This past year, over 300,000 breast augmentation surgeries were performed in the United States alone. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, breast implants remain the top cosmetic plastic surgery in the United States. Am I shocked? No. Am I saddened? Yes.
I was one of those statistics back in 2004 when I made the decision to get breast implants. I wanted to feel more womanly (you can read my full story here). After doing my “research”, asking questions, and thinking I had the solution to my insecurities, I elected to have breast augmentation surgery.
The Scary Reality
I loved having a “woman’s body”, finally! I was able to experience what all my friends had been experiencing since middle school – the look and feel of breasts! The choice I made to alter my body brought me a lot of self-confidence, happiness, and peace.
Sadly, only two years after getting implants, I started developing some health problems that I did not have prior to implants. I started having gastrointestinal and digestive struggles. Random pains in my gut would cripple me without an obvious sign of what was causing them. Then, I started getting migraines almost monthly.
I wasn’t sure what was happening, so I sought out a nutritionist and gastroenterologist looking for answers. The nutritionist suggested I discontinue eating gluten and dairy. I did feel better without these! It seemed I had developed food sensitivities.
The gastroenterologist performed a endoscopy to screen me for Celiac Disease. Luckily, that wasn’t the case. He only saw evidence of acid reflux, a condition I never had before. “Interesting,” I thought. He, too, suggested I continue on a gluten-free diet if I was feeling better eating that way.
With few real answers, I continued watching what I ate. Over the years, my symptoms came and went. I often kept how I was feeling to myself. Until this past year when everything seemed to avalanche into ONE BIG MESS.
Reclaiming My Health
In 2018, I was riddled with too many symptoms to ignore. It was absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to pass over what was happening in my body. Doctors did not have any clue what was causing me to feel the way I was.
Specialist after specialist, prescription after prescription, test after test, nothing was getting to the root of my health concerns. I finally decided to try the unconventional route and seek out the help of a functional medicine practitioner.
Through his testing, I learned that my body was inundated with crazy toxins, pathogens, bacteria, parasites, and so much more. Yikes! Finally, I felt like I was getting somewhere. But why was my body filled with toxins such as lacquer, MTBE (gasoline additives), pesticides, bleaching agents, etc.?
A Message From the Universe
It’s as if God was leading me down this path of discovery very slowly. Once I learned that my body was struggling with these issues, I then stumbled upon the Healing Breast Implant Illness by Nicole website. As I read about breast implant illness (BII), I slowly connected the dots.
What sealed the deal was when I joined the Healing Breast Implant Illness by Nicole Facebook group made up of over 58,000 women (and counting). Countless woman, just like me, were sharing their stories of debilitating chronic illness symptoms and misdiagnoses. What we all had in common were breast implants and that our symptoms completely mirrored each others.
This wasn’t a fluke. It is impossible for tens of thousands of women to all have the exact same symptoms (usually 30+ symptoms at a time) and not consider that the implants had something to do with it.
It was through this amazing group of warriors that I learned about the toxicity of implants and our body’s response to foreign objects being placed close to vital organs such as our heart and lungs. No wonder I was feeling like crap! But why didn’t my implanting surgeon tell me about these things?
Women shared their stories of heartache and pain followed by amazing healing successes once they explanted! I finally felt like there might be hope – a chance to finally feel better.
Compassion is the Best Treatment
Luckily, I was able to find an experienced plastic surgeon in my state who believed in Breast Implant Illness. (I am still shocked at how many health professionals do not believe in it or have never heard of it.)
Other women had used this particular surgeon and testified to his skill and talent, but most of all, his compassion. I couldn’t wait to get the show on the road – let’s get these suckers OUT OF ME.
After my initial consultation with Dr. Brian Buinewicz, I felt at ease with my decision to explant. He felt confident that I would feel improvement once the implants were out. He did not even mention replacing my saline implants with other ones. What a breath of fresh air! He compassionately listened to my story and patiently answered every question I had.
