Foreword by Dr Patrick Tansley
In 2000, Susan, a 55 year old lady who breast fed 4 children, underwent bilateral breast augmentation using round silicone implants placed on top of the muscle through access incisions underneath the breasts. Since 2011, she suffered from symptoms relating to progressive bilateral capsular contractures, the most common complication affecting patients with breast augmentations. At the time of referral to NorthEast Plastic Surgery, she wore a 10E cup bra and wished to be smaller. Delighted with the aesthetic result of her breasts, Susan is a good example of how successful implant removal with breast lifts can be achieved with appropriate surgical expertise.
Trish: Great, well I’m here today with Susan. Susan’s from Brisbane. And just recently, well a couple of months ago Susan had explant surgery and a breast lift so we’re going to have a bit of a chat with her today about the process, what her experience was, how her surgeon was, and basically how she felt. So welcome Susan.
Susan: Hi, how are you?
Trish: I’m really good thank you. Really excited to talk to you about this because I have a girlfriend that just recently had the same thing done and she, it’s just, well to her it’s just changed her life. So basically a couple of months ago you had explant surgery. Can you tell us a little about what prompted you, what was your motivation to have that surgery?
Susan: Well it was a pretty scary process because I’d had my implants put in about 18 years prior to that, and I’d really enjoyed them and got used to them, they were a part of me. But unfortunately, about six years ago, I think probably because my body changed, I’m getting older and I was going through menopause, so I feel like my body had rejected the implants and I had capsular contractions.
So every time I would lie on the massage table, if I got up, there was pain in my chest, it was very, very uncomfortable, it would hurt when I was sleeping even, and I had all these mysterious issues going on that I suspected might have been to do with my implants. So that was a tough decision because, like I said, you become very attached and also it’s very scary, who’s going to do the surgery for you, who can you trust.
Trish: Well exactly. And with your implants, you had no problems with them for so many years then all of a sudden your body just decided, or you think your body just decided, that they didn’t want to be there anymore?
Susan: That’s correct. It’s really, it’s really a bizarre thing but I think that when you’re going through menopause your body does do a backflip and it does make sense, when you think about it, that anything that’s just a little bit too harsh, it probably just rejected it, and also I’ve got enough to deal with.
Trish: Of course.
Susan: So let’s just get rid of these scars.
Trish: Sorry, so you actually had explant surgery, and I know you had a breast lift as well, is that right?
Susan: I did, a had a breast lift as well because I was worried how that would look of course, and also I was worried about the scarring. There’s a whole host of things that you worry about when you’re a worrier like me. But I was worried like most women, especially when it comes to their breasts. I wanted them to still look good and I wasn’t prepared to get implants put back in.
I’d thought about that as well and I thought, well at 56 years of age, if something goes wrong again, and say I get another five years out of it, or 10 years out of it, I didn’t want to face another surgery as an older person. I think 56 is old enough to face a surgery so I made the ultimate decision that I would be happy with my smaller breasts, and they’re smaller but they’re perky. They’re probably between a B and a C cup, as opposed to double D slash E, which is a big, huge change.
And it’s a mental adjustment, absolutely a mental adjustment. You see yourself in the mirror and go, “Oh my goodness.” But it feels good that they’re real, they’re mine and the surgery went really, really well. I got a brilliant result and so I’m super happy with that.
Trish: That’s great. So I know for a fact, my girlfriend when she had it done, she’s actually probably about eight months post-op now, and what she said to me, she was over here about a week ago, and she said, “Look, look …” she’s actually 59 I think she is. And she said to me, “Look, look …” oh by the way she’d had them in for nearly 30 years, and she said to me, “Look, look, I’m losing weight and I’m not doing anything differently.”
I think she thought that her body was just, because hers were actually both, they were both ruptured and she had no idea at all until they were removed. She said, “My body just seems to be naturally just losing weight.” And because she had the, because they’d ruptured, there must have been silicone going into her body and all that.
So she said once she got them removed, and they were removed in pieces by the way, they weren’t even a whole implant removed, she just slowly started to feel better, and she also had all these little niggly things that were happening that she couldn’t pinpoint down to anything, and now she doesn’t have anything like that happening. So she’s of the same thought as you, it was just time for them to come out.
