Breast Implant Illness (BII). It’s something not many people even know about. I know I didn’t and I had implants! So how did something that is gaining awareness now hide completely under the radar for so many years while surgeons continue to advocate these toxic plastic bags in the name of body positivity and self care? After a lot of research and time in the trenches with BII, I can give you my personal testimony on what I discovered.
Let me start with this (a quick disclaimer, if you will): I am completely FOR women doing what makes them feel beautiful as long as it doesn’t come from the pressure of society’s expectations and as long as they know the cost analysis of what they are doing to their bodies. As a longtime gym owner and health practitioner, I am an advocate for women’s health & longevity first and foremost. Meaning…I want you to know and understand the truths of what it takes to be in optimal health AND have the freedoms to make decisions for yourself based on that knowledge.
My journey with Breast Implant Illness started when I was 20 after I had my first baby. I was insecure in my own skin (which only stemmed from years of trying to have the ”perfect” airbrushed figure you see in Hollywood- insert eye roll). So without much thought or research I scheduled with the first plastic surgeon that popped up on Google.
When he asked me what size I wanted to get put in, I remember telling him I just wanted slightly more curves. He advised me to get a Playboy magazine and show him a picture of what I was trying to achieve. I mean…can you get any more sleazy than that?! I look back now and want to scream at my former self…”Run away! Run FAR away!” Doctors shouldn’t be advising us to look up to fake photoshopped unrealistic women in pornographic magazines. This should have been my first sign I wasn’t making a wise decision.
I decided to go with a 350cc gummy bear implant (which is different than a straight up silicone or saline implant). I discovered at a later date that I didn’t get what the doctor said he put in at all which is a common story I hear amongst other women I talk to. This is beyond concerning on so many levels.
Within a year I noticed my hair turning grey. At the time, I chocked it up to genetics and later joked with my firstborn that she caused me to go grey prematurely. After learning a lot about genes, toxic load, and what stress does on the body and the intricate details of how it works…it makes perfect sense that soon after getting implants my body’s stress load was high trying to fight off a foreign invader. This overload of stress (paired with subpar lifestyle habits at the time) caused my toxic bucket to overflow which in turn caused hydrogen peroxide in the body to build up and caused my GPX gene to act up.
It wasn’t long after, that I started to see other symptoms pop up. One after the other, my body was desperately trying to tell me something was wrong. I was at a place in my life where as the years went on and I got into the health space, I focused heavily on my nutrition, fitness, and lifestyle habits. This surely helped my cause but no matter what I did I always felt like something was “off”. I couldn’t put my finger on it.
By the time I had the implants for 12 years, my body had enough. The symptoms ranged from dry eyes/skin and cold hands/feet to irritability and a musty smell that wouldn’t go away. And the brain fog, oh my gosh…there were days I would tell my husband that I thought I was getting dementia (at 32 years old)!
One day I woke up and left breast was swollen and hard as a rock. I had spent so many years not even thinking about the aftermath of implants that I didn’t pause to think something was wrong with it. I instead assumed I had breast cancer or something. I called my mom who immediately said, “Sweetie…there must be something wrong with your implant”. Duh. Why didn’t I think of that?
I immediately called a local plastic surgeon to get it checked out. Everything that happened during this time period happened so quickly but this was the period I ended up going down the rabbit hole and discovered other women talking about breast implant illness. Everything started to make sense. By the time I got to the plastic surgeons office for my appointment, I knew I wanted to explant and also had done enough research to know that I probably had a rupture and/or a capsular contracture.
I went in for my appointment and immediately told the doctor, “I think I have a capsular contracture or rupture. At this point I would like to explant. Where do I go from here?” He was quick with his response with little to no questions and a quick examination, pulled out his prescription pad and said, “Implants can last forever. It’s probably swollen from some internal irritant. Take this antibiotic and see if the swelling decreases”.
Listen. If your doctor ever dismisses you with a piece of paper for an unnecessary antibiotic without talking to you about possible root causes and potential solutions…you need to find another physician ASAP!
I’m glad I listened to my gut instinct which told me to throw the prescription away and start seeking out the best doctor who could perform an explant en bloc (this is where they take out the implant AND the surrounding capsule). I found a highly skilled microsurgeon that was 3 hours away who had years of experience in explant en blocs and scheduled right away (pleading with the nurses to get me to the front of the line because of the possible rupture and what the leaking gel could be doing in my body). They informed me that a number of women on the waitlist had the same problems and symptoms. This is when I knew how big of a problem (and how dangerous) implants were.
I explanted in October of 2020. A lot of women ask if I got a lift or a fat transfer at the same time. I didn’t and it’s because I knew that I could always do something at a later date. I also knew that the surgeon I went to was very skilled in explant en bloc but that didn’t mean he would be skilled in other surgery techniques. If I was going to do an alternative procedure in the future I wanted my body to heal first, give myself time to evaluate if I really did want to do another procedure, and go to the best surgeon for whatever may come next.
I get that it can be scary to go from a place of being comfortable with how your body looks to feeling like you are reverting back to someone you don’t know anymore (and frankly…didn’t like all that much). I mean heck…I think that’s why so many of us get implants to begin with. Because we looked in the mirror and wanted to see something different. The fear of what your significant other will think when looking at you, the fear of not feeling as ‘feminine’ without as many curves, the fear of what everything will look like after the dust settles. I had all of those fears. But I decided to let it be a part of my story so I can help other women who feel the same. After all…I knew my health mattered most and I deserved better.
After explant, I remember waking up and seeing my husband after recovery where he said, “I kid you not…you don’t smell!” So I knew immediately that a lot of the symptoms I had experienced were already getting better. But I knew I had a longer road to recovery ahead of me when he also reported that the surgeon told him I had an unknown cloudy substance within one of my implants which I later discovered was mold. So on top of dealing with my body trying to get rid of the toxic bags that it saw as a foreign invader…it was also battling mold!
I put myself on an intensive detox protocol and started dialing in more on specific nutrition parameters for my circumstance. Now many months after explant I am beginning to feel like myself again. It’s a slower road that what I would have wanted, but I never knew what I was up against.
What I will say for those that are in similar situations is that explanting is worth it. I would do it again in a heartbeat- no questions asked. Don’t risk your health and wellbeing for the sake of vanity. There are other alternatives to implant where you aren’t forcing your body to work on overdrive 24/7 to protect you. My best piece of advice is to listen to your gut, do your research, talk to women with similar stories, and put your health first.