I’ve been struggling with whether or not to share my experience with Breast Implant Illness publicly since the subject is so private, and even so how to go about it. What would people think? What if they view me as vain, or don’t believe my illness was real? What if they don’t sympathize with me, after all I did this to myself, and things could be worse. Still I think it’s important I share my story in hopes I can help other women suffering. So hear it goes…
Let me first begin with a little background as to why I decided to have a breast augmentation in the first place. It was over 13 years ago and I was the naive and impressionable young age of 23. Looking back now it feels like a different life. I was working in the bar industry and was dating a guy who was horrible for my already fragile self-esteem. I had talked about getting breast implants to my mom when I was in high school, but I don’t think anyone thought I was serious. I also don’t think either of us realized the impact my dad’s mental illness would have on my self-esteem, or have caused my body image issues and the need to be “perfect”.
Let me be clear in that my boyfriend at the time did not encourage me to get breast implants. I don’t blame him for my decision. But I was sick of his comments on the size of other women’s breasts, particularly his exes, and I decided implants might make me feel like I was enough for him…that he might respect me more, stop cheating on me, and help fix our toxic relationship. I was also thinking of getting into fitness competitions so I justified the idea because all of my fitness idols had them as well. I paid for the $7,500 surgery with my student loan and had them done after my December exams. I started training for my first competition in January.
The Turning Point:
Fast forward to 5 years ago. I had just competed in what would be my last fitness competition and had noticed my health declining over the past few years. I didn’t realize it at the time but my body was telling me something, that it was fighting against worsening symptoms caused by my breast implants. I sought the help of every health practitioner out there for treatment and diagnosis, both traditional medicine and holistic. I changed my diet in so many ways, even becoming vegan. I stopped lifting heavy weights in case that was the cause and eventually had to stop working out all together. Finally my doctor diagnosed me with fibromyalgia last year after no other explanations, and while I knew there was no cure, I was happy to finally have a name for my condition.
It was as only a few months later that my husband sent me an article about a celebrity removing her breast implants due to what she referred to as “Breast Implant Illness”. I didn’t even read it thinking “there is no way my implants are making me sick”. Then shortly after 2 friends sent me similar articles. Again I denied that there could be any link between my fibromyalgia symptoms and breast implants. I basically said “Thanks but I’m good. I have fibromyalgia and I don’t believe my implants are making me sick. I love my boobs”, because let’s be honest I did! I paid a pretty penny for those girls, they were a part of me now. I already had them when I met my husband and up to this point they did help improve my body image…or at least I thought they did.
Finally in September I decided to look more into these articles when another friend, also with breast implants, asked me my thoughts. She was having similar symptoms and we had both heard about more and more women in the fitness industry removing theirs. I came across a Facebook page called “Breast Implant Illness and Healing by Nicole“. The group (at the time) had over 50,000 women all with very similar symptoms, as well as links to articles about breast implant illness. Women in the group were removing their breast implants daily or “explanting” and feeling relief from their symptoms. I spent hours researching the information from this group and other resources and had over 80% of the 50 symptoms listed. Could my breast implants be the cause of my health declining over the past 6 years? I made a Dr’s appointment for the next day.
