(Perdy, Emma, Annette (behind me), Me, Sandy, Ana, Laura & Sarah)
This all started three years ago, when I approached a production company in London, (thanks to my cousin who put me in contact), about making a documentary on how silicone wasn’t inert and the illnesses that seem to have arisen for women with breast implants. They were keen. We got ITV interested and we even made a ‘taster tape’ (little video about the issue etc to show the TV execs). This rolled on for a few months, with us all getting excited that we were in the mix to get a commission. We didn’t. They dropped the idea and that was the end of that.
Scroll on to 2018, about two years later. I find a message in my facebook inbox from a journalist Esther Oxford. She wanted to speak to me about breast implants and the illnesses that women seem to suffer with. After vetting her and making sure she was who she said she was… I agreed to have a chat on the phone.
Esther was working for Panorama at the time on a medical device expose. I was more than happy to help.
A month into helping correlate the information she needed, I received a suprising email. It was from the original production company. They had got Dipatches on Channel 4 interested in commisioning a half an hour documetary on how breast implants were making women sick.
I mean… talk about all the buses at once!!!
I didn’t take the decision lightly but as we were already so advanced with Panorma AND I truly loved how Esther seemed just as passionate about raising awareness as we all were, I let the other production company down and continued to move forward with Panorma.
After nearly 6 months of working with the team, filming at my home and with my children, it was only a week away till it would finally be aired on the telly. I knew now I was sharing air time with other medical devices, but if it got the awareness out there, it was a step in the right direction. Then I got a call from Esther saying she needed to have an ‘awkward’ conversation with me. They had dropped my segment. I was utterly gutted and felt like I had let down all the women in my group, as well as the women still in the dark. I also gelt guilty about not making the right decison all those months back and dropping Dispatches.
Esther promised me it wasn’t over and that she wanted to try and make a documentary with another production company. She went to Blakeway and approached Executive Producer Karen Edwards. Karen was keen on the idea and together they went to Dispatches at Channel 4. After weeks of anticipation we finally got the commission and they asked me to report it. I was over the moon and really honoured to be asked.
My Dispatches journey was truly humbling, I met some of the most incredible women who were willing to go on camera and share their journeys, Julie Harris, Kathryn Hewitson, Debbie Biddulph, Annette Stevens, Ana Remigio, Sarah Beech, Laura Pritchard, Perdy Barrett and Suzanne Turner. It was also incredibly exciting to finally meet Sandy Cooper and Emma Cooper (no they are not related). These ladies are everything and without them (andthe incredible Lianne Trodden, Beeylinda Agdaji Ruaux, Danielle Grimes and Annette Stevens) and their dedication to helping women with BII, there simply wouldn’t be a support group on Facebook.
Emma, little ol’ me, Sandy
Something I need to clarify too…
SANDY COOPER SET THE SUPPORT GROUP UP WITH ME!!!
I DIDN’T SET IT UP ON MY OWN…
Unfortuntately this wasn’t portrayed in the programme correctly and I was quite upset about it. Sandy, however, was her usual fabulous self telling me ‘it’s fine honey, honestly’. But everyone should know what an amazing human she is. Without her the group wouldn’t have started, because I wasn’t going it alone. Sandy is the research hound of the group and when the ‘shit’ hit the fan during a stressful week with Dispatches and research was key to keep it on track. Sandy was there, up until the wee hours sending over link after link after link. Eternally grateful xxx
I was so overwhelmed by the documentary finally airing. It honestly didn’t seem real. Getting the response during my interview with the Head of Devices, John Wilkinson at the MHRA saying that they should ‘re-open the book’, was simply incredible ( I did have to hold back the tears during the interview because I wasn’t expected that response). Lets hope this actually manifests.
Unfortunately we found out just as Dispatches was about to air, that our group couldn’t be found in the Facebook Search. This was devastating news for us all, as we had all worked so hard, especially the incredible admins of the group; Lianne Trodden, Beeylinda Agdaji Ruaux, Danielle Grimes, Annette Stevens, Emma Cooper and Sandy Cooper. A week on as I type this, we are still trying to get help to resolve this and so there are women who still can’t find us. One lady did say that she thought the group was no longer available, but just happened to come across the link to it somewhere else through a friend! Thank goodness she did.
Thankfully there were ladies that could find us through other channels, Instagram and messenger. With their permission, here are just a few of the messages that we received…
Hi Abbie, I’ve just watched your Dispatches programme on Channel 4, it was brilliant and made me cry!! I cried because I have been so ill. I had silicone implants on the NHS in 1994 (medical reasons). I heard and felt them rupture in 1999, but no-one would listen to or believe me. I managed to get my new GP last year to let me have an MRI scan, and they arranged for me almost immediately to have the ruptured implants removed. However, the surgeon left in the capsule, so I am no better. In fact I am so ill, I can’t go out much at all, and am having tests for Multiple Sclerosis. I don’t think I have it, but I have every symptom going, of those mentioned for implant illness. I am currently begging the NHS to please remove the capsule or I will never get better. I have put on over 6 stone and look like a totally different person to how I once was. I have no life, just an existence, but no-one will listen to me. I want to go on ‘This Morning’, but am too shy, and have lost every shred of confidence. I hope and pray that your programme will make GP’s and the NHS believe there really is an illness connected to implants. If you need anyone to back you, I certainly will. I’d do anything to get someone to believe me. Kind regards, Val.
