Breast Implant Illness

It’s my ONE YEAR explant boobiversary! July 18, 2019 was a big day in my life. It was on this day that I had my breast implants of 7 years removed by Dr. Dev in Jupiter, FL. It was a huge moment for me, both emotionally and physically in terms of my health issues and healing journey.

If you have followed my blog over the past 4.5 years, you know that I made a complete lifestyle change in 2016. If you are a new reader, in a gist: I started experiencing health issues following my gallbladder removal in 2015. It was a misdiagnosis, as my gallbladder was perfectly healthy and functioning, but I also found out during that same surgery that I had adenomyosis (read about that here). Surgery shed light on at least one piece of my health puzzle, albeit, while causing a new problem. The experiece triggered me to do a whole lifestyle overhaul, and work towards living a natural and healthy lifestyle–all to work towards a “cure” of some sorts for my various health issues. I was constantly doing ALL of the healthy things (healthy living has literally consumed my whole life these past few years), YET I kept slowly digressing. I would find a new supplement or something new to add into my daily regimen, and it would make me feel better for a period of time, and then the magic would wear off. I describe it as taking two steps forward, and then one step back. It’s been SO, VERY exhausting and frustrating.

And then came my pregnancy (you can read about that here), which just about did me in. It’s like the pregnancy used up all the fight I had left. My body worked so hard, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have delivered a healthy baby. But it used all the energy that had previously been keeping me at least semi-functioning, to grow my miracle baby. After giving birth, a huge weight lifted, and I truly did feel so much better (in comparison to what I felt like while pregnant). But feeling better was once again shortly lived, and the pregnancy appeared to have brought even more strange health issues to the surface.

In the summer of 2018, I came across a video from famous YouTuber, Karissa Pukas (you can watch it here, and if you do check out all of the informative links she posts in the video description.) Her breast implants were making her chronically ill, and we had many overlapping symptoms–symptoms which I would have never known were related to breast implants. I remember my mouth dropping open and literally saying, “Oh, shit!” aloud when watching her video. I knew at that moment when my 10 year mark arrived, that instead of replacing the implants, I would be removing them. No way would they be going back in me! And besides the whole idea just didn’t align with my natural lifestyle anymore. I go through so much trouble to avoid any products with chemicals and silicone in my lotions, personal care items, etc, it would be crazy to instead just insert it directly inside of my body.  I didn’t do anymore digging into “breast implant illness” (BII) at that time. My thinking was that I had 3 more years before I would need them removed, so I had plenty of time to figure it all out. Besides we were in the middle of building our forever home and had ran into so many financial surprises with that, AND were living in my in-law’s basement AND had sold one vehicle, to try to stretch our finances as far as possible–so the current time was the worst time ever to worry about health implications that I couldn’t financially do anything about. So I pushed it to the very back of my mind–I didn’t yet understand the many, many things that term “breast implant illness” encompassed, how serious it was, or how removing the implants properly wasn’t a simple or as inexpensive of a surgery as implanting was.

And then I hit a turning point. A fast spiral downwards. I was running the Pokey Pig 5K, which I had trained for all summer (because I am so NOT a runner lol). I had ran the exact route a dozen times with no issue. But the morning of the race, I did not feel right, I was so nauseous. We ran anyway, but I had to stop twice to throw up. I finished the race and went home. Maybe I needed food? To hydrate? So we went home and ate a bit. Immediately cue half a dozen URGENT trips to the bathroom, until my body purged everything out my bottom half. Sounds kind of like some sort of stomach virus, eh? Well this was the trend almost every single day going forward. No matter what I ate or drank–it could even be a few sips of water and a cracker. Within 15-20 minutes of eating, it would trigger violent bathroom attacks and nausea for hours. So I didn’t eat for at least 3 hours any time I had to go somewhere. But even that (not eating) wasn’t a guarantee. It started happening even if I hadn’t eaten anything all day. I found myself getting stuck in stores for hours because I couldn’t make a car ride back home (stuck in the restroom), I cancelled the same dentist appointment multiple times because I couldn’t make the 20 minute drive, etc, until I became so scared to leave my house, that I didn’t. It was like I had developed food sensitivities to EVERYTHING. I also went from exercising every day to not having any tolerance or energy. I mean zero. I would sleep so long, but barely be able to get up and brush my teeth before crashing on the couch for hours more. My muscles were weak and my joints would ache with the slightest activity. I was seeing my kinesiologist and chiropractor regularly, and each appointment I was testing positive for something new. I can’t even remember the extensive list, but it included infections in my bloodstream, Epstein-Barr syndrome, Lyme, SIBO, and parasites. I went from being the most fit I had ever been in my life to nearly lifeless, almost overnight.

