Still woozy from the anaesthetic, Wendy Williams flinched as she lifted her head from the pillow and tried to focus on the bandages around her chest.
Her body felt tight and sore. but as she lay back down, she felt a sense of hope for the first time in many months.
Three years earlier, aged 30, Wendy had undergone a traumatic hysterectomy. ever since, it had felt like her femininity had been removed with her womb.
In a desperate bid to regain some of her lost confidence, she took the drastic step of having breast enlargement surgery.
Wendy hoped a 34DD bust would put her life back on track. She thought it would make her feel attractive.
But nine years on, she faces another ordeal, for Wendy is one of the thousands of women caught in the PIP implant scandal.
Worries about the implants surfaced in December 2011, after French authorities launched a major investigation into their safety.
They were found to contain industrial silicone rather than medical-grade fillers, making them more prone to rupture and leakage.
The Department of Health estimated up to 47,000 UK women were affected.
Wendy was among them but instead of accepting her fate, she joined forces with eight other affected women in a unique campaign.
Since then, they’ve cuddled snakes, baked “booby buns” and auctioned paintings in a bid to raise the money to replace the implants. And they’ve formed a powerful bond.
“People often think boob jobs are all about vanity but I had to have one after my hysterectomy left me severely depressed and feeling unwomanly,” says Wendy, 42, from Rotherham, South Yorkshire.
“At first I was ecstatic – my bust looked amazing. My clothes fitted, I could go shopping and I loved what I saw in the mirror.
"but when I got the pains and realised they were PIP implants, I was devastated. I just couldn’t believe that I was a victim.”
Wendy says she is in an even worse position now than before she had enlargement surgery, when she was a small 34AA.
“I would never have had cosmetic surgery if I had known what a terrible position I would be in today,” she reflects.
The divorced mother-of-two and part-time cleaner endures constant, terrible migraines, night sweats and great pain.
"And she believes that her implants – which she says have ruptured twice, the last time two years ago – are squarely to blame.
“I have had to take antidepressants and my whole life has been affected,” she says. “The thought of this terrible stuff coursing around my body makes me feel really sick.”
Depression: The stress had taken a terrible toll on Kerry NeedhamAndy Stenning
Wendy is not alone. Kerry Needham, the mother of Ben Needham, the toddler who disappeared from the Greek Island of Kos during a holiday 21 years ago, also suffered.
After 12 years of depression, struggling with the burden of not knowing if her son was alive or dead, surgery was Kerry’s attempt to embrace life again.
“The stress really took a terrible toll on my body and my confidence over the years. I was terribly depressed and pretty much a wreck the whole time,” says the 40-year-old mum from Sheffield.
“People might think women with implants just want to look like Barbie and should pay the price.
"but that is so far from the truth for so many of us. It is often about rebuilding your confidence after a life trauma or child-bearing or even cancer.
“My new breasts helped me to cope and to keep going on with the Find Ben campaign.
" I thought nothing could ever affect me again after he vanished. but when I found out I had the PIP implants, I felt like I had been knocked for six all over again.”
Petrified by the thought of what damage they might be wreaking on her body, Kerry – like Wendy – went online, looking for others going through the same thing.
They and seven other women found each other on a Facebook page for people worried about PIP implants.
All nine of them – Wendy, 42, Kerry, 40, Antonia Mariconda, 34, Katrina Allison, 45, Victoria Ashton, 34, Carol Robson, 63, Michelle Hitch, 41, Rebecca Ashton, 33, and Susan Linley, 42 – shared their stories and debated what steps to take next.
The NHS has agreed to remove all risky implants – and replace them for free if it had carried out the original surgery.
But it would not replace implants if the surgery had been carried out at a private clinic. It was expected the private sector would pick up the bill.
But many women had their operations at clinics that had since closed.
And they were frightened of what their bodies would look like if the implants were taken out and they could not afford to replace them.
Suffering from terrible headaches, swelling and constant pain, the group worried where they would ever find the money to pay for the safe implants they needed.
So the ladies began regularly messaging each other, offering support and a listening ear.
