I distinctly remember a time when I was younger, I had found an alarm clock – an old manual wind-up one full of actual mechanical parts. I wanted to know how it worked so, as the slightly mischievous child that I was, I took the whole thing apart and was “halfway” through getting it back when I was interrupted by one of my very unhappy parents. This happened more than once – with a cassette player, a toaster, and others. The profound truth in this is that while it is very easy to break something and tear it apart, it is so much harder to put it back together with all the metal doohickeys and such.
I wish I remembered this childhood lesson before deciding to tear apart the only body I have, since I have as yet been unable to even remotely piece myself back into the healthy shape I once had.
After the whole bathroom epiphany from Section Three where I saw the light and realised that my implants were making me sick, things seemed to deteriorate pretty fast. I had absolutely no energy and could not get through even the most menial of tasks like washing the dishes or making dinner, and I certainly couldn’t go back to work.
Somewhere during this time I made matters much worse by getting a life-altering concussion, let’s say from an awesome rock n’ roll fiery snowboarding death roll (the truth is much more mundane, like putting the full force of my head up into a granite countertop). While this slew of words is more-so about my breast implants and the lasting damage and suffering I’ve endured from them, suffering a completely debilitating head injury at the apex of my other suffering was just – not what I needed. I now have constant tinnitus – or ringing in the ears (the high-pitched TV show sounds that they do after explosions,) 24 hours a day. Couple these two amazing mistakes of nature and you get me, with permanent resting (and active) bitch face and something desperately needing to change.
I went to doctor after doctor and was told my tinnitus was probably permanent, so out of the two evils, I knew I could fix at least one – so I mustered up the courage to find a compassionate plastic surgeon to help me out.
In case you’re wondering, an appointment with a plastic surgeon about implant removal (ex-plantation) is a very different experience from the initial fun-filled one. Instead of shiny glee and excitement, my mood was more sceptical and defeated. I visited six different surgeons before I found one that could empathise with what I was going through.
“Your husband won’t be happy unless you put new implants back in.”
None of the previous five believed my symptoms were because of my implants, they did not believe that my implants were ruptured (they suggested a fold in the implant was causing the lumps) and all of them tried to talk me into replacing my implants.
One even said to me, “Well your husband won’t be happy unless you put new implants back in.” WTF? My husband won’t be happy if I am ill everyday because of these so called “safe” implants that are leaking shit into my body!
The overall consensus was that they were more concerned with the aesthetics of my chest than the severity of my symptoms or the possibility that the chemicals in the implants were making me sick. I knew this, and I knew it was happening daily. It was so discouraging that five doctors wouldn’t even talk about that being a possibility. Talk about living in a dream-world. Of course on top of all of that, the surgery to get them out would cost the same if not more than the first one did – with or without a breast lift.
One of the surgeons had my attention when he proposed a fat transfer to build-a-breast after explantation. It was exciting hearing him talk about taking fat from my thighs and transferring it to my breasts. I found myself negotiating where to take the fat from. He said I had the most on my thighs (grrr.. just like my ex) and I was like, “Hey could you take some from my tummy and hips?”. After dreaming about this “purposeful liposuction” and getting all glossy-eyed again, he said it would take two operations with the cost starting at 12 grand! Hmmm, nice thought, but not going to happen.
After much disillusionment, I finally found a plastic surgeon in Denver who believed that at least one of the implants was ruptured and his opinion landed on the side that it could be causing problems in my body. Oh and he said that my insurance would cover the surgery because he believed it was a medical necessity. So I booked my surgery for explantation sans breast lift or re-implant and I couldn’t wait to get those squishy bandits out.
The right implant had not only ruptured, but disintegrated in the capsule.
I woke up from surgery and everything had gone well. According to the surgeon, the right implant had not only ruptured, but disintegrated in the capsule (scar tissue that forms around implant soon after implantation.) It was just a big gooey mess. He also stated that he had to scrape the capsule off my chest wall and muscle (Arrgh!) I finally felt validated, there WAS a rupture and it was causing havoc on my body.
The initial recovery process was definitely more involved than I imagined – they put drains in my chest that I had to wear for a few days. The pain, especially on the side that ruptured was quite bad and it took me a while to feel better. The nerves and the muscles involved in the process were not happy and were doing everything in their power to make me notice. I spent most of the recovery watching all the seasons of Scandal – far more bearable on pain-killers.
