A woman whose breast implant burst twice following a double mastectomy to beat her family’s cancer curse has revealed how she was drenched by “dead, liquefied fat.”
Accountant Louise Franklin, 29, had her breasts removed in February 2014 after testing positive for the inherited BRCA1 gene mutation, Mirror reports.
This put her at a 60-90 per cent lifetime risk of developing breast cancer and a 40-60 per cent risk of ovarian cancer, according to the NHS.
But her first immediate reconstruction with a DIEP flap, where belly fat is used to create the implant – one of six operations she underwent at St Thomas’ Hospital in central London – failed.
Louise of Bexhill, East Sussex, recalled: “Following the operation, I was informed that my blood vessel had broken down in three places. It was touch and go if my left breast would survive.”
Five days later, she had the left implant removed but some tissue had been saved, meaning her breast was not completely flat.
Over the next six weeks though her breast started to swell.
“Lying in bed one night, I realised I was soaking wet,” she said. “My left breast had literally burst open and was pouring with dead liquified fat. This took many months to heal and when it did, I was left with a flat breast that resembled a shrivelled old prune.”
Louise, who has lost five close female relatives including her gran and great gran to breast or ovarian cancer, was tested for BRCA1 after her mum Elaine Franklin was diagnosed with grade 3 invasive ductal cancer in her left breast in 2007.
Just 47, the mum-of- two had a single mastectomy, followed by gruelling chemo and radiotherapy.
“Having preventative surgery, like actress Angelina Jolie did, was a very difficult decision, which took me several years to make,“ admitted Louise – Elaine’s only daughter – who had the genetic tests in 2009.
“But I wanted to reduce my risk and not to spend my whole life worrying about getting cancer.
“I’d looked on the National Hereditary Breast Cancer Helpline’s website at photos of women’s surgery results and the different types of reconstruction.
“I felt that, while I didn’t have kids, or a husband and I could concentrate on me, I wanted to get it out of the way – rather than spending my life worrying about getting cancer.”
But Louise, who had a breast reduction from a J to an E cup in 2013, before the mastectomy to give her a better chance of keeping her own nipples, did not anticipate the complications. It saw her need 24 hours of surgery in three years.
She said: “I needed six operations, because the DIEP flap and the fat graft didn’t seem to work for me on the left side.
“I always knew there could be complications. It wasn’t anyone’s fault.”
The one high spot during Louise’s medical woes was finding love in 2014 – just after her first implant burst – with engineer Tom Hutton, 24.
She recalled: “Tom worked with my step-dad, Chris Franklin, 65, at the same engineering firm, which is how we met. He’d tried to set us up for a while.
“It was a few months before my second round of reconstructive surgery.
“I was feeling pretty insecure about how my boobs looked but, luckily, Tom already knew about my surgery. He wasn’t bothered about the way my boobs were and was just so supportive.
“We got on brilliantly and soon started going out.”
A few months later, in January 2015, Louise had her second operation to rebuild her left breast, using fat grafting – when fat tissue is removed usually from the thighs, belly, and buttocks, by liposuction, before being processed into liquid and injected to recreate the breast.
Sadly Louise’s body rejected the fat grafting again, causing the implant to burst in two places.
Louise said: “I’d just got out of the shower and was drying myself, getting ready for work, when my boob just went ‘pop’! Fat was spraying out, it was disgusting.
“Distraught that I’d been so unlucky again, after doctors at St Thomas’ drained my boob, I decided enough was enough and to go for a silicone implant.”
First, she had a temporary expander fitted, to prepare her for the permanent silicone implant, which she received in October last year.
Before that, in May 2015, Tom proposed on a secluded beach in the Caribbean’s Dominican Republic.
And, setting their wedding for October 21, 2017, at Battle Abbey, a partially ruined Benedictine abbey in East Sussex, she had a new goal.
Louise continued: “I’ve had a lot of operations for a woman of my age. But I’ve achieved what I wanted – to reduce my risk of cancer before my 30th birthday in January 2018 and my wedding later this year.
“I had a silicone implant fitted in October 2016 and, while I may have two different types of implant and breasts of slightly different sizes, that doesn’t matter.
“My surgery’s been completed before I walk down the aisle, which is what I wanted.”
Louise and Tom, who want a family, say they will have genetic testing on the embryos to see if their children also have the BRCA1 gene.
“If we have no clear embryos, we will still try naturally for children,” Louise said.
“If our children have the BRCA1 I would tell them to have a double mastectomy, like me. But, hopefully, there will be other options for them in the future.”
When approached, St Thomas’ Hospital, London, declined to comment.
MUST PAR Now determined to raise awareness of hereditary breast cancer, Louise took part in a charity photoshoot, with 11 other women, who have been affected by it, for the National Hereditary Breast Cancer helpline, modelling post-surgical lingerie brand Anita.