I scheduled my surgery for the end of November. Waiting for the surgery date seemed like it an eternity, but the waiting was necessary because I would need a lot of support during my recovery. Everyone’s schedules needed to line up.
The Proper Explant for Healing
Explant surgery isn’t as easy as simply popping the implants out. The proper procedure is called en bloc/total capsulectomy. My surgeon would have to enter my breast through my previous incision scar, find the implant capsule, and properly remove it without leaving any of the surrounding tissue inside my chest cavity.
Extracting the tissue that forms around the breast implant is incredibly important for proper healing. Various chemicals, bacteria, fungus, etc. can linger in that tissue if left behind. So, my doctor would cut everything out of my chest wall that needed to come out.
The Big Day
Finally, the day arrived. I was nervous, mostly about the surgery prep stuff (IVs, being taken into the operating room, etc.). I also let my mind take me into those scary, dark places of “what if”. What if I didn’t make it through surgery and left behind my family? I also feared, what if this doesn’t change anything as far as my health?
Despite my fears, I knew in my heart that I was making the right decision for the long term. I needed to get my health back FOR my family. They had already lost me in a lot of ways. I wasn’t the “little Miss Sunshine” that others always knew me to be. Quite frankly, I missed myself.
Setting My Soul Free
Before I knew it, I was waking up in the recovery room. Ouch! I definitely felt pain across my chest. I was wrapped up tight in a compression bra, but boy, did my breasts hurt!
Coming out of anesthesia was….INTERESTING. I cried. A LOT! I wasn’t just shedding tears, I was sobbing and I simply could not stop it. Waves of emotion were washing over me and the only way I could describe it to my nurse, husband, and doctor was, “I feel free. I feel like my soul can finally fly.”
It was as if this heavy burden was lifted and everything that had been trapped behind those toxic bags in my chest was set free. The feeling was surreal. To say that it was anything less than an existential experience would be a disservice. My soul was saved.
I cried for hours and then days. Feelings would just flood my body and all I could do was let them out. I gave myself permission to just cry and let my body experience all that it needed to. I had such compassion for my body and what it had been through over the years.
Surgery Was a Success
My doctor explained to me that he retrieved all of the capsule tissue. Some of my implant capsule had attached to my rib, so he needed to scrape it off my rib to ensure everything was gone. See? Not such a simple procedure after all.
Luckily, the doctor did not see any evidence of rupture or leakage from my implants. That said, implants always leak microscopically. Think about it, they are baking in a hot oven (our body) for years. It’s impossible for there not to be some leakage and material breakdown over time.
Recovery wasn’t easy. In the recovery room, I ended up throwing up and getting very lightheaded after trying to move too much. I had drains in each of my breasts to help fluid make its way out of my chest. My left breast was draining…A LOT.
If I’m being honest, having the drains was probably the worst part of it all. I did not like seeing my own blood and having to empty them every few hours. The whole thing creeped me out and I felt a great deal of anxiety. Worry definitely won over.
Over the next few days, I was sore and uncomfortable. I rested with ice packs and tried to stay positive to the best of my ability. My appetite was small but I knew I needed to eat to recover, so I tried to get something into me every few hours. Fresh juices and smoothies were my best bet.
During the first week, I noticed a few improvements. The whites of my eyes became whiter (despite all the crying I was doing). My joint aches and pains disappeared. I didn’t have clicking and fluttering in my ears for the first time in months! Probably the most dramatic change was that I did not have a single migraine headache.
On Day 6, I got my first drain taken out. Sadly, my left breast was still draining quite a bit and I was given the news that I would have to wait another five days to have it re-evaluated. Shortly after hearing that I’d have to go on another five days with a drain in me, I was notified that I had melanoma and would need surgery to address that issue. You can only imagine the emotional state I was in that day.
My prayers were answered on Day 11 post-surgery. Dr. Buinewicz agreed to take out my final drain. Hallelujah! Having the drains out gave me much needed reassurance that everything was going to be okay. I would start to heal.
