In the second part of this series on Breast Implant Illness (BII,) I describe many of the health consequences of breast implants and the ripple effect on body functions.
Now that you recognize the signs of your own BII and have either decided to explant, or want to know more about the process, this article will guide you through finding your surgeon, preparing for the procedure and most importantly how to heal your body afterwards.
Finding a health practitioner to guide you through the detox and healing process is very important. There are multiple body systems that need rebalancing and you can actually feel sicker if you do not approach it in a gentle way and prioritize what to address and when. A health professional can guide you in small steps and reduce the overwhelm.
The good news is that you can heal from BII. But you must have patience with the healing process. It will take time to repair the damage that has been done. Keep in mind illness takes a while to develop, and therefore, will take time to move the body into a state of ease. It must be done at a pace the body can handle.
Roadmap to Recovery
- Find a Surgeon
- Find a health practitioner who can guide you through the healing process. This step is important. Running at home functional lab tests before surgery allows you to find hidden healing opportunities and be ready to address them one month post surgery when your body will be ready to expend energy on detoxification and healing.
You want to find a surgeon who is steadfast in his or her commitment to remove the capsules (scar tissue, also called a “scar sac“) that grow around the breast implants as well as removing the implants.
I chose Dr. Jae Chun as my surgeon because of his unwavering commitment to try his best to remove capsules intact, his supreme microsurgical skills, and his high rate of success with the En Bloc/Total Capsulectomy procedure. I also felt comfortable with his calm temperament and kind manner and and appreciated his ability to communicate complicated medical terms in a digestible way.
Get a Second, Even a Third Opinion
Before I chose Dr. Chun, I consulted with another surgeon closer to my home. When I expressed I wanted my capsules removed as well as the implants, he told me he did not routinely do that.
Many surgeons do not believe implants cause illness nor that capsules left in the body bring avoidable risks. I wanted a surgeon who removed capsules routinely and had mastered this skill. It requires a high level of precision, time and attention to detail. This was a red flag for me, as this doctor and I were not on the same page.
When his nurse asked why I wanted to explant since I had no adverse health complaints, that was another red flag! I told her I wanted to explant to prevent ill health down the road. (I hadn’t yet associated symptoms of BII.) I knew I needed to search further. . .
When choosing a surgeon, these are criteria I needed to be absolute:
- Acknowledges breast implant illness is real.
- Acknowledges silicon and other chemicals in implants are toxic and can cause harm.
- Proven En Bloc/Total Capsulectomy skills.
- Photos of implants removed with their intact capsules.
I found my surgeon by referral from a good friend who had explanted with him and had a great experience. Word of mouth referrals are a great way to find a surgeon.
Go Prepared to Ask Questions
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Go with a list! You do not have to settle. Find one that is right for you!
Step 2 – Explant
The most important step is to remove the toxic bags of chemical from your body. Once these are removed, the immune system can start calming down. The body must shift from a state of high alert and alarm to one of calm. It is only in a relaxed state that the body can begin to restore function.
Women have different progressions of illness and repair (recovery) because of variations in:
- Genetic make-up (certain genes may be weak links while others may help prevent certain manifestations.)
- Pre-existing autoimmune diseases (usually results in a more intense downward spiral.)
- Types of implants (texture and contents, although they all have silicon and other chemicals.)
- Use of mammograms (can cause rupture of implants.)
- Breast trauma (can cause rupture.)
Regardless of the extent of illness, many women’s symptoms abate several weeks post explant and improve even more within the first year.
Keep in mind that the body wants to be healthy! This is its natural state and the one it prefers. We help achieve this by removing interference and building up function and the body’s natural ability to heal on its own.
Step 3 – Health Building Program
Work with a health practitioner who can guide you on your road to recovery. There is a lot of clean up to do. Since this can be an overwhelming process, this professional will guide you in implementing small steps to minimize the overwhelm.
Read more: Why work with a health practitioner?