In January 2019, I built up the nerve to join the private Facebook group, Breast Implant Illness and Healing by Nicole. This is the best resource group for anyone with breast implants or considering getting them. There are nearly 120,000 (only) women in this group. If you don’t have Facebook, a female friend or family member can join this group on your behalf or you can also checkout the website associated with this group, Healing Breast Implant Illness. You can spend hours and hours in this FB group educating yourself on the dangers on ALL types of breast implants (saline implants are still made with a silicone shell and grow mold and bacteria inside). I stayed glued to this group for months. You can see tons of ‘before and after’ explant photos, read thousands of stories about women’s health struggles and how they are healing after explanting, learn where to find surgeons who specialize in explant surgeries, how to best heal from BII, and so much more.

If you want a crash course in BII, here is a 10 minute video, made from my Instagram stories. It includes various video clips from Dr. Chun (one of the surgeons who ONLY does explant surgeries), headlines from FDA news articles and breast implant bans, Oprah clips from the original group of women fighting BII in the 90’s (At the time, it was the largest class action settlement in history), and general info on BII and BIA-ALCL (a breast implant specific cancer of the immune system).

By this time I was desperate and misrable. I could not function at all, could not leave the house, and spent large portions of my day sick and involuntary purging anything that entered my body. I wished that I could live without having to eat or drink. I stayed in bed 12 hours, and then transitioned to the couch to lay around for the remainder of the day. I would try to play with my son, but would wear out in minutes. Simply having to stand would zap my energy. I had spent hours reading everything in the FB group that I could get my hands on and I knew I needed my implants removed immediately. Yet, I was facing about $15,000 in expenses for the explant surgery, travel expenses, and tests and other things that I would need associated to explanting. And every penny of our savings and all of our credit was tied up in our house construction. Talk about horrible timing. It truly felt like the world was crashing down on me, and that I was single handedly going to destroy my husband’s and son’s life. Let me also mention that most people had no idea that I even had breast implants. Implanting when I was 21 was something super personal, and I was very private about it. Although some people “knew” (because, hello, sudden boobs), it was never something I talked openly about or was willing to discuss because it was too painful for me. I shut it down and refused to go there or even think about it.

But I had no choice now to not open up and talk about it. There was literally and figuratively something that I had to get off my chest. For one, I needed help to pay for the surgery in the immediate future because there was no way I could survive 3 more years. And I also needed to talk about it because after joining the FB group, I was so deeply disturbed at the suffering I was seeing. And the posts from women who had implanted following breast cancer, especially lit a fire under me. Thousands of women were being brave and sharing about BII and spreading the word. This is exactly why I was able to learn about BII–from another woman who was brave enough to share her story. And I wanted to be able to do the same for someone else. So I did it. I’ve never felt so vulnerable and scared before, but I opened up and started talking. I started a t-shirt fundraiser and made a video explaining what was going on, and prayed that people would understand. And through the great support system of friends and family, I was able to make ends meet and put a deposit on a surgery date in July with Dr. Dev in Jupiter, FL. If any of you all are reading this, I can not say it enough times–thank you  so, so much, I owe you my life. We found an affordable AirBnb to stay at, and I flew back home (like a crazy person) at 4 days post-op with drains still in because an extended stay would only cost more money. Being away was the longest 5 days of my life, and I cried once back home, thankful that I was holding my son and that the surgery was behind me. One of the sweetest memories from this past year is hugging my husband and son for the first time without a silicone barrier between our hearts. It felt like the first real hug I had ever given them, and I’ve never held them so closely.

Watch the short video at the very top of the page for my explant surgery footage and details.