Breast Implant Illness Symptoms & My Diagnosis:
Here is a list of symptoms caused by Breast Implant Illness, also known as BII. My symptoms are underlined below:
- BRAIN FOG, MEMORY LOSS
- MUSCLE AND JOINT PAIN
- HAIR LOSS, DRY SKIN AND HAIR
- PREMATURE AGING
- WEIGHT PROBLEMS
- POOR SLEEP AND INSOMNIA
- DRY EYES, DECLINE IN VISION
- HYPO/HYPER THYROID SYMPTOMS
- HYPO/HYPER ADRENAL SYMPTOMS
- PARATHYROID PROBLEMS
- HORMONE IMBALANCE, DIMINISHING HORMONES, EARLY MENOPAUSE
- LOW LIBIDO
- SLOW HEALING, EASY BRUISING
- THROAT CLEARING, COUGH, DIFFICULTY SWALLOWING, CHOKING, REFLUX, METALLIC TASTES
- GASTROINTESTINAL ISSUES SUCH AS ACID REFLUX, GERD, GASTRITIS, LEAKY GUT, IBS AND SIBO
- FEVERS, NIGHT SWEATS, INTOLERANT TO HEAT/COLD
- PERSISTENT BACTERIAL, VIRAL, FUNGAL INFECTIONS
- YEAST INFECTIONS, CANDIDA, SINUS AND UTI INFECTIONS
- SKIN RASHES
- EAR RINGING
- SUDDEN FOOD INTOLERANCE AND ALLERGIES
- HEADACHES, MIGRANES AND OCULAR MIGRANES
- SLOW MUSCLE RECOVERY AFTER ACTIVITY
- HEART PALPITATIONS, CHANGES IN NORMAL HEART RATE OR HEART PAIN
- SORE AND ACHING JOINTS OF SHOULDERS, HIPS, BACKBONE, HANDS AND FEET
- SWOLLEN AND TENDER LYMPH NODES IN BREAST AREA, UNDERARM, THROAT, NECK, GROIN
- DEHYDRATION FOR NO REASON
- FREQUENT URINATION
- NUMBNESS/TINGLING SENSATION IN UPPER AND LOWER LIMBS
- COLD AND DISCOLOURED LIMBS, HANDS AND FEET
- GENERAL CHEST DISCOMFORT SHORTNESS OF BREATH
- PAIN AND OR BURNING SENSATION AROUND IMPLANT AND OR UNDERARM
- LIVER AND KIDNEY DYSFUNCTION
- GALLBLADDER PROBLEMS
- TOXIC SHOCK SYMPTOMS
- ANXIETY, DEPRESSION AND PANIC ATTACKS
- FEELING LIKE YOU ARE DYING
- SYMPTOMS OF FIBROMYALGIA
- SYMPTOMS OF LYME DISEASE
- SYMPTOMS OF EBV
- SYMPTOMS OF AUTO-IMMUNE DISEASES SUCH AS; RAYNAUD’S SYNDROME, HASHIMOTO’S THYROIDITIS, RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS, SCLERODERMA, LUPUS, SJOGREN’S SYNDROME, NONSPECIFIC CONNECTIVE TISSUE DISEASE, MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS
- SYMPTOMS OF BIA-ALCL LYMPHOMA
- DIAGNOSIS OF CANCER
Unfortunately there are no tests to diagnose BII and I knew this before going to see my Dr. But my mind was racing with the hope that I might be able to find a cure for my illness, and I wanted validation that I wasn’t crazy. While my Dr admitted she had no experience with BII, she did agree to refer me for a MRI. Unfortunately it could be up to a years wait to go through provincial health care. I opted to pay for the MRI through a private clinic and was booked in the following week. I felt that if everything looked ok then maybe I wouldn’t have to worry as much, that I would get my implants out eventually but perhaps it wasn’t as urgent as I thought. I didn’t realize it at the time but the decision to pay for that $850 MRI would become one of the best decisions I’ve made for my health.
I got the MRI results back the following week and it confirmed 2 things: 1) my right silicone cohesive gel breast implant had ruptured and 2) a lump in the same breast was detected. I had no idea as everything looked and felt normal. I knew at that time however I needed to have my breast implants removed as soon as possible and that I did not want them replaced. Thankfully the lump turned out to be benign, but I heard of confirmed cases of breast implants causing a new form of cancer called BIA-ALCL and I didn’t want to take the risk. Even if there was a small chance I would feel relief from the pain I’ve been suffering with for years I’d take it and have them removed for good.
Breast Implant Safety:
Let’s talk about my prior education about breast implants for a moment. I had my initial breast augmentation consultation a year before my surgery, making me 22 years old. My Dr told me of a new silicone breast implant on the market called cohesive gel or “gummy bear” implants. Unlike older models these cohesive gel implants were supposed to stay intact if torn, like a gummy bear would if cut. I was told the risk of this happening would be low however, and while the warranty was only for 10 years, many women had theirs for even 30 + years. They were “safe” and the risks associated with breast implants were low. I was given a small pamphlet about the brand he recommended (Mentor) which talked about risks and expectations, and that was basically it. No talk of how the company now recommends a MRI every 2 – 3 years, no mention of the auto-immune response many women are now experiencing, and definitely no mention of why silicone breast implants were taken off the market in the 90’s. He also didn’t mention the lack of adequate long-term studies conducted on breast implant safety or how many medical devices are approved by the FDA or Health Canada without proper testing.
