Alana R.'s Story
Alana’s health journey has had its fair share of highs and lows. At the young age of 19, Alana had just finished breastfeeding when she decided to do something about her “teeny tiny sagging breasts,” as they had become the source of her low self-esteem. This decision, unfortunately, would lead to years of suffering at the hands of breast implant illness. However, Alana found the strength to remove her implants and she wrote down her full health and breast implant illness journey in detail, all while still sore from her explant so that she could share it with other women.
Tell us about your explant journey.
I wrote the following still sore from my explant 3/22/2019:
Still healing physically and more so emotionally. Although I become extremely frustrated at times, I KNOW there is a purpose to the last 15 years of suffering my family and I went through because of silicone breast implants. I have been praying ever since I had that ah-ha moment, asking God to show me what steps to take next to make sure no other women or their families ever have to go through such unnecessary suffering again. I can’t help but think He revealed at least 3 amazing opportunities to me just days later 1) the FDA hearings in which I will continue to follow and promote 2) a group of women here in SoCal getting together for the Women’s Expo in May and possible protests at manufacturers and 3) Love Song bringing awareness to this very serious cause.
I was just 19 years old in 2001 & a single teen mom finished with breastfeeding when I decided I wanted to do something about my teeny tiny sagging breasts, which had been a source of my low self-esteem since grade school since being teased “mosquito bites” and stuffing my bra nearly every day through high school. I thought bigger boobs would make me more beautiful, more desirable, more womanly, just more…because what I had and what I was wasn’t enough in my mind.
So I consulted with “one of the best” plastic surgeons in Newport Beach referred to me by a family friend and although I was concerned about silicone vs saline, he assured me the silicone implants were safe. He advised that they would only rupture if I were in a car accident or had chest trauma. He also advised that in the event they did rupture, the silicone would be contained in the scar capsule that is formed around the implant. He additionally advised if a saline implant ruptured, it would deflate immediately where a silicone implant would not. So not wanting to have one breast while waiting for a replacement, I opted for the silicone implants. He never mentioned they were BANNED by the FDA at the time and I was getting them as part of a study for women who had CANCER!
By the time I was 21, I was giving speeches on behalf of my community college honors society to incoming freshman and their parents and had earned a full academic scholarship to Chapman University. I made a name for myself there in Finance and Marketing, earned a paid internship and other opportunities and it seemed as though the world was my oyster!
It was at this time the severe pain began in my joints and then widespread in my muscles. Specialist after specialist, test after test and medication after medication, no one could figure out what was causing the severe pain and by now severe fatigue as well. They did, however, prescribe plenty of medications for the plenty of symptoms. Pain killers, muscle relaxers, anti-inflammatories, anti-depressants, sleep aids… those are the ones I remember. What I also remember is the severe side effects those meds caused and nearly becoming addicted to the pain meds and muscle relaxers. By the grace of God, I didn’t die from those medications!
I did, however, start heavily self-medicating with alcohol. Especially after the fibromyalgia diagnosis in 2005. I was only 23. No known cause and no known cure. The treatment, as I was told, was to throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and see what sticks. It wasn’t very promising to me as a young single mother.
None the less, I managed to graduate college in 2006 with a high GPA, land an amazing job and continue to work hard to support my daughter and myself. It was then, the depression began to set it more heavily. The pain and exhaustion were overwhelming and anytime I didn’t spend at work, I spent in bed. At times, I could barely get my daughter to school down the street. I was in a full victim mentality and my health and poor habits were killing me.
By some miracle, I met an incredible man at the beginning of my health crisis just shortly after I had implants in 2001. He loved me and my daughter through all of the ups and downs and we married in 2007.
Even though my health was getting worse and worse, I managed to earn a good income as did my hard-working husband, and we bought our first home in 2009. We were overjoyed and although the house was way bigger than our little family of 3 needed, we had dreams of filling it up one day.
Days turned into months, months into years. My health was just never at a place where I could conceive a healthy child or be healthy and functioning myself. If I were to get pregnant on all of the medications they prescribed, it would cause harm to our baby if he or she survived. So I decided to stop all medications. Employ as many naturopathic methods as possible. Yoga, massage, meditation, acupuncture, clean eating. Still, my health suffered.
I quit high paying jobs. I lost nearly half our income, and if it weren’t for the help of family we would have lost our home. I lost connections with dear friends and I missed many many family gatherings. I also almost allowed my pity party and alcoholism to nearly kill me.
In 2013, I almost bled to death in a freak accident in our back yard during a cheer party we were hosting. I had a major blood transfusion and was told I nearly lost my life. I woke up in the ICU and felt God for the first time in a long time that day.
Through His power and love, I sought help and was able to quit drinking in 2014. I found a way to manage my health enough to conceive another child in 2016, and it felt so amazing that we decided to try for one more.
It was after the birth of our first son in 2016 that I first heard of breast implant illness. A friend was sharing her story on social media, and although I read some of what she shared, the insecure little girl in me wasn’t ready to take a hard look at the possibility that breast implants were making her sick all of these years. I was in deep denial.