Let the Healing Begin
Since that day, healing really has happened. Slowly, I’ve gotten mobility back in my chest muscles. My scars are healing well and my body is finding its new normal. My breasts, while slightly deformed and deflated looking, are natural.
Over the next few months, I’ll be curious to see how my breasts take shape. I know one thing for sure, they are larger than my pre-implant days. I was pleasantly surprised and I still am not quite sure how to feel comfortable with how they feel. I’m so used to having the firmness of an implant behind my tissue!
One of the most noticeable differences is the absence of heaviness from the front of my body. Literally, bags were taken off my lungs, so I am finally able to take a solid, deep breath! I had forgotten what that felt like, and it’s GLORIOUS!
Anxiety, Is That You?
In the initial stages of recovery, I was experiencing what felt like anxiety. I had panic attacks throughout my teenage years, so I know clearly what those feel like and this was somewhat similar to it, but not quite the same.
What I believe was happening was my lungs were finally able to expand fully, so having all that circulating air felt very foreign to me. It threw off my usual breathing, so it felt like anxiety. I would feel “off”, somewhat dizzy, but I think my body was just trying to regulate on top of healing.
I also think without the implants, my body is trying to find its equalibrium again. Hormones are resetting, circulation is rerouting, nerve endings are reforming, and detox is igniting.
So, my body has been feeling all sorts of things since explant as you can imagine. I have windows during my day where my energy is great, but I still struggle with daily fatigue. There are days when I feel sharp pains in random places, but I just have to trust that my body is doing what it needs to do.
The HEAL IS REAL. I just have to be patient and let my body recover. So many symptoms have already disappeared or improved. I have already lost 8lbs of pure inflammation!
Check out this list of my original symptoms. The ones with the red X next to it indicate symptoms that have completely gone away. I didn’t even realize how many have improved until I went down the list one by one. I am amazed!
While some symptoms still remain, I have noticed improvement or lessening of most of the symptoms. I believe that healing takes time and I am committed to making dietary and lifestyle changes that will support my body’s efforts in getting back to a healthy “normal”.
Since my surgery, I have vowed to choose healing foods and beverages to aide my recovery. I am eating a heavily plant-based diet, juicing, taking Vitamin C and D each day, and drinking herbal teas. Once my surgeon clears me, I will return to infrared saunas and exercise to promote my body’s detoxification.
I continue to use healing modalities such as meditation, dry brushing, chemical-free living, and intention setting practices since those don’t require medical clearance.
Progress over the next year will be exciting to experience. It’s a long process but I do expect great things to come. From what I have read, full healing can take up to two years after explant surgery.
The Take Away Message
If you know someone who is considering getting breast implants, please share my blog with her as a resource. Better yet, please have her join the Facebook group mentioned above. It could very well save her life like I believe it did mine.
Please carefully listen to anyone you know who currently has implants. If she is starting to experience health concerns, please direct her to this resource. Knowledge is power and it can lead to freedom!
Finally, if you are a health professional and you’re reading this article, please understand that Breast Implant Illness (while science hasn’t disclosed the true dangers yet because studies haven’t been conducted or released) is REAL. Tens of thousands of women are suffering and they need your compassion and your help.
And parents, please educate your children on how to love themselves just the way they are. The message and example starts with YOU. Model positive self-talk, healthy habits, and self-love. This isn’t a message just meant for young girls. Boys need a reminder, too, not only to love themselves but to appreciate a woman’s natural body. Her body doesn’t need enhancement to be desired or accepted.
Let’s take the pressure off of ourselves to be perfect in everyone’s eyes. Let’s be beautiful in our own eyes. Start today. Take a good look in the mirror, run your hands over your body, and THANK your body for everything it does for you on a daily basis. You are simply miraculous JUST THE WAY YOU ARE. <3
Happy self-love, everyone!