So there I was, back to the itty bitty committee and loving it, to the point that I actually had to ask myself how I could have ever made the decision to get implants in the first place. I felt more like me in so many ways. I felt more confident and could finally walk around without stooping my shoulders.
Clothes actually fit me and yoga poses are a hundred times more comfortable, and I stopped feeling the enormous pressure of having large objects under my pectoralis muscle. There were downsides as well, of course (nerves, muscle pain etc) and I was still having the same symptoms as before (chronic fatigue), numbness in the limbs, hair falling out. It’s not like my body just instantly healed from the years of toxins leaking into it. But hallelujah! I now knew with certainty this was not all inside my head.
Then I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland and causes hypothyroidism. It was this diagnosis which made me start researching whether there was a link between this disorder, my other symptoms, and my breast implants.
Once I arrived at the conclusion that the breast implants were the probable cause of all my woes, I went on a research/internet binge for answers. Turns out a whole bunch of people have the same debilitating symptoms as me, and there is actually a name for it: Breast Implant Illness. It wasn’t just the wool that had been pulled from my eyes, it was the whole damn sheep that had been sheared and pole-vaulted off my face.
…every one of these women had a common denominator: breast implants.
People were suffering from all types of autoimmune diseases and disorders in strikingly similar fashion, some were even diagnosed with ALCL, a rare type of cancer, and every one of these women had a common denominator: breast implants.
But if my science background had taught me anything, it was not to jump to biased, or contrived conclusions, especially not from the internet. Was I genetically predisposed for any of these conditions? What evidence could support that my implants were making me sick? The most striking fact to me was that all my symptoms came on at the same time, and I felt as if I was being poisoned.
I joined a Facebook group comprised of 8000 members with strikingly similar stories – several of them worse than mine. It surprised me to find that women of all ages were having issues with all types of implants. Saline? Yup. Silicone? Tons of them. “Gummy Bears”? It didn’t matter. Some had theirs in for a short while, some for many years. Some people were sick from a ruptured silicone implant and some had symptoms with no rupture to speak of.
I was surprised to find that people were getting sick from saline implants (implants with a silicone shell and saline inside). The theory they discussed was that the silicone from the shell was making them sick, as well as causing mold issues. Mold issues. Inside of your boobs!
The more I searched the more I started to believe that there was a correlation between breast implants and autoimmune disorders.
Everyday, people were choosing to get their implants removed because of health reasons. The more I searched the more I started to believe that there was a correlation between breast implants and autoimmune disorders. I am not big on conspiracy theories, but hey, is it possible that the companies making these things are omitting some details about the inherent safety of their products?
It has been a year since I got my implants out. In that time, I have been trying everything I can to get my body healthy again: yoga, moving toward an anti-inflammatory, autoimmune Paleo diet, general exercise, medications, supplements, you name it. It has slowly been working, but no food or exercise can calm the waves of anger crashing into the sides of my heart on a daily basis.
I wrote this in part to get it off my chest (pardon the pun), but also to maybe, possibly, be some sort of advocate against an industry that really looks like it’s all rainbows, unicorns, and perfect breasts from the outside.
We don’t talk about it as a society. Tons of women seem to have them – actresses, singers, the woman who works in the cubicle next to you – but there are millions of women who are severely affected by implants that you don’t hear about, because – well – I wish I knew why.
The companies who make implants and the doctors who implant them are in a mutually beneficial financial arrangement with one another, and that is not a revelation, but it is in neither party’s interest for any problems ever to exist with their source of income, so maybe it’s never talked about. I don’t know… but I know that publishing thoughts on the internet is still free of charge, so at least I can tell my story, and share in the stories of thousands of other posts, stories, and blogs that I’ve read over the last twelve months.
…while breast implants may be totally fine for you, or your wife, or your best friend – they may also not be.
Bodies are a lot more complicated than clocks, and trying to put that alarm clock back together as a child was difficult enough. Some days I feel like I will never get better – that despite all my efforts I am still as broken as I was a year ago, but I am trying – my hardest – every day, to put all of the pieces of my broken body back together, and I’m trying to warn others that while breast implants may be totally fine for you, or your wife, or your best friend – they may also not be.
And if you get nothing else from reading my words, please get this: I, and many others, believe there is an inherent risk and there is a possibility you will ruin your life. Is it a 5% chance? 20%? I don’t know. But it’s a hell of a lot higher than whatever your plastic surgeon will tell you.
Please go online. Please read other women’s stories. Please. Please be informed. I wish I had been.