Norma Morosan and Shannon Sayers share a common bond – a desire to help women who want their breast implants removed afford the surgery, in light of findings that certain implants have been linked to cancer. (Tracy Holmes photo)

B.C. breast cancer survivor to help others with cost of removing lymphoma-linked implants

Artist’s widow to use proceeds from late husband’s painting to help fund explants not covered by MSP

Few people know it, but Norma Morosan is a breast cancer survivor.

It’s information the White Rock woman says she only ever shared with family, following her 2011 diagnosis.

Until now, that is.

Morosan, the widow of renowned artist Voja Morosan, stepped out of her comfort zone last week to share the piece of her “very private” life in an effort to help other women like herself – those who’ve had breast implants following a mastectomy, but now want them removed in light of a link found between the textured implants and Breast Implant Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL).

Morosan received confirmation in a June 28 letter that she was among those potentially at risk, and said the news was “terrifying.”

It “came as a huge shock,” Morosan said.

“When I read this – the fear that went through me.”

The letter describes the condition as rare, with a risk ranging from one in 3,000 to one in 30,000. In addition to sharing symptoms to watch for, and that the best treatment for those with BIA-ALCL is removal of the implant and capsule, the letter advises that the explant surgery is not covered by the Medical Services Plan “unless there is proven clinical pathology.”

Morosan said she knew immediately that she wanted her implants removed, even though she’s had none of the described symptoms.

But she’s frustrated that the surgery doesn’t qualify for MSP coverage, particularly given that the reconstruction – which took four operations – following her cancer was.

“If I’d had it done for cosmetic reasons, I could see their point,” she said. “Now they find out that what they paid for isn’t working… You’ve left us.

“I can’t get my head around, this is Canada and we have to deal with this.”

Morosan’s story is a familiar one to at least one other White Rock woman.

Shannon Sayers said she paid US$18,000 to have her textured implants removed in an emergency surgery in California more than a year ago, after developing breast-implant illness and embarking on a desperate search to find a surgeon with the experience to conduct the extractions.

She shared her story with Peace Arch News in April, on the same day that Health Canada announced plans to suspend breast-implant manufacturer Allergan’s licences for Biocell implants, a move intended “to protect Canadian patients from the rare but serious risk” of BIA-ALCL.

(Wednesday morning (July 24), Allergan announced it is expanding the recall of its textured breast implants and tissue expanders worldwide, advising healthcare providers to immediately stop using Biocell saline-filled and silicone-filled textured breast implants and tissue expanders. As well, unused devices are being recalled from all markets.)

READ MORE: White Rock woman describes ‘nightmare’ of breast-implant illness

Sitting in Morosan’s living room last Monday (July 15), Sayers said she has tried, to no avail, to be reimbursed for the procedure by MSP. She said reasons she was given include that removal of the capsule around the implant is not covered, that the procedure is available in B.C. and that her application for coverage was filed 90 days too late.

Ministry of Health officials said they could not comment on specific patient cases, but confirmed this week that removal of the implants for non-symptomatic patients “is an exception to the payment schedule.”

However, “physicians can follow the established process for exemption requests by submitting a pre-approval for payment request to MSP (through Health Insurance BC),” a statement emailed to Peace Arch News Tuesdaynotes.

In cases where a medically necessary procedure that is not readily available in B.C. is required, a specialist physician may apply for out-of-country coverage, the statement adds.

“However, breast surgery is available in B.C. and elsewhere in Canada. When surgery is available in B.C., the patient would be referred to a specialist surgeon, who would determine the medical necessity for surgery and book the appropriate date. The specialist surgeon adjusts the surgery date when surgery is considered to be a medical emergency.”

Removal and replacement – if replacement is desired – of textured implants done for medical reasons will be covered by MSP, the statement adds.

Morosan said PAN’s April story about Sayers hit home when her June 28 letter arrived. She’d read the story while out of the country, and “took a photo of that because I thought I might need to talk to this lady one day.”