I should also mention I scheduled a follow-up with my Dr when my implants were 9 years old due to lumps I had discovered. My breast implants would have still been under warranty at the time but he said everything looked and felt fine. Again I asked about replacing them and he gave me the same vague answer: some women have to replace them after 10 years, some don’t. The lumps turned out to be fibroids but I also had a mammogram done just to make sure. Was this the cause of the rupture? I’ll never know. But what I can say for certain is that a ruptured silicone cohesive gel implant does not resemble a gummy bear. It looks like sticky, runny, horrifying goo. Click here to see for yourself. This photo is what my ruptured implant looked like after it was removed from my body. Click here for what the intact one looked like, what it is supposed to look like. The red tissue are my capsules.
I finally had my explant surgery March 25th, 2019 and while I couldn’t wait to have these foreign invaders in my body removed, I was completely terrified. I almost didn’t remember what I looked like before implants and they had become a part of me now. My husband hadn’t known me without them, and I was electing to have a major surgery.
Believe it or not unlike breast implanting, proper breast explantation comes with higher risks and a much more extensive surgery, especially when an implant is ruptured. A skilled explant surgeon removes both the implant and the capsule surrounding it “enbloc” (as a whole). In some cases it cannot be removed via enbloc and then a total capsulectomy needs to be performed in which the remaining capsule is scrapped out of the chest cavity. In certain instances the capsule can get stuck to ribs, and grow very close to vital organs and nerves. The capsule must also be removed in order for no silicone, toxic chemicals or BIA-ALCL cancer causing bacteria to be left behind, and the only way to do this with a ruptured implant is via an enbloc explant surgery. The recovery process is also longer than with implanting, muscle tissue can be loss or damaged, and more bleeding can occur. Not to mention that a proper explant via enbloc total capsulectomy can cost anywhere from $5,000 – $10,000 US. Thankfully my surgery went well and my ruptured implant was able to be removed via enbloc. I had my follow-up appointment today and I am extremely happy with my results. Girl, what were you thinking in the first place?
Naturally Me Again
It has almost been 2 months since my explant and I already feel amazing. There is a “detox” process the body goes through after explanting however and total healing time varies. When you think about it, it took years for my symptoms to get to where they were and there was silicone and other toxic chemicals leaching in my body for years. Of course it is going to take time to heal completely. But I’ve noticed several symptoms that improved almost immediately after explant: my posture was instantly better which has helped my neck and back pain, my brain fog has lifted, my skin is glowing and my eczema is gone, my interstitial cystitis is also better, and my headaches are almost non-existent. I also lost 5 lbs immediately (probably from inflammation) and am finally able to get my weight under control again. I have so much energy I actually want to workout again and am doing it without intense pain. The best part is I am more comfortable in my own skin now and love my new natural, smaller, and imperfect self.
While I had made changes to my diet prior to my explant I truly feel my implants were the missing “inflammatory” link. Perhaps the catalyst to it all. These changes did help, but only if I keep all inflammatory foods out of my diet long term. I am conscious about everything I put into my body and believe in natural holistic health. It only makes sense that a foreign object implanted in my body caused it to fight back. In fact we are now seeing that 40% of women who have breast implants will experience an auto-immune response to them. I am confident I will continue to heal and I look forward to sharing the rest of my healing journey with all of you.
If you are reading this and either have breast implants, are considering them, or know someone who has them then please don’t brush it off like I first did. Share this article with someone who you might be able to help just like the beautiful, caring ladies did who shared information with me. I will forever be grateful to you girls, to my fellow BII survivors who have supported me through this journey, to Nicole and the group admins for your tireless work at raising BII awareness, to my family and friends for supporting me, and most of all to my amazing husband for loving me for who I am.
To my 23 year old self: you are smart, kind, strong, resilient, and beautiful just the way you are. You are perfectly imperfect and will find someone who loves you for that. You. Are. Enough.
Nicole’s group now has over 78,000 female members and is growing daily with women suffering from Breast Implant Illness, for those considering implants looking for more information, and those supporting loved ones. Please join us in raising awareness. You can also visit this website for extensive research and information: https://healingbreastimplantillness.com/
Canadian Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/553040228225793/
Other Resources: https://healingbreastimplantillness.com/resources/
Naturally, Krissy – xo