my growth inwards.

I finished my last procedure two weeks ago and I am thrilled with the results.

           

What advice would you give someone getting their first tattoo or looking at removing a tattoo?

When Dr Duminy said he would help me remove it, we discussed how we could use this to benefit others. We have documented and written a paper on it and look forward to using this to help people in the future.

Right now I would encourage people to really think long and hard about getting a tattoo, make sure you happy with it being permanent even if you change as a person. I would also suggest putting it somewhere easy to remove, like under the breast, lower abdomen or leg.

Would you ever consider getting another tattoo? 

While I don’t think I would right now, I don’t dislike them and wouldn’t say that’s a hard no.

Fun fact

It took eight hours to get the tattoo and two years to remove.