Aged 37 and a mum of two, after going to the gym and eating really well, I’d lost about 15 kilos.
Still, I was self-conscious about my figure.
I’ve got these two saggy things hanging off my chest, I thought.
After breastfeeding Ava, six, and Phoenix, nine, my C-cup boobs had well and truly had it.
Deciding I deserved a makeover, I booked in for a $7000 boob job.
‘You have a lot of saggy skin to fill,’ the plastic surgeon said.
So he selected an H-sized implant.
Perky and full, my boobs sat up nice and high and I felt sexy again.
But within a few weeks, my back and shoulders throbbed from carrying the extra weight.
Then, brain fog set in.
My memory’s shocking, I’d fret.
Eight months after my boob job, my vision began to deteriorate.
Gee, I can’t really see that sign, I panicked, out driving.
Over time, my sight got even worse.
‘I can’t find anything wrong,’ an optometrist said.
It made no sense...
Then, my joints began to ache excruciatingly.
‘I feel like I’m an 80-year-old,’ I told my mum, Roslyn.
I was tested for arthritis and an iron overload disorder that Mum had. But the results were negative. I could feel the doctor’s eyes boring into me.
He thinks I’m loopy, I realised.
I did feel like I was going mad. But I knew my unexplained ailments weren’t in my head.
Something’s not right...
Within two years of my op, I could barely get out of bed, so, along with the kids, I moved in with Mum and my dad, Paul.
‘You never play with me,’ Ava said, sadly.
‘I’m not even 40, I should be able to play with my kids!’ I cried later to Mum.
‘I know, bub,’ she soothed.
I felt I’d be better off dead.
Despite it all, I fell for a school dad, Justin, whose little girl was friends with Ava.
He loves me at my worst, I thought.
Ulcers dotted my mouth leaving my tongue so inflamed that sometimes I couldn’t talk.
Then, my once beautiful, thick black hair became brittle and started to snap off.
Early this year, I began to lose weight rapidly. By April, I’d lost 13 kilos, going from 73 kilos to 60.
‘Could it be your boobs?’ Mum said, after chatting to a friend whose daughter had been through hell since having implants.
She suggested I join two Facebook groups – Breast Implant Illness Awareness Aus & NZ and Breast Implant Illness and Healing by Nicole.
Hopping online and scrolling through, every story shared felt like mine.
I need to get the implants out, I decided.
My kids deserved a healthy, happy mum.
My GP gave me a referral to a surgeon who booked me in for a $17,000 explant operation and breast reconstruction.
Sitting the kids down, I told them my plan.
‘Why did you get them in the first place? You were perfect,’ Phoenix said.
Begging the bank, I got a $9000 loan and my parents and Justin helped with the rest.
A month out from my op, in August, my textured implants, made by Allergan, were recalled.
They’d been linked with breast implant associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) – a rare cancer of the immune system.
I’m definitely getting these out, I thought.
This September, I had my implants removed.
Despite just having had major surgery, coming to, I felt fantastic. But the next day, my surgeon had some worrying news.
He’d drained 60ml of toxic-looking fluid from inside the capsule of scar tissue that surrounded the implant in my left breast.
That boob had swollen like a balloon leading up to my op. Scarily, that was also a symptom of BIA-ALCL.
‘I don’t want you to worry until we know more,’ my surgeon said, gently.
A week later, the pathology results were back.
‘It’s definitely lymphoma,’ he said.
My mummy makeover gave me cancer, I realised.
I was the 112th woman diagnosed with BIA-ALCL in the country. Four had died.
At first, I cried and cried.
Then, I steeled myself.
I can’t die – my kids need me, I vowed.
Cancer diagnosis or not, I felt the healthiest I had in years.
Referred to a haematologist, I had to wait another week to find out if the cancer had spread beyond my scar tissue.
Thankfully, it hadn’t. But it’d been a close call. ‘It was only a matter of time before the capsule ruptured and burst,’ the specialist said.
‘You wouldn’t have been here by Christmas.’
Fortunately, I didn’t need any chemo or drugs.
Now, I have two years of follow-ups to make sure the cancer is completely gone.
But I’m enjoying life without implants.
I kick myself every day for the four years I lost with my precious Ava, now eight, and Phoenix, 11. But I’ll spend the rest of my days making it up to them.
BREAST IMPLANTS AND CANCER
Breast implant associated cancer, or breast implant associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), is not breast cancer, but a cancer that grows in the fluid and scar tissue that forms around a breast implant.
The most common symptom is swelling of a breast, or a lump in the breast or armpit.
BIA-ALCL is rare and has excellent cure rates if detected early.