I have a long history of keeping my pain and discomfort to myself. Sure, it might be nice to talk to someone about it, but I rarely do. I remember one time a friend was trying to make small talk and asked me how everything was going - to which I replied - "Do you REALLY want to know"?
You may be wondering why I am sharing that, don't worry, I am going somewhere with this! See, I know I am not alone when it comes to women not expressing how they are actually feeling. We hide our pain, we push through it and "stay strong" for those around us, but there comes a time when being vocal can help someone else. NOW is that time in my journey.
In 2002 I got saline implants, under the muscle. I was tired of wearing padding in my bra. I worked at Hooters, the name implies I need big boobs right?! Kidding, I really did love working there and no one was pressuring me to get implants. I felt like I "needed" them to feel good about myself, they would make me feel better when I looked in the mirror, they would give me that hourglass shape I was after (and I desperately needed more up top to balance out the big booty that was stacked behind me), I thought they were the missing piece to my puzzle of self love. All the girls on the magazines had them, society told us that's what beauty was - cleavage. I enjoyed working out, it made me feel good, but my boobs were the first to go when I workout consistently. Implants would allow me to workout AND have the body shape and curves I wanted. So I did it - September 9, 2002 425cc textured Mentor saline implants became a part of me.
Honestly I LOVED them! After the swelling went down and they dropped, they were exactly what I was looking for. They restored the confidence I had been missing. They gave me the attention I thought I wanted.
My world came crashing down when I woke up on April 28, 2006. I went to put on my sports bra to go workout and the back of my hand brushed my right breast and it felt weird. I went to the mirror and saw my boob was GONE on the right side. I didn't know what to do. I had my implants done in Texas and now I was living in California. I called the plastic surgeon's office that put them in and they said to find a doctor where I live to fix it. This was long before there were easily accessible reviews on plastic surgeons. How was I supposed to know where to go?! So I called around - five offices told me I needed to pay a $400 consultation fee to be seen. Seriously, I don't need to pay to have a doctor tell me my implant ruptured, I can see it with my own eyes. I finally found a doctor who was willing to see me that day - at no charge. I can only imagine what he was thinking when I came sobbing to my consult that day. Dr. Brucker is an incredible surgeon and human being. He had the most incredible staff, that put my mind at ease. They ordered my implant replacement (he was replacing it with what I had - a textured implant), helped with the paperwork to send the ruptured implant back to Mentor and handled the insurance paperwork from Mentor since it was covered under their warranty. He even opened his schedule to replace my implant a few days later on May 1st. After the surgery he said everything went well, and Mentor had nothing negative to say about the ruptured implant in their examination report. It healed beautifully and I went about my life.
Who knew a little more than a year later, on December 22, 2007 my left implant would rupture! Just what I wanted for Christmas.... Fortunately this time, I knew who to go to and knew he would do a great job. He was even kind enough to come in the day after Christmas to remove the ruptured implant and replace it. Unfortunately, Mentor dropped the ball and the textured implant didn't come in on time for my surgery, so I signed a waiver saying I was authorizing him to replace it with a smooth saline implant. After the swelling went down, I could see why I had to sign the waiver. The left implant looked so much better and more natural. So now I was back to feeling a little self conscious about the obvious difference between my two breasts.
Flash forward to 2017, after nursing both of our children, I found it odd Zach refused to nurse from my right side. It was producing milk, but he didn't want it. I didn't think much of it at the time, but then more and more health issues kept popping up. Of course, my lab work all showed nothing was wrong, but I knew I didn't feel right. I had spent years getting back in touch with my body, understanding what it was telling me and responding appropriately. I knew what I could eat without negative side effects and even how much.
What was I experiencing? Well, the list started off small with:
new food intolerances
I thought it was something hormonal, but doing everything I could to balance hormones and not seeing a change, not having anything off on my bloodwork, it left me puzzled. Unfortunately, it seemed like with every passing day, the list continued to grow and get worse:
skin issues and insanely dry skin
brain fog/memory loss
mood swings and irritability
neck and shoulder pain
tenderness and pain in first the right breast, then the left
pain in chest when lifting my arms overhead
pain in hands and feet
difficulty breathing and taking in a full breath
dark circles and bags under eyes
hives and weird rashes
nipple sensitivity and depressed/unresponsive right nipple
tingling and numbness in arms and hands
ringing in my ears
metallic taste in my mouth
one eyelid is changing shapes/drooping
swollen lymph nodes on the right side (neck, armpit, groin)
change in body odor
low (basically non-existent) libido
pain in breasts when laying on side or stomach
rib cage flaring, depressed at chest
tightness in chest muscles
right breast creeping higher up my chest and firmer than the left side
I found it odd that the majority of my issues (especially the symptoms associated with pain or lymph blockages) were on my right side where the textured implant is located. Now of course, for years I made excuse after excuse for what was happening to my body. I eventually just stopped going to the doctor if I noticed something, since I knew I was either going to get turned away or told there was nothing wrong. I just tried to do everything I could to make myself feel better, still nothing worked. I guess I wasn't like most patients that come to the doctor. The doctors were shocked when I refused to take a pharmaceutical to "fix" an issue. I wanted to know WHY it was happening, to get to the root cause, not slap a band-aid on it and hoped it got better. Speaking of band-aids.... Just keeping it super real - it hurts to even wear bras right now. Half the time I don't and just have a band-aid or micropore tape over my nipple or I just don't wear a bra at all. Another post will be coming about this and breast health.
