Shannon Sayers with her book, Army Strong, on her holistic approach to fighting breast cancer. (Tracy Holmes photo)

B.C. woman forced to undergo emergency surgery after breast-implant illness

Shannon Sayers of White Rock is hoping to warn others of implant dangers

A White Rock woman who had emergency surgery nearly a year ago to remove her breast implants is hoping her story will save others the “terrifying” experience that led up to her procedure.

“It’s an epidemic right now, it’s so bad,” Shannon Sayers said of breast-implant illness.

“I was told by my surgeon that (implants) were FDA-approved and 100 per cent safe. It took me seven years to get sick with them.”

READ MORE: B.C. woman is a prisoner to her breast implants

Breast cancer, she noted, was “a piece of cake,” by comparison.

Sayers shared her story with Peace Arch News last week, on the same day that Health Canada announced plans to suspend breast-implant manufacturer Allergan’s licences for Biocell implants, a move intended “to protect Canadian patients from the rare but serious risk” of breast implant-associated anaplastic large-cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL).

Sayers said she doesn’t know if she has the lymphoma that has been associated with the textured implants she received in 2011, and encourages any woman who develops a fluid pocket around their implants to get tested for it.

She also wants women who may be considering implants for cosmetic or reconstruction purposes to think again.

“Accept your bodies the way they are,” Sayers said. “Why would you risk you life over this?”

Sayers, 49, had her first set of implants – the saline variety – at age 24, a decision she says she made for cosmetic reasons, to counter the effects of breastfeeding. At that time, and for nearly two decades after, she never considered that the procedure could cause her grief down the road.

When her breast cancer was discovered nine years ago, one of the tumours was wrapped “like an octopus” around one of those implants, she said. In performing a double-mastectomy 11 days post-diagnosis, her surgeon removed three tumours in all, along with “three or four” lymph nodes.

Looking back, Sayers is confident her first implants led to her cancer. She said she was never told at 24 that implants have a five- to seven-year lifespan, and said more recent testing at BC Cancer confirmed her disease – which her mother and grandmother also had – was not rooted in genetics, she said.

“Mine was called environmental,” she said. “I would never have thought I would’ve got cancer from implants.”

Sayers said her breast-implant illness symptoms set in almost immediately after her second set of implants, although it would be years before she made the connection between them and the bouts of pneumonia and other ailments. She also experienced immune-related issues including rashes, neuropathy, joint pain and more.

Early last year, after her car was rear-ended in January – and unbeknownst to her, an implant capsule was ruptured by the resulting pressure from her seatbelt – the severity of her symptoms worsened. Sayers described the months that followed as a “nightmare,” with burning that felt like bee stings in her chest and numbness down one entire side of her body, ringing in her ears and feeling like her internal organs were on fire.

“They all looked at me like I was crazy,” Sayers said of the majority of medical personnel she saw when seeking help.

“You feel like you’re going crazy.”

Desperate to find an experienced surgeon to remove her implants, including the capsules, Sayers remembers she was on the brink of losing all hope – “I was going to die,” she said, “my body was so bad” – when something told her to Google ‘Beverly Hills.’

After connecting with a surgeon there who specialized in explants, Sayers flew to California and had the US $18,000 surgery on April 25.

“When I woke up, all I remember, I had tears coming down my face: ‘I’m going to be OK,’” she said.

Sayers learned soon after that a MRSA-type infection, propionibacterium, had been behind many of her symptoms, “burning (her) from the inside.” She plans to send one of her implants for more conclusive testing of a black, mould-like film that covers it.

Sayers said three months after her explant, her symptoms had significantly subsided, and today, she feels “about 90 per cent” recovered – “Last year at this time, I was about 12 lbs lighter, my hair was falling out, I had skin falling off my freaking body,” she said.

A burning sensation still lingers under her ribs, and anxiety remains a daily ordeal, but Sayers is determined to continue a regimen of natural products that she’s found keeps her symptoms at bay.

“One day at a time for me,” she said. “Today’s a pretty good day.”

Wanting to share her experience, spread information and support other women, Sayers launched a blog, getarmystrong.com, in January. She invites any woman with questions to contact her at 604-802-2214.



tholmes@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

Shannon Sayers shows one of the textured implants that she travelled to LA to have removed last April, after developing a bacterial infection. (Tracy Holmes photo)

Just Posted

No injuries in early morning Comox car fire

Comox firefighters responded to an early morning vehicle fire Monday near the… Continue reading

27th Annual Courtenay and District Fish & Game Outdoor Show coming in June

June is just around the corner and so is the 27th Annual… Continue reading

New version of outdoor art show set to take place in Comox in August

Despite the announcement earlier this year of the cancellation of the Originals… Continue reading

Tales from MusicFest: ‘House bands’ from the golden age of rock and R&B

Robert Moyes Special to The Record Doug Cox, artistic director and executive… Continue reading

Comox Valley artist named Living Legend for wildfowl carvings

An artist from the Comox Valley has been named a Living Legend… Continue reading

QUIZ: Test your knowledge of Victoria Day

How much do you know about the monarch whose day we celebrate each May?

Take-home drug testing kits latest pilot to help curb B.C.’s overdose crisis

Researchers look to see if fentanyl testing could be a useful tool for those who use drugs alone

Facebook takes down anti-vaxxer page that used image of late Canadian girl

Facebook said that the social media company has disabled the anti-vaccination page

Search crews rescue kids, 6 and 7, stranded overnight on Coquitlam mountain

Father and two youngsters fall down a steep, treacherous cliff while hiking Burke Mountain

Raptors beat Bucks 118-112 in 2OT thriller

Leonard has 36 points as Toronto cuts Milwaukee’s series lead to 2-1

‘Teams that win are tight’: B.C. Lions search for chemistry at training camp

The Lions added more than 50 new faces over the off-season, from coaching staff to key players

Rescue crews suspend search for Okanagan kayaker missing for three days

71-year-old Zygmunt Janiewicz was reported missing Friday

B.C. VIEWS: Reality of our plastic recycling routine exposed

Turns out dear old China wasn’t doing such a great job

Carbon dioxide at highest levels for over 2.5 million years, expert warns of 100 years of disruption

CO2 levels rising rapidly, now higher than at any point in humanity’s history

Most Read