Mum and daughter botched boob jobs.
Mum stuck her head round the changing room curtain. ‘How does it look?’
‘Terrible,’ I grumped, already half out of the dress.
I hated going clothes shopping. My boobs – or lack of them – ruined everything. They’d always been on the small side, but after having my kids Ryan, then 13, and Angel, two, they looked worse than ever.
My 34Bs were covered in stretchmarks and sagged sadly. My nipples hung down like teardrops on the end of each one. Topless, I looked like a 90-year-old man.
Mum hated her ‘granny’ boobs too.
‘If I could change them, I would,’ she said later that afternoon.
Well, why don’t we?’ I said. We’d been talking about it for ages. ‘Why don’t we just go for it?
‘OK,’ Mum said, finishing her coffee. You’re on!’
We did our homework and spent a long time looking into the risks and surgical providers. The Internet was full of cheap offers from surgeries abroad but we wanted to be safe, so we decided to stay in the UK and pay a bit more.
After consultations we eventually decided on matching D-cups with different providers. I had my operation first with Transform, and Mum boosted her 36Cs a month later at Highgate Hospital.
We were delighted with the results. For the first time ever I could wear a dress and feel good about myself. My self-confidence, which had always been low, rocketed.
‘I feel much more feminine,’ I said to Mum.
‘I feel ten years younger,’ she beamed back.
But just six months later, I noticed my breasts felt lumpy. Some of the lumps felt 3in big.
‘Your implants are probably still settling down,’ the surgeon said. ‘Just keep massaging them.’
So I did. But then I started feeling tired and run down, too.
‘Still got that cold, I see,’ Mum said.
‘I just can’t see to shake it,’ I sniffled.
‘I feel a bit under the weather too,’ Mum frowned.
I went to see my GP but he couldn’t find anything wrong with me.
‘My doctor said the same,’ said Mum.
It was crazy. We had lovely new boobs but we were both too sick to go out and enjoy them most of the time. Instead I spent my weekends laid up on the settee.
I was back and forth to the doctors, too. Sometimes the back of my throat felt like it was burning and I vomited orange sick. The amount of pain I was in, I was sure I must have cancer or some other serious illness, but my tests always came back clear.
I even got gas boiler checked in case it was leaking fumes and that was the cause. But no.
‘I didn’t think it was possible to be in so much pain and nobody be able to tell you why,’ I said to Mum. It had been going on for years now…
Then one morning, four years after I’d had my implants, I was getting dressed and noticed that my right boob looked it had dropped slightly. I was a bit concerned but felt so ill I didn’t have the energy to take it further. I convinced myself these things sometimes happened after a while.
Then one day I was on a night shift at my job as a health care support worker when I read in a magazine that women had reported health problems linked to PIP implants. The list of symptoms could have been written about me. But I was sure I hadn’t had PIP implants…
As soon as I home, I dug out my filing cabinet. I rifled through my papers until I found the one from the clinic.
When I saw PIP, my heart sank. I just knew that was it. I felt sick to think there was toxic silicone mattress filling in my body. But at the same time at least now I knew what was causing this pain.
Only then it hit me…Mum.
‘Please let her be OK,’ I thought as I punched her number into the phone. I couldn’t bear the thought of her being affected too…
Telling Mum was awful. She was so upset for me
‘Don’t worry we’ll get them out,’ she promised.
‘But what about you?’ I asked. ‘You need to go and check your paperwork, Mum.’
I hoped and prayed that because she’d used a different clinic, hers weren’t PIPs.
‘Well?’ I asked when she called me back.
It wasn’t good news. Her surgical provider confirmed she had been fitted with the faulty implants, too.
‘What should we do?’ she panicked.
We contacted our GPs for advice and were told to go back to our providers.
But while Mum’s clinic offered to remove and replace her implants free of charge, mine wanted £3,200.
Even when I was examined and they said there was a problem with my right implant, and they suspected it might have ruptured, they still refused to do anything unless I paid. It was money I didn’t have.
‘I’ll see you right,’ Mum vowed. ‘I’ll take a loan out.’
I felt terrible using Mum’s money but what option did I have?
We found a different clinic to swap my implants, costing £3,800, in May 2012.
When I woke up in recovery I felt like I’d been run over by a bus. My surgeon came to see me. He explained my right implant had had a gel bleed and deflated. The filler had travelled around my body. After coming round I’d lost feeling down the right side of her body and couldn’t speak. They’d suspected I’d had a stroke but it turned out I hadn’t.
Could it be the PIP? I wondered.
A couple of days later I woke up at home to find my right breast had burst. Orange sticky fluid had seeped out and was burning my internal tissues. I had a rash all the way down my rib cage.
‘I don’t believe it,’ I wept.
My consultant explained I needed to have the cavity washed out and the implant replaced. More surgery…
And there was worse to come. The op was covered by aftercare but my surgeons warned it was too dangerous to replace the implant straight away. They wanted to remove it for six months first.
‘Six months?’ I howled. ‘You want me to walk around with one breast for six months.’
‘Your tissue needs to heal,’ he explained.
The thought filled me with horror but what choice did I have?
‘I can’t bear the thought of anyone seeing me,’ like this, I wept to Mum.My confidence was shot to pieces.
Although I hated upsetting her, I couldn’t keep it from Angel.
‘Are you alright Mum?’ she asked.
‘Not really,’ I admitted. I refused to take my dressing gown off and hated leaving the house.
As the months passed I developed growths in my neck and under my arm. One of the growths in my neck got so large I had to have surgery to have it removed.
I’d had the op to boost my confidence but I feared I would never be happy or confident again with one boob.”
I was so relieved when the time finally came to have my implant put back in January 2014, but my body reacted badly and I developed painful lumps in my armpit.
My immune system was so weak that I was on constant antibiotics and I had to give up my job I was so poorly. I hit my lowest ebb. Some days I didn’t want to carry on but Mum was there for me. She understood how I was feeling and with her support I kept going.
Then one afternoon at a check-up my surgeon told me my immune system was now so low that I was at risk of organ failure and death.
I thought of Angel and Ryan. I couldn’t leave them without a Mum. ‘Get them out,’ I begged.
I started working as a dog groomer and sold most of my belongings at a car boot sale – basically, I did anything I could to raise the £3,800 needed for the operation.
Last July, I underwent my seventh breast operation and had all my remaining breast tissue taken out at the same time.
I thought I might feel relieved afterwards but I was like a recluse. Mum had to move in with me and help me out with Angel.
Now, a year on, I just have little scarred flaps off skin where my boobs should be. I don’t even fill a 32A and look worse than I did before my first boob op. Once, that would have been unbearable but it’s just not important to me anymore.
I’ve lost my job and all my savings are gone. I’m part of a group seeking compensation from the private clinics that treated us, but so far they’ve refused to pay out. More than anything though, I just what to know what the long term health implications will be.
I’ve accepted it’s likely that I will be ill for life, but what I can’t accept is how little support and advice we, the victims of this scandal, have had. Innocent, hard-working women like me and Mum have suffered and nobody seems to care. Yes we chose to go under the knife, but that doesn’t make it right that we were unknowingly poisoned.
I wish I didn’t but I live every day waiting for more bad news — all because of toxic breast implants. If only I knew back then what I’ve discovered now I never would have put anything like that in my body. I wish I’d never had implants. Your health is so much more important that what you look like.