Gradually, they became friends, and one day they began discussing the possibility of setting up a charity to help women trapped in the same position they were in.
Unique campaign: taking part in an I’m a Celebrity gameBen Lack
It was then that they launched their campaign, PIPs Out! and began organising fundraising events to replace faulty implants.
Each needed around £2,200 for the procedure, so quickly the ladies pitched in with their thoughts.
One suggested auctioning paintings on eBay, another wanted to bake cupcakes. In doing so, the girls have individually raised £1,000 each.
Last month, they held an I’m a Celebrity…Get me Out of Here!-style fundraising event at a wildlife park – complete with grub-eating and snake-stroking.
And at a beauty evening they sold Booby Buns – cupcakes with breasts as decorations – and raised £220.
A musical night featuring Kerry’s brother Danny as Elvis added another £220 to the pot.
They have now raised £11,000 and five of the girls are booked in for their operations later this month at a clinic in Preston.
They plan to pay for the other four women’s operations by holding a Glam-a-thon, where they’ll do a sponsored walk head to toe in glamorous get-up.
Jeweller Katrina Allison, 45, from Rotherham, South Yorkshire, was signed off sick from work for three months due to depression caused by her implants.
But she claims getting involved in the PIPs Out! charity has been her lifeline.
“I have been told my implants have probably ruptured,” she says. “I have constant numbness, insomnia and headaches. The only thing keeping me going has been the other women.
“They understand exactly what I’m going through and it really helps having a project we can work on together. It makes me feel like I’m not alone in this.
“I have done everything I can think of to raise money from selling my sunbed, to making and auctioning off canvas paintings and I’ve had a lot of fun.”
Wendy agrees wholeheartedly. “Finding the other women online has been exactly what’s saved me,” she says. “The PIPs girls will be my lifelong friends.”
Another group member, mum-of-two Susan Linley, from Sheffield, was distraught when she discovered doctors had given her dodgy PIP implants.
She’d had breast enlargement surgery after losing weight following the birth of her two children. She went up from a 32A to a 34DD.
Brave: Wendy with a snakeBen Lack
“At first I was happy with them,” she says. “I didn’t seem to have any major problems, just the odd shooting pain through each breast. but I thought it was normal.
“It was only when the scandal broke in December that I started to worry. When the clinic told me I had them, I was in such shock that I just put the phone down and cried.
“I’d been under the impression I’d been given Allergan implants, so I was devastated. I was told to get in touch with my doctor if I had any problems, which I did.
“But they only agreed to remove, not reconstruct them, which would have left me looking disfigured. I was beside myself with panic.
"My GP shrugged and said that was all he could do. I just sat there in tears.”
The clinic where Susan had her breast surgery had ceased trading, leaving her in a truly desperate situation.
“If it hadn’t been for the other girls at PIPs Out!, I’d have been on antidepressants by now,” she says. “Their support has been absolutely priceless.”
To raise the money for her removal and reconstruction at another private clinic, Susan sold home-made dolls and heart-shaped crafts on eBay.
Mum-of-four Rebecca Ashton, 33, from Clayton-le-Moors, Lancashire, was just as desperate.
She was meant to be getting married this year to her partner of 18 years.
But their dream wedding had to be indefinitely postponed so she could save money to have her implants replaced.
“I’d never had more than a 32A bust and had always dreamt of having a womanly figure. so when I decided to have a boob job in 2007, I was over the moon,” she says.
“The first sign of any problem was during Christmas last year.
"The scandal had just broken and I’d recently noticed a weird rippling effect across my skin. My boobs were looking misshapen and smaller. so I panicked and got them checked out.”
Rebecca was told she had PIPs, but to her distress her original surgeon had returned overseas and the clinic now refused to help unless she paid another £3,700.
“I was really heartbroken. I desperately wanted an MRI scan to see what was going on but I couldn’t even afford the £400 for that,” she explains.
“I was breaking down all the time so finding a support network in the other girls – and simply having a safe and comforting place to talk – has been my saviour.
“And now our operations are booked, I’ll sleep soundly for the first time in months.”