Kelly Smith's attempt to go up a bra size when her 15-year-old leaky saline implant needed a repair this winter left has her in a self-imposed house arrest.
Smith, 46, expected a few more admiring glances with her new curves. What she said she eventually got was a profile that looks like someone took a bite out of the bottom of an apple. Now Smith said she dreads anyone ever laying eyes on her bosom again.
"Oh, god, no. Oh no. Nobody will ever see me topless," said Smith of Kingston, Ontario.
Smith said her new size-D implants looked "fantastic" for eight weeks. But then a quarter-sized "bubble" appeared between her breasts. A plastic surgeon at the local hospital told Smith her saline implants were now tearing through her breast tissue, so Smith returned to her plastic surgeon to get the tears repaired.
"She [her doctor] took the bandages off, and when you're looking down, they look good. When you look directly at, or from the side there is no breast tissue underneath," Smith said.
Smith said she has canceled dates and been on anti-anxiety medication since the bandages came off on July 24.
"Once I saw what I look like on Friday, the only place where I've gone is my girlfriend's house," she said.
Breasts can mean a lot to a woman. A decade ago, breast cancer survivors including Johns Hopkins' breast cancer educator Lillie Shockney went as far as to testify before Congress to prove the point.
Shockney and others eventually won a fight to get insurance companies to cover breast reconstruction after a mastectomy. The procedure had not been covered, even though Reconstruction after testicular cancer already was by most insurers.
Nearly 80,000 women underwent breast reconstruction surgery and 307,230 women chose to get breast implants for cosmetic reasons in 2008, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Those numbers may be an underestimation, since they only include surgeries performed by members of the ASPS and not all the doctors in the country.
Plastic surgeons say slight revisions are common and serious permanent eyesores are rare. Indeed, a small fraction of women -- about 20,000 -- who got breast implants in 2008 decided to have them removed. However, when something goes wrong in plastic surgery only so much can be done.
"Nobody can promise you you're not going to have a complication with a surgery," said Dr. John Canady, the president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. "If somebody promises that to you, you should talk to somebody else."
Canady recommends talking to several doctors before choosing one, and to be sure to do your research before committing to a doctor. Even if an unsightly complication happens, Canady said there is some hope.
"Things can be made to look better. Scars cannot be completely erased but they can be made to look better," Canady said. "As important as what can actually be done, is to make sure the patients have reasonable expectations to what can be done."
However, for people living with unwanted features, psychologists who specialize in body image issues say it's unrealistic to think opinions about bodies can be excised from our self-esteem.
"It affects people tremendously. Body image -- even if it's one feature you don't like -- can have a huge impact," said Amy Flowers a psychologist in private practice in Macon, Ga., and a member of the American Psychological Association.