When I was denied funding by the NHS to have my breast implants removed, I took matters into my own hands…
By Patti Tucker, 50, from Bristol
As I fasten the clasp of my size C cup bra and look in the mirror, I breathe a sigh of relief. My nightmare is over. I may be 50, but for the first time in my life I am completely happy with my breasts. It’s been a long journey, with twists and turns, but thanks to some DIY handy work, I’m finally at ease with my body.
I had a fantastic figure in my twenties. As a dancer, I was in great shape, but my chest was as flat as a pancake. I wanted to feel more feminine so in 2001 I decided to have a breast enlargement. I was living in Phoenix, Arizona at the time and cosmetic surgery in America is par for the course. It’s completely normal to have your assets adapted if you have the money to go under the knife.
I was glad I did. Although I was slightly nervous before I was wheeled into theatre, the surgery boosted my breasts from an A cup to a double D. I can’t deny they took some getting used to but once they’d healed, they looked great. I’d never felt more womanly. Rather than having an androgynous, athletic shape, I finally had curves. My new boobs accentuated my tiny waist, and I finally had a cleavage I could be proud of. I loved them and for the first seven years after the operation, I was brimming with confidence.
But as I started to age, my breasts became firmer with scar tissue until they were rock hard and I felt like I had two bowling balls up by my chin! I adore the outdoors but when I went on a hike, I’d feel them pull at my chest with every step. And in bed at night, I’d toss and turn, trying to find a position that would accommodate my bountiful bosom. They became so uncomfortable that my arms and sides would ache and day-to-day tasks became a struggle. They were just too heavy – and I was petite.
I’d had enough. I wanted them out and made several requests to the NHS to have the implants removed. Every time I received a rejection in the post, my heart would sink. Determined to have my implants removed, I would apply again but I was repeatedly denied. I didn’t have £3000 to go private, so deflated, I started researching alternatives. In the US, it’s customary for local doctors to simply pop the implants, as saline can be safely absorbed by the body, but there’s no such procedure here. That’s when I came up with a cunning plan.
‘If I get turned down for the reversal one more time, I’ll do it myself,’ I told my GP firmly. She thought I was joking.
In 2014, I was at the end of my tether. It was time to take matters into my own hands. I’d read blog after blog and knew my stuff. I was ready.
I drove to my local farm’s livestock shop and searched for the correct utensils.
‘Is there anything I can help you with?’ asked the assistant.
‘My cow’s knee needs to be drained,’ I lied. ‘Can you take me to what I need?’
I left the shop with a 17 gauge hypodermic needle as well as disposable sheets, gloves, sterilising liquid and wipes.
When I got home, I set up the dresser with everything I needed and took off my bra. I took a good look at my inflated boobs and told myself I could do it.
I decided to pop one boob first in case it all went horribly wrong. My hand trembled as I inserted the needle into my right breast and although the prick was painful, I felt the pressure lift immediately as the liquid steadily drained from the implant. Around 45 minutes later, the breast was done. Impressed with my own handy work, I repeated the same steps with the left breast. Pop!
I wasn’t too worried. I was texting a friend with updates incase I needed help and I knew that the 350cc of saline in each implant couldn’t do any damage to my insides. If anything, my biggest problem was going to be tender, black and blue boobs. But I was more than happy to put up with the pain for a few weeks if it meant an end to my ordeal.
It took a fortnight after my DIY boob job for my breasts to settle but since then I’ve had no problems at all. Once they had healed, I had them checked out by my doctor who gave me the all clear. I was concerned they’d end up like two tiny shrivelled bags but because I’m older and have put on a bit of weight, I’ve luckily been left with more comfortable, shapely C cups.
The empty implant shells are still inside my body but you can’t see them and they don’t cause me any discomfort so I have no plans to remove them.
I was shocked when, just a couple of weeks after my DIY surgery, funding for the removal of my implants was finally approved. It was typical, I’d been bursting with frustration – literally – and now I was being offered the op safely.
Now, I want to speak out so cheap options become more freely available for women like me on the NHS. I know that if I had just waited a few more weeks, I could have had the implants removed professionally but I have no regrets. I’m glad I took the plunge.