After explanting, detoxification is the number one priority. At the same time, nutrients need to be repleted and systems, rebalanced. Give your body one month to recover and heal from surgery before triggering detoxification. The body cannot handle detoxification before this time.
Read more: How to Detoxify Your Body
Systems in Need of Repair
The downward spiral of multiple body systems, instigated by the constant firing of the immune system and stress hormones, sets the stage for a lot of clean up. These are the main systems that suffer and need repair:
- Immune – 80% of your immune system is housed in your gut so you need a healthy gut.
- Metabolic – energy and cell integrity and oxidation.
- Neurological – your feel good neurotransmitters are housed in your gut.
- Endocrine – silicon is an endocrine disruptor, leading to hormonal imbalance.
- Digestive – gut health, absorption, digestion, pathogens and leaky gut.
- Detoxification – liver congestion and heavy metals.
- Adrenal Glands – cortisol dysregulation and circadian rhythm.
Work with a health practitioner who understands detoxifying the body has to be done at a pace at which the body is ready to handle.
As an FDN-P, I focus first on facilitating the opening of detoxification pathways. This is to promote an exit strategy for circulating biotoxins, which oftentimes increase as pathogens are being extracted from their storage places and killed with natural herbs.
Chemicals, including silicon and heavy metals, also need to be escorted out of the body gently. Otherwise, they recirculate in the bloodstream and can make one feel really sick.
Be Kind to Yourself
I can not say enough about being kind to yourself and giving your body the time and energy it needs to heal. Lots of energy goes into healing and if you are getting back to your normal routine too quickly, healing will be delayed and you will feel awful.
I can attest to this from personal experience. I tried to rush the healing process. My mom flew to San Diego from Florida to help me recuperate, and I wanted to go out with her and have fun. We went to a few movies, out to lunch, and even did some shopping at 10 days post surgery.
Big mistake! I was so exhausted and felt awful for days afterwards. I then laid low for 3 weeks, only leaving the house when necessary.
Facebook groups offer great support on BII. You will find women like you who have the same questions, fears and hopes. You can use these groups to:
- Get answers to questions regarding pre-0p, the surgery itself and recovery.
- Weigh the pros and cons of getting a lift.
- Discover which bras to wear afterwards.
- Learn which creams/ointments/other products are good for scar healing.
- Decide whether or not to take antibiotics post surgery (they are required during surgery to protect us but optional post surgery.)
- Explore what kinds of pain meds women found helpful. Note there is variation here and individual difference. I took Percocet for a few days following the surgery and stopped after 3 days or so. The pain was not too bad for me.
- View photos to see how women look before and after. Keep in mind that every woman is different and no two women’s breasts are alike! It is helpful to see the progress women make post surgery at different points in time.
- Pose any question you have. Chances are someone else has been there and can offer insight!
- Get encouragement, emotional support and friendship. We are all in this together!
- Pay the information forward by being active in the group and helping women who have just started their explant journeys.
- FYI – these groups are for women only!
Ask for Help
You will need family and/or friends to support you through your explant journey. My friend who informed me of BII went with me to my consultation and follow-up visit. It was so helpful to find someone who had been through this journey to answer my questions and share my fears.
Having someone available to go with you to pre-op appointments is great. And having someone to drive you to surgery and post-op appointments as you heal is key.
You will also need someone to help with food shopping and cooking in the first week post-op. It’s also good to have someone home with you during those first days of recovery. Just getting in and out of bed can be a trial. You will also need help changing your drains (they stay in anywhere from 2 day to 2 weeks) and relieving you of responsibilites so that you can rest.
My mom visited for 5 days in my second week post surgery. She cooked and helped out with my daughter. We also managed to have some fun by going out and I paid heavily with fatigue! When she left, I laid low for the next 3 weeks.
Women differ on recovery times. I was able to do some things after one week, but was tired and did not feel great. It takes awhile to recover from the anesthesia. At week three I started driving again, but was cautious not to move my chest too much. I started feeling a lot better at the 2 month mark and even more so at 3 months out.
I am so grateful to the friends and family who helped me on my explant journey.