I’ve just watched your breast implant illness programme. I’m 31 and had my implants at 18. For so many years I’ve struggled with so many symptoms of breast implant illness and had no idea what it was. I feel drained and exhausted with constant trips to doctors of illness and anxiety. I’m now sat here feeling like I actually now might know what is causing this and praying i will feel normal again if I get these implants out. I had no idea about breast implant illness and would of never known if it wasn’t for your show . I just want to say thank you. X
Abbie I’m so utterly touched after watching tonight’s episode, even more convinced this is what I’ve been experiencing for the last ten years – that has taken over and changed my life. I’ve always known something wasn’t right and battled with my GP that it wasn’t just Fibromyalgia and that I shouldn’t have to suffer in silence, or suffer as I have been. I’m on a mission tomorrow to change and regain my life instead of suffering in pain, lethargic and just not me!! Xx
Sorry to contact you personally but I was shocked by Dispatches last night. I’m a BRCA 2 gene carrier which as meant I’ve had a Total Abdominal Hysterectomy and a Bi- lateral Mastectomy about 11 years ago. 10 years ago I had implants fitted at my local NHS hospital. I’ve always been fit and healthy I don’t drink or smoke. I ran 5 days a week and did Zumba for fun 3 days a week. Over 5 years ago I started to suffer with chronic fatigue but then worse my legs started hurting so much I could hardly walk. My GP advised to rest and I did . My legs constantly hurt me like I had done a gym session every day. I was referred to Rheumatology where after many tests they diagnosed me with Fibromyalgia. I don’t do any keep fit anymore but push myself to walk. I’ve reduced my hours at work but by break I could just sit and cry I’m totally shattered. I suffer with headaches brain fog and I walk into things regularly. I’ve always suffered with pains since having my implants in. I’ve recently been back to Breast Consultant because my implants are lumpy and causing me problems under my arms. His solution was to take fat from my tummy and pad out my implants. I’ve always said when I can have them removed I will because they have been nothing but trouble with them. I work in the NHS too and my Boss rung me last night to tell me to watch the show as she thought it matched me. Just starting to hope that I can get back to myself instead of having to live with Fibromyalgia for rest of my life if it is in fact my implants. Thank you for making the show feeling hopeful.
Hi Abbie, A very dear friend messaged me earlier to say, switch your TV on now…. I have Allergan implants (7 years in) and one has ruptured !!! It’s so scary and nobody seems to care, and more scary no one seems to care about the obvious health risks either, not to mention the fiscal impact on their customers, patients, victims lives….!!! I was so relieved to see you this evening…thank you xx
There are so many women in the UK who keep the secret that they have breast implants close to their chest (no pun intended). Breast implants aren’t just for the glamour. They are also for women with deformities of their breasts, asymmetry, no development at all and also after a mastectomy.
Breast Implant Illness is real. FACT. It causes many symptoms from chronic fatigue, excruciating headaches, joint and muscle pains, insomnia, brain fog, constant hair loss, dizzy spells, back and neck ache, itching, anxiety and depression to name but a few!! All of this leads to a debilitating life, where these women struggle daily to work, be a mother to their children, a wife to their husband, they loose friends, relationships break down because they are always complaining they feel ill and can’t socialise and just generally exist. Some, including me, have contemplated suicide because we can no longer take the pain and suffering.
We are turned away by GPs and consultants because our test results all come back within ‘normal range’ and because there is no ‘scientific evidence’… yet anecdotally it is HUGE.
Now there is the risk of developing a breast implant lymphoma, BIA-ALCL which is fortunately curable if diagnosed quickly. But with the information regarding signs and symptoms still lacking within certain parts of the medical sector, women are not getting the diagnosis quick enough, if at all.
I have been so bloody honoured to be the Reporter on Dispatches about this under acknoweldged situation. To help raise awareness for women still in the dark and silently suffering. I have met the most AMAZING ladies during filming and to each of them I am eternally grateful for your courage in sharing your journey with Breast Implant Illness and BIA-ALCL.
Here’s to getting the MHRA to recognised BII and open the door for women to recieve the recognisition, support and medical help they need.
Dispatches. 8pm. Monday 24th June. Channel 4. – Watch on catch up now….
FACEBOOK SUPPORT GROUP for BII : https://www.facebook.com/groups/513252575548197