My breast looked like a huge wooden ball
2003, Woman's OwnView PDF
Breast augmentationCapsular contracture
As a student, Sefi Mumoz was tempted by a cut-pice boob job. Here she reveals what happened when her implants went terribly wrong - and her desperate battle to get then put right.
To most women, it would seem Sefi Mumoz had it all. A career as a tennis coach with a winning body to match, and her fair share of male admirers. Yet Sefi was deeply unhappy, "I hated my breasts and longed for implants", she recalls. "My breasts were beautiful until my late teens. but because I'd played tennis, they'd suffered horrendously".
"All that running around the hard court had really taken its toll. Even with the support of sports bra, my breast had ended up ... and covered with stretch marks. By the time I was 28 they just hung like two empty sacs and I could't bear to see my reflection in a mirror. I knew a boob job was my only option."
It was to prove a disastrous decision. Two painful operations and countless consultation later. Sefi has finally got the breasts she'd always dreamed about. But it has cost her dearly.
"I made the ultimate mistake of trying to do it "on the cheap" when I should have known better." Sefi now 32, admits "I ended up with painful mismatched boobs which totally robbed me of my self-esteem."
Sefi, who grew up in Seville, Spain, had come to London in 1997 to study English and dance. She financed her course with waitressing jobs and money was tight.
"For almost a decade I'd wanted a boob job but there was never any money spare", she explains. "Then my grandmother died and left me £2000 in her will. I knew practically what I was going to do with it."
"I saw three different cosmetic surgeons in London and they quoted me between £3,000 and £3,500 for implants. Even with my savings, I did't have nearly enough."
Then through a friend, Sefi heard about a plastic surgeon in Alicante, Spain, who could perform the op at a discounted price. "My friends mother had had a nose job and a couple of her friends had had implants, and they were all perfectly happy. He charged around £1,800 for implants. I could fly to Alicante, have the operation, stay with my friend and recuperate in the sun. What could be better?"
After a series of telephone calls to the surgeon. Sefi flew out to meet him "I liked him immediately" she recalls. "He was really sympathetic. He told me I could have silicone implants which would take me from an "empty" 34B to my original 34C. I stressed I wanted firmer, natural looking breasts, not huge balloons."
"He explained that all anaesthetics carry a degree of risk but, apart from that there wouldn’t be any problems. It all seemed so straightforward, and I had total confidence in him."
Two days later, Sefi had the operation in a private hospital in Alicante. Once the initial swelling had gone down, she was thrilled with her new breasts. "They were exactly as he’d described them. They were really beautiful."
A delighted Sefi flew back to London. "I went back to see the surgeon twice before I left – once to have the stitches taken out and again for a check-up. There was no hint of what was to come."
Eight months later Sefi was mortified to find her left breast had gone rock-hard. "It was like a big wooden ball, totally solid, and looked completely different to the right one." Alarmed, Sefi immediately rang her surgeon in Spain. "He said it was probably just a hormonal problem and suggested I wait a few weeks for thing to settle down before calling him again."
When things didn't improve, a frightened Sefi went along to her local A&E department in South London. There, a doctor didn't even try to hide his disgust. I'd waited for five hours, and when I finally saw him, the doctor took one look at my misshapen breasts and said, "If you want to put implants in your body, that's your problem. I'm here to save lives." I just burst into tears. I was terrified that my boobs would never look normal again.
It was a similar story at the next hospital, where doctors where equally dismissive. "I went to six different hospitals, every one was the same", says Sefi. In desperation, she scraped together her air fare and flew back to Spain.
The surgeon who had performed my operation told me I was suffering from encapsulation, where excess tissue had built up around the implant causing it to harden.
"He then tried to massage the implant by hand in an effort to break the tissue "capsule". He tried a few times, but in the end I had to ask him to stop – it was just too painful."
The surgeon then said he head to reopen Sefi’s scar to remove part of the hardened tissue. This was done in his office, under a local anaesthetic.
"I was in a dreadful state", says Sefi. "I was so scared and I left his surgery in floods of tears. "Although there was a slight improvement to the shape of my left breast, it was still much harder and lower than my right and I had a funny gap in my cleavage. My boobs looked like an odd pair. Yet when I mentioned this to the surgeon, he just said it was all my imagination. He was very dismissive "it was clear he wanted to wash his hands of me."
Understandably, Sefi's confidence hit rock bottom. "I'd hated my breasts before, but now I was distraught. I couldn't bear my boyfriend to see me without my clothes on.
I went to see my GP, but he warned me that even if I was eligible for treatment on the NHS, there was no guarantee I'd end up with a surgeon who specialised in breast operations and I could easily end up worse off.
By now I'd noticed signs of my right breast beginning to harden. I felt desperate, deformed and abandoned. What made it worse was knowing I only had myself to blame. But after three years of trying to get help, I resigned myself to living with my body as it was."
Then, earlier this year, Alberto, Sefi's boyfriend of five years, came to her rescue. "He knew how miserable I was and suggested he took out a loan to pay for a private operation to repair the damage. I just threw my arms around him."
Sefi set about finding a doctor to perform the surgery. "I went to see at least a dozen surgeons. Some were unwilling to do the operation because I had not been their patient, and others were totally unsympathetic."
Then Sefi heard about Angelica Kavouni, a Harley Street surgeon, who specialised in breast operations. "The first time I went to see her I immediately felt she understood me. Perhaps being another woman, she could relate to what I'd been through.
"Angelica told me she could insert implants below the muscle, rather than above, which would make them less likely to encapsulate. She did warn me, though, that I'd be in a lot of pain after the op, and my breasts would take a few weeks to settle down into a normal shape."
Undeterred, Sefi went ahead with the new procedure, costing £4,500, in February this year. When she came round, she was horrified to be told that the original implants had leaked "probably as a result of the Spanish surgeon trying to break up the hardened tissue."
I was extremely lucky that the breast hadn't become infected", says Sefi. "Instead, once the initial swelling had gone down, my new boobs were in great shape."
Sefi is delighted to have finally resolved her problems, though the scars of what happened will haunt her for some time to come. "I'd advise anyone considering surgery to think long and hard before deciding to go ahead. Also, it's probably fair to say you get what you pay for. My problems started months after the op, and I needed a surgeon who was close at hand and totally committed to aftercare.
A cut price deal is very tempting, but it may end up costing you a lot more in the long run."