Susan: Yes well, like I said, I had an intuitive feeling that there was something wrong with me that was to do with my implants. I’d been to a load of Drs trying to work out what my symptoms were. So I had a pain down my left arm and I had a pain in my hand, in my left hand. Sometimes it was difficult to clench a fist with my left hand. A pain in my left breast, mostly. I also had joint pain in my knees and my elbows, et cetera.
My hair was falling out quite a bit, like not just some hairdressing in the past, a hundred hairs a day is suitable, four hundred is not so suitable. And you feel like you’re going to go bald, which is frightening.
And the most, the worst symptom of all, which happened probably for the last four months was, that I was having what I called an internal shudder. It’s a little bit like the nerves wake up on the inside of your body. So I chased that up to see if it wasn’t something like Parkinson’s or MS or anything related to those types of things and kept on hitting walls.
And when Dr Tansley did my surgery here, opened me up and found that the capsule around my implant on the left side was completely infected. So that capsule, it wasn’t cancerous, the tests revealed it wasn’t cancer or anything though it was poison really, anything like that, that’s what’s happening and it was leaching into my body possibly for the past six years.
So what a relief. I was hesitant right up until the second I signed the piece of paper when I was all gowned up and everything to go ahead. And then two days later when I spoke to Dr Tansley, and he said, “This is what we found.” I went, “I know why I came this time, it was time, yes.” So yeah, I can see what your friend’s saying.
Lucky for me I actually did research it prior to going into surgery because I was a bit concerned that something was wrong. And so I wanted to make sure that my surgeon knew how to remove my implants as a complete unit, the capsule and the implant. And he did know how to do that, so when it came to the crunch he was able to complete that surgery. And so that was something that I was confident that would, could happen if it needed to.
Trish: That’s so interesting.
Trish: So looking back at your journey, is there anything that you would have done differently, or any advice that you’ve got for anyone who might be looking at having a similar surgery?
Susan: The only thing I wish is that I had gone for it a whole lot sooner. Because my body, when I think about it, in the six years of symptoms that were happening to me, and my body came to a point where, I mean the internal shudder that was happening was that my adrenals were shutting down, my kidneys and liver were shutting down really.
So if I had somebody like myself coming up to me now and going, “This Dr can do this, be confident with him, you’re in great hands and you’re going to actually embrace and love your brand new, perky little breasts that you’ve got, it’ll be a new life, it’s a new you, and just got for it.” I would have went for it a whole lot sooner, would have saved myself the grief aggravation of going through being sick and worried about what was going on for me. And yeah, so I think it’s all, this type of thing where it’s interviews with people that have gone through it is brilliant, because if you have that access to that information you can make the decision. It’s a hard decision and so informed decisions are always the best decision.
Trish: Yeah, totally, very hard decision. So when you were researching who to go to, how did you pick the surgeon that you went to? First of all we’ll mention, so who was your surgeon?
Susan: Dr Tansley was my surgeon, Dr Patrick Tansley. I ended up finding Dr Tansley because I originally went back to the surgeon that put my implants in and he’s a well-known renowned surgeon in Brisbane, and unfortunately he didn’t do the work and he recommended Dr Tansley. And so I went and saw Dr Tansley but I’m also … I’m not one to rush around and see a whole pile of people. I’m more likely to see one, ask them what they’re doing, but then research the hell out of it online.
And so I basically researched it but I also instantly felt comfortable with Dr Tansley. So he’s got a whole pile of credentials as well, which is good, makes you feel really comfortable. And he works alongside another surgeon, which was a female, and she made me feel comfortable, and all her staff made me feel comfortable as well. A nurse that worked with him, and even his secretary was just awesome. She contacted me and chatted to me like she was my buddy and I just, yeah.
So even though there’s loads of other people that could do it, I was drawn to them because of, not only Dr Tansley’s skills, but that was a big one, but also how comfortable I thought I was going to feel being able to approach them if there was any concerns or anything, that I wouldn’t get treated like I didn’t matter.
