Examples of Toxicity
Implant Horror Stories
Breast augmentation origin stories often begin with a sense of hope and excitement. The reasons to augment are uniquely personal: the wish for a more balanced physique, a sense of normalcy after mastectomy, that sense of a body finally ‘complete.’ No one begins their breast augmentation journey with the declaration: These implants will make me sick.
Yet all too many of these stories are ending in breast implant illness and explant. And what was at once viewed as perhaps a positive event (new boobs)! can be viewed in hindsight as a disastrous choice. Implant horror stories are many and varied, and subsequent tales of explant showcase the real danger of these devices that were once viewed as harmless cosmetic prosthetics.
The symptoms of breast implant illness (BII) can seem as unique as the people experiencing them, and medical personnel are sometimes reticent to pinpoint breast implants as the root cause. Sufferers of BII are raising their voices as advocates for health and declaring that BII does in fact exist. Thanks to these vocal women, the FDA recently released a recommendation for warnings on breast implants.
The FDA admission is a start. For those experiencing strange symptoms, explant surgery may be the answer; an en bloc capsulectomy, if possible. Even those who once uttered the words These implants are the best thing that ever happened to me may view an explant anniversary as the epic moment of re-claiming their health.
The reasons we opt for breast augmentation are different – but BII does not discriminate. Read the stories below for examples.
The post-partum mom – Daisy had a rough pregnancy. She gained 55 pounds with her son, Will, and a year after her birth she still hadn’t lost all the weight. What’s more, breastfeeding had decreased her cup size. Augmentation seemed the obvious answer. Soon, she’d feel sexy again. Soon, she’d feel better. Silicone breast implants – specifically, gummy bear implants - would be the answer.
Even the name seemed flippant. How could anything nicknamed for chewy candies be dangerous? They made her breasts seem so natural. After the healing process was over, she often forgot they were inside her. She never thought to check the FDA’s recommendations. The risks and complications of breast implants weren’t an issue. Had she read the list, she may have reconsidered.
And then the trouble started. The headaches began a few months after surgery. She was diagnosed with tinnitus, and the ringing in her ears was so pervasive, she resisted leaving the house. A hormone imbalance affected her libido. She and her husband decided not to have any more children; after all, who would care for them when their mother was sick all the time?
Daisy began to read about explant. She researched tirelessly; after all, this was her health that was on the line. Through The American Society of Plastic Surgeons, she learned that breast implants are not meant to last decades. It had been over ten years since that breast implant operation, and she hadn’t thought about removal or replacement. She had also not been informed by her surgeon that gummy bear implants can leak without warning.
The day Daisy had her MRI, her whole mindset changed. The imaging showed that the implant was leaking. Could it be that this was what was to blame for her health problems? Looking at the screen, she couldn’t believe that these tiny, teardrop-shaped implants could wreak such havoc on her health – on her life.
Post-explant, Daisy is nearly back to her old self. She opted for an en bloc capsulectomy, opting to take no further chances that the leakage will spread throughout her body. And she and her husband have plans to adopt another child.
A model’s dilemma – All it would take for Rachel to break into the competitive world of runway modeling, she thought, was a breast augmentation. That way, she could book lingerie and swimwear shoots. Her body was otherwise perfect for the prospect. Only her small chest was holding her back. She chose textured implants and went from a size 34B to a 34D. Bookings were great. Her agent praised her increased bra size as the main reason for her success.
Then her health declined. Eventually, the chronic fatigue, vertigo and poor sleep resulted in the end of her modeling career. She found a community of women with similar symptoms of BII on Facebook, and spent hours reading through accounts like hers. Ultimately, she chose to have
the implants removed.
It was difficult to adjust to life post-explant. She gave up her modeling career, convinced that the size of her chest would be a roadblock. Desperate to regain her confidence, she sought help from a mental health professional and a life coach who helped her realize that she was worthy of love and success.
Today, Rachel is a scriptwriter. And though that means she’s on the other side of the camera, she says she doesn’t miss her time in the limelight. Worrying constantly about her physical appearance was toxic, she says – almost as toxic as the saline breast implants she carried inside her body for all those years.
*Note: Yes, saline implants can pose a danger as well as silicone. For years, women have interpreted ‘sterile saline solution’ as an indication that these implants are completely safe. The FDA’s recent recommendation for warning labels includes both saline and silicone implants. Though saline may be sterile, a ruptured saline implant can lead to mold and bacterial growth – and the implant itself is made of a silicone shell. Read more about the differences between silicone and saline implants here.
The fitness competitor – Andi had always loved lifting weights, and it showed. Her triceps were defined, that six-pack was edging toward eight, and clear definition was visible in her hamstrings. Time and time again, her trainer declared that fitness competitions should be her goal. She was so good to her body – eating all the right foods and conservatively lifting weights in order to avoid injury. Breast augmentation, she decided, was a necessity to move to the next level.
Finally, she decided to ‘fix’ the one area she couldn’t bulk up through exercise – her breasts. The breast implant surgery was seamless, the recovery quick. But a few years into her growing career, she began to experience vertigo. Her hair started falling out in clumps. Some mornings, she was so tired that she couldn’t get up to go to the gym. And a hardening of one of her breasts was alarming, to say the least. She was sure she’d developed breast cancer and couldn’t bring herself to visit the doctor.
Finally, she made an appointment. Doctors were perplexed. The capsule surrounding one of her implants had hardened, but there wasn’t any evidence of leakage. What was causing all these symptoms? They could soften the capsule, they said. It could maybe even stay in Andi’s body.
Andi read a study that the FDA posted about women whose health concerns lessened significantly upon explant. She decided to have her implants removed. She underwent an en bloc capsulectomy, even on the breast that was still pliable and soft to the touch. Her competition days are over, but she says she feels better every day.
Months later, the FDA actually recalled Andi’s implants. She had selected the textured Allergan BIOCELL implants because her plastic surgeon assured her that they would ‘stay put’ in her chest and mimic the feel of natural breasts. Andi didn’t suffer from anaplastic large cell lymphoma, the cancer linked to the implants. But she did experience other dramatic symptoms that led her to take action.
Recovery from explant surgery has been eerily similar to the recovery needed for the original breast augmentation surgery, she says. She cannot exercise for a few more weeks, but that’s a small price to pay for overall healing. Andi hopes to be back in the gym soon.
As the above examples demonstrate, the heal is real. Breast implant illness exists – and explant can bring about healing. If you are experiencing symptoms of BII, contact your physician and learn about your explant options. It’s recommended that for the ultimate healing, the entire capsule be removed. Conscientious patients have reported asking for photographic proof after their surgery to be absolutely sure that the capsule and the implant are no longer present in the body.
Too long women have suffered from BII without the medical community’s full attention. Thanks to the recent FDA warnings and the countless women who share their story of affliction and healing, BII is being recognized as a valid set of symptoms related to breast implants.
If you are considering breast implants or are looking to explant, visit The Heal is Real. You’ll find information about explant, what to expect during and after the operation, what women like you are experiencing and more. The Heal is Real founder Akemi Fisher suffered from BII and wants women worldwide to know that they have the power to reclaim their health. It’s in your hands – get it out of your chest.