Then after the birth of our second son in April of 2018, my health declined even more. What was helping me before wasn’t helping anymore. My thyroid was off…first low, then high even though my labs came back negative for Hashimoto’s or Graves. I was coming down with a low-grade fever and sore throat by mid-day every day, even though labs came back no active mononucleosis which I had in HS. My hair was falling out way beyond what was normal post-pregnancy. Brain fog and declining cognitive function were at an all-time high and I could barely get the words out of my mouth if I could remember the words in the first place. During a conversation with family, this was less embarrassing as they knew what I was dealing with for the most part. With friends, acquaintances and strangers, this was a blow to my ego.
The once single mom, putting herself through college, speaking on behalf of the honors society could now barely deliver a clear sentence most days. I’ve developed rashes all over my body, scabs on my scalp, GI issues, and just about every single known BII symptom. I was becoming desperate to figure out was causing all of these debilitating health issues, including significant weakness, pain, numbing and tingling in my wrist and hands that at times made it nearly impossible to even make a bottle for our baby. I couldn’t even carry him without fear I might drop him, praying to God that I could hold onto him long enough for us to get down the stairs.
I was determined to figure my health out once again, refusing to be a victim to any circumstances and it was at that time a family friend was suffering with BII and had her explant. She felt better immediately and wanted my mom to share her experience with me since it took her 2 years of having mysterious health issues similar to mine before her doctors advised it could be her implants.
I knew in my gut I couldn’t ignore this very real possibility anymore, and the more I researched BII and read other women’s stories that sounded as if I wrote them myself, I knew this was the likely cause for so many years of invisible health disorders.
In late February I found a doctor through a support group who acknowledged BII, had a consult and scheduled the surgery with him in less than one month. In less than one week I have already experienced some relief. Although I am still sore from the surgery, I have not had one sore throat or fever, no widespread pain in my body, the veins in my hands aren’t bulging as much and I just feel better and more energized. Although I remind myself to be patient, I also have more hope than ever before.
While I do become very frustrated at times, still processing what I went through for over 15+ years over implants, I have faith all of this can be fueled towards positive change in this industry and ultimately in the lives of women and their families around the world. It has already brought me back full circle to something revealed to me through this journey…to what I believe is my purpose here on this earth…to LOVE. Self-love above all. Realizing the source of so much of your suffering was caused by something you chose to do can come with a lot of guilt and shame. Finding love for ourselves, past and present, and for ALL of the experiences in this life, good or bad, is freeing. Having faith in His timing, in His purpose for all of it brings me peace. Peace in knowing that my story, like that of those who so courageously went before me, can help someone else on their journey. I vow to do as much as I to especially help those with less resources and support than I have been blessed with over the years. I know there are so many women who cannot afford the surgery and who just need to be surrounded by so much love as they go through this part of their journey. Please let me know what I can do to help you and Love Song with this cause.
Thank you for giving so many of us an opportunity to share our stories. To have our voices heard. To find purpose in the pain.
What type of implants did you have?
2001 under breast silicone
What surgeon did you explant with?
When did you begin to experience symptoms?
1-2 years at 20 yrs old
What symptoms did you have?
Diagnosed with Fibromyalgia 5 years after implants.
Joint pain, swelling and stiffness in knees first, then all joints.
Extreme Muscle tension.
Hair thinning and loss
Cognitive and memory loss
Confusion on what time of year it was!
Inability to use hands eventually
Feeling constantly dehydrated
Constant tension headaches
First gaining of weight for 10 years then extreme Loss of appetite last 2.
GI issues, IBS, Gerd, colon polyps
Massive inflammation throughout the face and body.
Dry mouth/paranoid about breath
Ptsd once I realized I had been suffering from this for 17 yrs because I wanted bigger breasts.
How did breast implants impact your life?
They created a lot of physical, emotional and financial suffering for me as a single mom and my now adult daughter who didn't have all of the quality mother time she deserved. I missed open houses and other special events, or I was hopped up on all of the meds the doctors gave me, without a diagnosis, that I was barely present.
I’m grateful that I avoided addiction to so many medications. Grateful my path led me to so much growth and revealed to me how strong, brave and blessed I am to be surrounded and led by incredible women. It's brought further purpose and passion into my heart to spread the message of unconditional love I'm called to share and the opportunity to help other women and families as I've been helped.
I'll never again regret my journey as I once did (depressed and traumatized), but embrace it as part of my path to further joy and victory vs continuing to be a victim of misinformation and lies in this industry. It has shown me how much power we have and what a difference we can make!
What was surgery like for you?
Painful. Scary. Emotional. I felt cut up and scarred in my most vulnerable part of my body, physically and emotionally. I had support but I know not all women do. It made a world of difference. Surrounded by people who love me no matter what. Recovery was 3 weeks without holding my baby boys. Even then, it was painful for about 6 months and I can still feel nerves painfully reconnecting.
How are you doing now, after explant?
So much better! The rash is gone! Thyroid normal! Hands working so I can hold and play with my kids! The future is bright. It took time adjusting to my smaller boobs but focusing on my innate self worth and love helped me through. I tell myself how proud I am and how I love myself every day. Almost 2 decades of the opposite way of life from the near hopelessness in my soul.
What would you like women who are considering explant to know?
Join a support group. So many women are going through the same and have gone through the same and can help you do your research, reflection and ultimately decide what's best you, which is to explant of course, but how and with whom. Your body was perfectly created and when we put foreign objects into it our immune system can be triggered into overdrive. The longer it's in this stressed mode, the worse it gets. Please don't wait. Start your journey to your healthiest happiest living today.