Breast Implant Illness – How I Got Here – Part 1

Did you know that almost 5% of American woman have breast implants? And that is has been the number one cosmetic surgery procedure over the last decade?

Did you also know that as these women age, as their implants age, neck and back pain becomes more prolific?  Not to mention, the risk of deflation or leakage has led to serious complications. These complications are now known as Breast Implant Illness, or BII.

Over the next three weeks, we will talk about why women want implants and then subsequently get explants. We will also discuss the chemicals in implants and the harm they can do to your body. And finally, we will discuss the explant procedure and how to prepare and recover from it.

I hope you will join me and share this important issue with your friends and family. Many girls/women look in the mirror and do not love what they see. Not feeling love for themselves on the inside, they focus outwardly and allow society and other people’s opinions to impel changing their physical bodies, most often breasts.   But the decision to augment their breasts or get implants can be critically harmful.

My Story

Most people who know me, never realize that I once had implants myself. It was just a few months ago that I had my own explant journey…

I lay on the surgical bed, IV taped to my hand, staring at the white curtain ahead.  The grommets through which the metal pole coursed, were 6 inches apart.  The mesh panel near the top allowed air and light to shine through.

I contemplated how I got to this place.  The dots truly connect looking back.

Steve Jobs so eloquently expressed this with his quote, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.  So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.

With tears in my eyes, I contemplated my life.  I experienced both tears of joy and tears of regret. Joy that I was taking control of my health and fortunate enough to be doing this.  Regret at having gotten breast implants in the first place.

“Life can only be understood backwards but it must be lived forwards.”
Soren Kirkegaard

Why I Got Implants

8 months pregnant with my 3rd child

I had breast implants “installed” 14 years prior, 18 months after the birth of my third child. I had three wonderful pregnancies and was a very happy pregnant lady. Being pregnant was among the  happiest months of my life. I always felt great and was in awe of the lives growing inside of me.

Six weeks after the birth of my first child, I remember asking my OBGYN when my stomach muscles would go back to normal. I had been doing sit ups and I was dismayed with his response, “They will never go back on their own and you will need surgery one day.

This was not what I wanted to hear. At 32 years old, athletic my whole life, and educated in nutrition and dietetics, I thought I could do the work to improve my abdominal situation. This doctor did not know me and my determination.

Surgery after Pregnancy for Diatasis Recti

As hard as I tried, my abdominal muscles not only did not return to my pre-pregnancy state, but after the birth of my third child, they had thinned and stretched so much that they separated from the connective tissue that had once bound them. This condition is called postpartum diastasis recti.

As a result, my doctor recommended abdominoplasty or, more specifically, a muscle plication (commonly referred to as a tummy tuck.)

Surgery was required just as my OBGYN had told me after the birth of my first child.

Breast Augmentation at the Same Time

A few weeks before my surgery was scheduled, my husband (divorced in 2011) and I were checking out the surgeon’s website. My husband suggested that I get my breasts augmented at the same time.

I looked at him with a confused look and asked, “You would want me to do that?

He answered, “Only if you want to.

To this day, I do not blame him for my decision to implant. He merely was the vehicle of suggestion and I took it, hook, line and sinker.

Time for a Breast Explant

post op in bed

No one wants to go through major surgery. The recovery period is not fun!

Fourteen years later I was lying in that surgery center bed. Preparing to have my breast implants removed, after suffering for years with symptoms I wrote off as aging.

Why explant?

I wish I could say I visited my local doctor and she informed me the fatigue, trouble concentrating and memory loss, joint pain, skin rashes, hives, sleep issues, frequent urination, and heart palpitations I was experiencing were the direct result of my implants. But that is not what happened.

It is interesting when I look back at a lab test result from September, 2004, nine months after I implanted, the blood marker ANA came back borderline. I asked my primary care doctor what this meant, and she replied it suggested an autoimmune condition could be brewing.

If I had my FDN hat on at the time, I would have had the tools to search for HIDDEN stressors, namely, in the hormonal, immune, detoxification, digestion, and energy systems. My immune system was fighting hard to deal with my implants. My primary care doctor was not trained to make the association between my implants and the inflammation going on in my body.

In addition to my body fighting to accommodate the implants,  I had some stressful years leading up to my divorce and its aftermath, adjusting to life as a single parent.  I now realize the combination of the implants and emotional stressors were a toxic soup.  I knew I had to make a big change.

implant leak

After my implants were removed, I was able to see very clearly where one had been leaking.

Warnings from a Friend

Eventually a trusted friend informed me that the then 14 year old implants contained toxic chemicals that are harmful to the body.

I was already trying to reduce toxins in every other aspect of my life – eating organic and non-GMO food whenever possible, applying safer skincare and using less toxic household cleaning products. I had added a water filter, switched from plastic to glass food storage and straws, replaced plastic wrap and aluminum foil (for the most part) with wax and fabric food storage cloths, rarely used my microwave, added plants to my home to clean the air, adjusted my sleep schedule and reduced emotional stress.

But…I had been living with toxic bags of chemicals in my body for 14 years.

As soon as I heard this information, I knew I had to get them out. But the thought was overwhelming.

  • When could I get them out?
  • How much was this going to cost?
  • When would I be ready for another major surgery?
  • Who would take care of me?
  • How would I feel after?

I had trouble processing this right away. I felt overwhelmed.

Putting a Plan in Motion

I set the intention. I gave myself one year. That seemed enough time to get ready, although I feared the longer I waited, the more health consequences I would incur.

The FDA advises breast implants are good for 10 years. Many women opt to have new ones installed at that point.

As I began my journey to explant, I was fortunate that I did not experience many of the debilitating symptoms other women report. The symptoms I did have, however, have been linked to the breast implants.

Although I was not looking forward to going through another major surgery, with anesthesia and a recovery process, I was looking forward to getting rid of the bags of harmful chemicals in my body and getting back to a breast size normal for me. But most importantly, I was ready to start the healing process to address physiological damage that had been done.

Pay it Forward

7.5 months post explant

7 months post explant. Feeling better about myself than I ever had before. Healthier and more confident.

I feel a responsibility to share this information. Even working in the holistic health world, I was unaware of the danger of breast implants.

It is important that I share this knowledge and alert everyone I know! Women who have implants and are unaware of the dangers. Those who are not connecting the dots between their health complaints and their implants.

It is also important that men out there who love their partners, daughters, mothers, sisters, cousins, and friends, and family and friends of women who have implants or are contemplating them be aware of the risks.

Related Articles

Next week we will talk specifically about Breast Implant Illness, commonly referred to as BII. Learn about the chemicals that comprise implants and the damage they can do to the body.

The final installment of this three part series will detail what you can do to prepare to explant, how to find a doctor and detox after your breast implants are removed.

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