As most of you know, I take health very seriously. So when I have these things going on and I do all the right things to repair and restore my health and nothing changes or it gets worse, that tells me to look deeper. I have spent so much money on creams, eye drops, supplements, ointments, equipment, tools, programs, books, etc. in the last 5 years trying to feel better and nothing has worked. It's like I'm a dog chasing my tail, never able to get it. It's exhausting. It's even more exhausting going through it alone because I don't want to burden others with my problems.
Now I know someone reading this might think that some of these are just what happens as you get older - and to that I will say - when you take care of your body, your health does not rapidly decline because you get older. There are "older" people who don't have aches and pain, have full mobility and flexibility, full function and you would have no idea their age when you saw them. It's possible, I see it everyday and some of them are my clients.
It wasn't until I was talking to two friends that they were getting their implants taken out (called an explant). When I asked why, they started listing their symptoms. My jaw dropped. It was like they were reading pages from my journal. They were experiencing THE SAME things I was. We live in different parts of the world, have different jobs, we were different ages, one doesn't have kids and the other had one kid. Basically the only thing we had in common besides being a woman was that we had implants. They introduced me to a few Facebook groups so I could see other women's stories that were like ours. HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of women ALL experiencing the same thing. Some had implants for a few months and started to experience symptoms and some were like me and have had them for over 10 years, some even had them for 20 years. The craziest part - most if not all of their previous symptoms completely went away within 6 months of removing their implants! They didn't change their lifestyle or anything else, they just got the implant and in many cases the capsule removed. Breast Implant Illness (BII) is real!!! Fortunately there are plastic surgeons who do acknowledge BII and are now no longer doing implants, they are taking them out. Yet there are still plenty of doctors who deny this is a thing.
My mind was blown! So I set out to speak with other women from these groups, to see if they had saline or silicone, how old their implants were, what they were experiencing, etc. Then I started to dive into some of the research, I mean, the FDA approved these and now they are being recalled - well, some are recalled and some are being asked to voluntarily recall their implants. The FDA is now acknowledging that women with breast implants may suffer a wide range of symptoms that may get better when their breasts implants are removed - but their public statement stopped short of saying it was the implant that may be the cause. Other countries have recalled and even banned textured and silicone implants, but the FDA isn't on board. For a company that has a mission statement saying "The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, and medical devices; and by ensuring the safety of our nation's food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation." it doesn't seem like they are really looking out for the health and safety of the hundreds of thousands of implanted humans.
I had been having a huge battle with myself over this. My left implant doesn't cause as many issues as the right, but my overall health is being compromised and it could potentially be the implant and I won't know for sure until it's out. Just keeping it real - like many others, I didn't exactly get my implants because I was happy with my natural body, so how am I going to feel about myself if I get them taken out? I don't even know how much breast tissue I will have or what it will look like since my left one is twice the size of the right (breastfeeding and gravity to thank for that). I spent two months this summer getting really deep in my meditation and spiritual practice trying to figure out what to do. I finally decided my health is far more important than my vanity and these bags need to come out. I don't know for sure if all of my symptoms will go away once they are removed, but I am willing to take the chance.
So now coming back full circle to the two starting paragraphs of this blog post - I need to be vocal about this and not keep this to myself because this isn't talked about very much and we need to be aware. You might not have implants, but you might know someone who does. Maybe you have implants, but you don't have any issues - it's still a good thing to be aware of in case you start to develop symptoms. This isn't a trend, unless wanting to be healthy and not feel like shit is a trend. You might just be hearing about more women deciding to get their implants removed because we are finally understanding they might be the cause of our declining health. Some might not be having issues yet they still want to remove them because if/when they rupture, who knows what they could release into their body, sometimes it's better to be safe than sorry. We spend thousands of dollars to change what we look like, then some of us have a body that rejects the implant and we get sick, then we spend thousands of dollars to get them out. Imagine for a minute the mind fuck we are dealing with, the feelings of guilt and shame because we did this to ourselves, it was our choice, we did this. However, I would like to reframe this and bring awareness to the power in taking ownership and power in taking action to get your health back. Not everyone who gets implants will get sick, some only have mild symptoms and chose to leave them in.
Please don't take this as a blog post to bash anyone who has implants. To each their own. I am not here to judge or convince. I just want to share my story and now my explant journey. I have already shared it with my immediate family, including our 10 year old daughter. I want her to understand at 23 I was insecure and caved to the pressure of what society told me was beautiful, my implants made me feel better about my body, but now they are harming my health and above all, I want to live in a healthy body. I want her to know how beautiful she is and that no one should be given the power to make her feel less than.
My surgery date is October 28, 2021. The first thing our daughter said to me when I told her when my surgery is scheduled for - but mom, you're going to miss Halloween (she knows it's my favorite time/holiday of the year) and I told her, then that shows you how important this is for me to get done.