Trish: Yeah, and it’s true, when you’re in that thing, it’s good to have that instant line of communication with someone from the office, whether the Dr or the nurse or the patient advisor, or someone, so that you can, so if you have any concerns you just pick up the phone and give them a ring. I think that’s really important these days.
Susan: It is, yeah, you’re in a really vulnerable situation, and also because it’s new. Pardon me, sorry. Because it’s a new thing that’s happening to your body and I don’t know what’s normal or what’s not normal. So if I come across something of a, “Oh that’s a little bit sore there,” or whatever, so pick up the phone and they go, “No, that’s normal, that’s good, relax.” But I don’t feel like I can’t do that, that’s a nice thing to feel like you can do that.
Trish: So how do you feel now, in comparison to how you felt before your surgery?
Susan: I feel fantastic. The thing is, I think you trick yourself into thinking that … Like when my implants were always quite hard, and then I’d give people a hug or whatever and they’d go, well my kids they go, “Oh my god mum, your breast’s so hard.” And then I’d think, “Oh when I hug other people,” because I’m a real huggy kind of girl, I hug my friends and what not, and I’d think, “Oh people must think that but they just don’t say it.”
So I think it’s, just that part is a relief. And just the way it just feels so natural. And I think you come to a point in your life, like I said, I’m 56. When I was younger I had them put in so I would wear different clothes, completely different clothes to what I’m wearing now. And I’m not saying I don’t want to look sexy and feminine, I do, and I think I still look sexy and feminine, in fact I think I look more sexy, more feminine, with my natural breasts, which sounds weird but that’s how I feel.
So when I look at myself physically I feel really comfortable in my own skin, even more comfortable than I did before. And I definitely feel healthier. And the weight loss thing, aspect, you were talking about earlier, I think your body does adjust. And if you’ve got these great big boobs maybe your body says, “Oh we should put on some weight around your tummy, match.” I definitely, because I feel fitter and healthier I can do a bit more walking and stuff like that, and not feel like I’m drained and tired from having the shuddering that I was having in the evening and things like that, was keeping me awake. So I was a little bit tired, and so now I can, I feel more fit and active and so, yeah, a lot healthier.
Trish: Yeah, totally. So how did your family and friends react to your surgery? Did you share it with your friends and family that you were having it done or?
Susan: Yeah absolutely, I’m really close to, I’ve got two daughters and two sons. Well my two daughters were very keen to get involved. They both have implants actually so it was interesting for them to come along with me to check out what was happening.
My eldest daughter went with me the first time and she was dead-set sure that I would not be happy with my breasts if I had an explant, and didn’t put new implants in. And she was like, “Oh mum, are you sure?” And she’s seen me since and she goes, “It just so suits your body, it’s so much better.” And my other daughter came along with me, you do have to go back to have checkups, which is lovely. Apparently a lot of surgeons don’t do that but Dr Tansley does do that. You go back and he checks you out and takes photos and says, “Here’s the photo of before and have a look at this now, aren’t you awesome.”
So my daughter went with me for that and she was like, she saw the before and after photos as well and she went, “You just forget what it …” She doesn’t look at me all the time so it was an option to see what they really looked like and what they look like now, and she was, “So glad you did that.” And I was really supported by them and really supported by all my friends as well. There’s a little bit involved with the surgery. After the surgery you can’t do certain things, you’ve got to be very mindful of keeping your arms … I used to call it Tyrannosaurus Rex arms because you’ve got to keep your arms down, and so have everybody there to help me and take care of me. And they’re really proud of me, and that was the main thing, is that it’s a huge big step and when part of you says, “Is this vain?” Or all of those things that you think and then you go, “No, actually, I need to do this.” And yeah, it’s a brave thing and they’re proud of me.
Trish: Yeah absolutely. So I was going to ask you, so were you in just for the day or did you stay overnight, or?
Susan: I was just in for the day so yeah. I went into a private hospital, and so you just check in for the day and it’s a really nice experience. You’re really taken care of and yeah, it all just suddenly is happening, and you come out the other side in the waiting room and then my daughter came and took me home.
