A north-east man has launched a fundraising campaign to raise awareness of a condition that affects women with breast implants.
John Els, from Kintore, lost his wife Melanie to breast cancer eight years ago.
Both Mel and her sister, Liza, inherited the BRCA2 mutation, meaning they have a high risk of breast and ovarian cancer and a 50% chance of passing the mutation on to each of their children.
John said: “In 2008, my wife found a very small lump in her left breast and it escalated over the next four years.
“She had the tumour removed but the following year after surgery she developed another lump.
“In 2012 when Melanie received a terminal diagnosis and was given a few months to live, we decided to return to South Africa to spend time with family and friends with what little time Mel had left.
“Mel managed to spend five weeks in South Africa before passing away.”
Mel’s sister Liza, who lives in South Africa, decided to have prophylactic bilateral mastectomies – a procedure which lowered her risk of getting breast cancer to almost zero.
Several years after having breast reconstruction surgery however, Liza began to experience a variety of symptoms which she believes are a result of complications from breast implants – known as Breast Implant Illness.
Breast implant illness is not an official diagnosis, but some women who believe they have it say they returned to full health after having their implants removed.
John is now raising funds to help his sister-in-law get the procedure, as the surgery must be paid for privately in South Africa.
He said: “Between 2016 and 2019, what started as feeling tired and battling with brain fog, turned into recurrent bladder infections, pain in her breasts, shoulder injuries, various skin issues, heart palpitations, muscle ache and weakness, painful and stiff joints, vision problems, excessive weight gain and eventually depression.
“It was in August 2019 that Liza, during one of her many searches of possible ways to improve her health, came across the term Breast Implant Illness.”
“In December 2019, Liza had blood tests to rule out other conditions and the results were normal.
“After spending most of 2020 trying various treatments to see if she could manage the symptoms but not having much success, there seemed to be only one answer to her problem – she needed to have the implants removed.”
John is hoping to raise in excess of £6,500 to fund the removal of his sister-in-law’s breast implants.
He added: “Unlike the incredible NHS here in the UK, in South Africa, there are two health care options, private or government.
“The private healthcare does not cover these surgeries, and neither does the government.
“As Breast Implant Illness is not officially documented, it has to be paid for privately too along with medications and treatments.
“The costs to have them removed and associated treatments is far out of her financial means and she is still paying off medical debt from the initial surgeries 10 years ago.
“I am hoping to raise more than £6,500 for Liza to have these implants removed and for any further treatment she may need.”
To contribute to John’s fundraiser, go to http://bit.ly/3j02Lja