After receiving the letter, she wasted no time tracking Sayers down.

The pair connected a week later. Sayers said she took the call – sharing with Morosan what she’d learned about treatment and options through her own journey – despite having pledged to herself to focus only on her own recovery for the next two months.

“She was gracious enough to talk to me,” Morosan said. “She saved me a lot of time. Time is not on our side when you have this.”

It was during their first face-to-face meeting that an idea about how to help other women took root. Sayers says she knows the need is out there, as she has already spoken with another White Rock woman who has had to fundraise to help pay for her own upcoming explant surgery.

Morosan said she plans to use one of her late husband’s paintings, The Pier, to raise funds to help women who can’t afford the procedure.

“Everybody knew Voja. They know me. I might just be heard,” she said. “I know that painting, because of what’s happened with the pier, is very important right now.”

READ MORE: Artwork donated to White Rock Museum

READ MORE: ‘Iconic’ White Rock artist to be featured in calendar

While she is currently selling prints of the artwork for business, once the fundraiser launches, going forward, those proceeds will switch over, Morosan said.

She said exactly when that will happen has yet to be determined, as “we still have to fine-tune” the fundraiser and, she is still trying to find a surgeon for her own procedure.

“I don’t want to get sick, as I see more and more women coming forward, with ailments from these implants. Once I’ve recovered from this I will intend to help other women in this predicament.”

Anyone interested in being notified of the fundraiser’s launch may email Morosan at [email protected]

She is optimistic that opening up about her own breast-cancer story will ease the journey for others facing the same situation.

“This is probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to do, is let people into my personal life,” Morosan said. “But if I can help one woman the way Shannon has helped me, it will be worth it.”

BRA Day

Breast Implant Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) is to be a key topic at a Breast Cancer Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) Day planned for Oct. 9 at Surrey City Hall. Hosted by the Canadian Cancer Society in co-operation with regional plastic surgeons, the free event is “open to anyone touched by breast cancer in the past or present,” according to a letter sent to patients, including Norma Morosan.

In addition to recent news around ALCL, topics to be covered include the reconstruction process, a general surgeon’s perspective and support resources, the letter states.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. Indigenous communities receive funding for hands-on trades training

Nuxalk, Witset, Penticton Indian Band, TRU Williams Lake, and Camosun College among beneficiaries

Nuxalk College undertakes language digitization project

New tapes from over 50 years ago are set to be digitally transcribed

B.C. premier talks forestry, service needs with handful of northern mayors in Prince George

Prince George meeting completes premier’s tour of Kitimat, Terrace, Fort St. James and Quesnel

Bella Coola under another winter storm warning

Freezing rain is expected by this afternoon

VIDEO: Canada’s first presumptive case of coronavirus officially confirmed

Both patient and wife arrived on a China Southern Airlines flight after having been to Wuhan

First-place Canucks beat Blues 3-1 for ninth straight home win

Miller nets pair as Vancouver defeats Cup champs

Swapping grape varieties can help winemakers adapt to climate change: UBC study

Report says 56% of wine-grape-growing regions would be lost if global climate warms by 2 C

Alberta premier wants feds to approve Teck mine for benefit of First Nations

Kenney: ‘Surely [reconciliation] means saying yes to economic development for First Nations people’

Police search for man who went missing from Vernon hotel

Jay Rosenberger, 38, was last seen Friday

NDP suggests easing secondary housing rules for B.C. farmland

Lana Popham proposes guest homes not just for relatives

After four sexual assaults in the same B.C. park, RCMP ask women not to walk alone

Four sexual assaults took place in Glen Park over two months

BC Place lights up in purple and yellow to honour Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash

Whistleblower says Iranian-Americans questioned at Peace Arch crossing were targeted

Immigration lawyer says response from Customs Border Protection is a ‘total cover up’

Most Read