And the pain was not huge. I’m probably not a huge wuss anyway. I’ve had four children without painkillers so I’m a bit more brave when it comes to pain but it wasn’t that bad. It was quite minimal and like I said, they’re there for you anyway. If you have an issue, if you have an issue with the pain you can ring them up and they take care of it.
Trish: Did you have any painkillers afterwards?
Susan: I did for about the first two days. I did take painkillers, mostly at night though. I think that’s the, always at night seems to be a time when you feel like you need to probably zonk yourself out more and make sure that you can get through. And in the day, just Panadol.
Trish: Well that’s great, well that’s so good. It sounds like it’s been a really good experience for you, as it was for my girlfriend as well.
Susan: Yeah, yeah well it’s definitely, like I said, it’s frightening to a certain degree, and if you’re perfectly honest with yourself it’s not something you enter into lightly. But if you’ve got great recommendations I think it’s the way to go. If I was going to advise anybody I’d just say, “Don’t wait, do it.”
Trish: Do it soon. I think that’s what my girlfriend said as well, she said the same thing.
Susan: Yeah, yeah, I think procrastination is the big one. It’s, yeah, because you’re scared, so you procrastinate because you’re scared.
Trish: Surgery’s a big deal so you sort of think, “Oh god, do I want to put myself through it or do I just, you know, be as I am?”
Susan: Yeah and that’s the thing is, you can try and talk yourself out of it, and that’s what I was, I’d go, “Oh well, I’ve got these hard breasts and they’re a bit painful but can I deal with it because surgery’s big.” But that’s crazy when I think about it now, I think, why would you even think that, just do it. But yeah, we’re very good at talking ourselves out of things. Well I am anyway.
Trish: No, that’s true because you want to make sure you’re doing the right thing.
Susan: Yeah and I think it’s weird, because when you’re going into surgery and you go, “Oh I’m going to get these breast implants in.” It’s a surgery too but you seem to be more encouraged and excited and what not. It’s because society is so, and you’ve got all this input of all this advertising and everything, and do the big Barbie boobs they’re called, and all of that. So you go, “Oh surgery, okay.” And even my two daughters who hate needles and things, they went, “Yeah let’s get breast implants, have the surgery.” And I go, “You’re crazy.” But everybody goes for it. And then when it comes to your health you go, “Oh maybe I could wait or maybe I won’t bother.” Isn’t that weird?
Trish: We put ourselves last, that’s so true.
Susan: Yeah and you go, yeah it’s kind of weird, kind of weird. But I’m pretty impressed that I did it and I was really impressed with the surgeons and I definitely highly recommend him so, yeah.
Trish: That’s great. Well I reckon I’ve asked you everything I could possibly want to know myself if I was going through the same thing. I do know, I had a breast reduction so I can relate in the sense, and a lift as well, so I can relate in the sense that it’s a heavy load off your chest, that’s for sure.
Susan: Yeah, no pun intended but yeah, it is a heavy load off your chest.
Trish: Yeah, no that’s great. Well thank you so much for your time today Susan. That’s been really helpful.
Susan: You’re welcome, anytime.
Trish: So ladies, if it’s something that you’re thinking of having done and you want to find a, or you can always look it up online, we’ve got a procedure page on explant surgery.
If you want to find a practitioner that can help you, you can drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you’re interested in speaking to Dr Tansley’s office you can contact them through NorthEast Plastic Surgery.
And Dr Seneviratne, I wish I could say that right, she’s a plastic surgeon. And Dr Tansley’s actually U.K.-trained plastic surgeon who’s practising as a cosmetic surgeon in Australia so they’re available for you as well. So thank you so much Susan.
Susan: You’re welcome, thank you.
If you’d like to read more about Mr Patrick Tansley MD FRCS (Plast) head to his website
https://www.plasticsurgeryhub.com.au/dr-patrick-tansley-london-melbourne-brisbane/ He can be contacted at NorthEast Plastic Surgery via www.northeastplasticsurgery.com.au and on 07 3180 3400 (Brisbane) and 03 9088 5000 (Melbourne).