“The so-called "reward" was not worth the pain, I'll tell you that. They made me feel more attractive, like I fit in better with my surroundings, even though I never really wanted them in the first place. I didn't really get them for me. I got them for someone else. Big mistake.”
Karen’s journey with breast implant illness was long and difficult. Chronic fatigue that left her bedridden for months, brain fog that made it difficult to recall conversations she just had and relentless headaches are only a few of the BII symptoms that stole years from her life. Determined to reclaim her life and move forward on her terms, Karen searched for an explant surgeon who was committed to no longer implanting and who truly believed that she was suffering as a result of her breast implants.
Tell us about your explant journey.
I got breast implants in the first place, for all the wrong reasons. So let's start there.
I worked really hard to be healthy and fit. I was known for such. I was the "workout queen." I ate extra clean. So clean, that my cousin always jokes that I eat like an Iguana. LOL! I got implants and felt fine for a few years. Then I started to notice things. I would forget stuff and not little stuff, but a conversation that I JUST had. I was EXTRA irritable. Later I developed Hypothyroidism out of the blue in 2009. I thought that was odd, but I never attached it to my implants. I also started getting strep throat, at least twice a year, every year. It was bad to the point where I would lose my voice. Then I noticed that I would be out of breath just walking up a flight of stairs. Then I could not take a deep breath. Then slowly, the brain fog began. It was a running joke at my job that if you didn't write it down for me, I would not remember it. Then I would start being so tired. No matter what I did or didn't do, or how much or how little sleep I got: exhausted.
Then in 2014/2015, I came home from work one day, all is well then I physically could NOT get out of bed the following morning. For nine months, I could barely function. I just wanted to SLEEP, and I did for 10-12 hours a day. Everything hurt—literally everything. Then I was diagnosed with chronic stress-induced adrenal fatigue, then chronic fatigue syndrome, then anxiety, then an issue with my pituitary gland.
In 2016, I landed in the hospital because I simply could not catch my breath, and my heart rate was through the roof. My EBV levels were higher than 600. Normal is like 7. The test only measures to 600. The doctor wanted to know how in the world was I still standing. It took me over an hour to get out of bed, and I hurt from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet. My hands would swell. My feet would swell. I was always either really cold or really hot. I ALWAYS had a headache. Sometimes, a migraine. I went from being able to eat nothing to being able to eat everything. I gained weight. My eyes were so dry that I could no longer wear my contacts. My life was ABSOLUTELY changed and not for the better.
I spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on doctors, specialists, treatments, medications, and I spent YEARS trying to figure out what was wrong. Eventually, doctors determined that it was all in my head, and sent me to see psychiatrists, who told me that that it wasn't. (DUH!) But even after all of that, I never would've thought it was my implants.
One day, my ex-husband called me. He said that he saw a news segment with a lady on it that reminded him of me, and how she found out that her implants were making her sick. I thought he was nuts. But eventually, I realized that it wasn't anything else that aa doctor could pinpoint, so I started researching. I found TONS of information and THOUSANDS of women whose stories were just like mine. I cried. I searched for surgeons, and ultimately chose one that no longer did implants. It was HUGE for me to my health in the hands of someone who believed in BII, who listened to me and my issues and was 100% committed to getting the entire capsule out.
I woke up after day 1, with absolutely NO Joint pain, and NO headache. I hadn't had that in three years. I didn't even realize it at first. I woke up, threw my leg out of bed, and went to the restroom, all while half asleep. It was on my way back to bed that I stopped in my tracks. "Had I just got up and walked to the restroom? With no pain? Had I just gotten up and out in bed in mere seconds? Do I legit not have a headache?" I couldn't believe it. If someone had told me this, I would 100% believe that they were lying. But there I was. This was the beginning of my reborn life.
Every day I feel better. It's a true journey of discovery. After being sick for SOOO long, I am getting reacquainted with who I am, and my ever-changing limits and chemistry. I am looking forward to the life I have ahead of me.
What type of implants did you have?
375cc Smooth Saline
What surgeon did you explant with?
When did you begin to experience symptoms?
Over 7 years after implanting.
What symptoms did you have?
Extreme chronic fatigue (left me basically bedridden for 9 months)
Brain fog (I couldn't remember simple words; difficulty concentrating to the point where I would struggle to string words together anytime after mid afternoon)
Joint pain that made it difficult to get out of bed in the morning.
Shortness of breath
Inability to take a deep breath
Ringing in my ears
Skin Rashes (that we thought were hives)
Tingling in the feet, calves, and hands
Swollen hands and feet
Muscle twitching got 100% worse (Truncal Dystonia)
Feet and Hands always cold
Diminished sense of smell
Chronic Dehydration (even with 2 gallons of water a day)
Burning pain around the chest wall
Chronic back pain
Pigmentation changes (especially on the legs)
Sudden food intolerances and allergies
Persistent viral infections (Strep Throat like clockwork 2-3 times a year)
CRAZY mood swings
EBV with no previous mono-infection (my levels were "greater than 600". 600 is as high as the test would go.)
Tender lymph nodes underarms
Sharp pains in the breasts
How did breast implants impact your life?
The so-called "reward" was not worth the pain, I'll tell you that. They made me feel more attractive, like I fit in better with my surroundings, even though I never really wanted them in the first place. I didn't really get them for me. I got them for someone else. Big mistake.
What was surgery like for you?
I was very confident in the surgeon that I chose. So going into surgery, I was just so ready for it, I had no fears. For me, surgery was a breeze. I didn't even really need any pain medication.
How are you doing now, after explant?
I am doing amazing. I have legit not felt this good since 2009.
What would you like women who are considering explant to know?
If you are considering explanting, then you have no doubt started having symptoms. Symptoms that may have been diagnosed like all of mine were, but ones that medicines, treatments, and doctors didn't fix. Natural remedies did not work. I say, do not wait. Find a doctor who is committed to removing the entire capsule, who ACTIVELY LISTENS when you talk, AND who believes that BII is real. You need a doctor who is on your side and committed to your healing.
Is there anything else you would like us to know?
You are not crazy. It is NOT in your head. I wish I had known about BII before I got implants. I would NEVER have gotten them. I thought I had done my due diligence by getting saline instead of silicone, which is why it is so important for me to be vulnerable and tell my story. If I can prevent just one person from having to go through the hell that I have, it will be worth it.
BII took YEARS of my life away from me. I can never get any of that back. But I can make the remaining time that I have left better.