DALLAS — After years as a teacher, Kristen Bobovec knows the power of poster board. So on a trifold, she has chronicled pictures, notes and information following her own journey with breast cancer.
She was diagnosed in 2004, had a bilateral mastectomy, went through chemotherapy, then took what doctors told her was the natural next step.
"You got implants!" Bobovec said. "I was 34, so when you’re young, that’s really what a lot of women do."
But Bobovec says the years that followed brought depression, anxiety, endless fevers and exhaustion, making her a shell of the woman she’d been before.
"I literally have never been so sick before in my life," she said. "I didn’t know what to do. I went to doctor after doctor."
No one had answers, until she read a friend’s Facebook post talking about what she called Breast Implant Illness.
"I was like, 'This is what’s wrong with me! This is it. I finally have a name.' I cried!" she said.
It’s a sentiment shared by thousands of women in support groups online, who are calling for more study of breast implant safety. The FDA has acknowledged a type of lymphoma associated with implants. As of this month, 660 cases have been reported since 2010, 246 of them in just the last year.
"First and foremost, we’re advocates for our patients," Dallas plastic surgeon Dr. William P. Adams, Jr. said.
Adams is on a newly formed task force with The American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery that’s planning its research on the symptoms that women report, cancerous or not.
Adams said the group will be presenting to the FDA at the end of March at its advisory panel meeting on breast implants.
"If our patients are concerned about something or we think there’s an issue, we want to learn more about it, study it, help the patients," he said.
That makes Bobovec, and many others, feel they’re finally being heard.