So it’s been a year, and what’s up? Well it’s been quite a rollercoaster of ups and downs. My surgeon prepared me by saying that my digestive issues were the second to worse case he had seen, and that it would likely take 6 months-1 year to see them improve. And he was right, it was around the 8-month post-op mark (March) that I started seeing a significant difference with my digestive issues. Do I still have issues? Yes. But is it every day, violent attacks, up to 12 times a day–no, thank God! Most days the food settles fine, and when it doesn’t, it’s not a purging episode that lasts hours and leaves me flat on my face. With digestive issues being my number 1 issue going into my explant surgery, I am very pleased with the improvements I have seen in recent months. I am still however, working on overcoming the psychological effects of having such extreme food sensitivities for so long. I still don’t like to eat for hours before leaving the house because I’m terrified to because of all the previous experiences I’ve had. I think in time, once I can reestablish that trust with my body again, I will be able to overcome this aspect. It’s only been a few months of significant digestive improvement, and I may always have issues to some degree due to not having a gallbladder, so at least for the time being planning my schedule around being in a fasted state is helping me regain that trust. I am able to manage my remaining digestive symptoms, I am able to function to a higher degree than I  was, I am able to live a bit more with each passing day.

Immediately after my explant surgery, my skin started producing oil again. (It had been so dry for years!) I had a healthy glow, and the dark circles under my eyes and wrinkles on my forehead appeared less pronounced. My eyes were whiter and my dull, gray skin vent away. The photos really speak for themselves, and you will find that all the women who explant also notice the same thing. As far as surgery itself, I have healed fine. I had pretty aggressive scars from the implant removal and full actor lift that was performed, but they have faded nicely. I can’t feel my nipples though, and am still holding out that sensation may still return because that does bug me slightly. But, I am very happy with how my breasts look, and I think Dr. Dev is an amazingly skilled surgeon because they look much better than they did prior to getting implants, and I would be lying if I said that wasn’t somewhat a relief.

I mentioned a rollercoaster though, and I do mean that. I did a DNA test years ago, and I know that I have a MTHFR mutation, which means my body does not detox naturally on it’s own very well like it is supposed to do. This is part of why implants made me as sick as they did and as quickly as they did. But it also means that reversing the effects and damage of the breast implants is going to be a longer road for me. Breast implants are known endocrine disruptors, and within a month of my explant surgery, I felt a hormonal shift within. I started gaining weight rapidly, despite my lifestyle habits not changing. I’m talking 25lbs–I went from 145-170 in a matter of months. My period has been irregular, and I started getting bad cramps from my adenomyosis again for the first time in several years. According to blood work, at some point between 6 weeks post-op and 4 months post-op my TSH (thyroid) went from a normal level to an abnormal level. In May, additional testing showed the presence of antibodies (which could signify Hashimoto’s). So I started a very low dose of medication for hypothyroid medication in May, and get retested in August. However, I haven’t felt any improvement from the medication as far as my weight gain, energy, and irregular periods, which could mean the dose needs changed or perhaps other hormones are out of balance that I’m feeling the effects from. I just started a natural progesterone cream, but it’s too soon to know yet if that will help. I’m hoping that whatever the hormone imbalance may be, that in time that it will work itself out. My body still has lots of toxins from the breast implants that it’s working on removing and detoxing. This can cause all kinds of weird things, and I’m trying my best to be patient. At one point before my explant I was on 25 supplements (most of which were for my digestive issues). Currently I’m managing my digestive health by drinking one cup of organic matcha tea every day, which I add a large scoop of organic acacia fiber to. I take a round of a 2 strand liquid probiotic every few months for maintenance. I tried dozens of probiotics, psyllium fiber, and so many other supplements while I had breast implants, but nothing was ever enough to overpower the symptoms, so it is amazing to take so few supplements now. I’ve temporarily taken a couple supplements as I test deficient in them under the guidance of my chiropractor, but it has only taken a single bottle to fix the various deficiencies/ I haven’t needed anything long term.  As far as detoxing (and other than maintaining good nutrition), I’ve focused mainly on infrared sauna and whole body vibration sessions. My lymphatic system is in overdrive and I can feel this. IR sauna and WBV are probably the best things I can be doing at the time. Dealing with weight gain has been hard, and honestly was quite unexpected, as most women who explant experience the exact opposite. I am extremely self-conscious of my weight gain, I don’t want to downplay that, but I am learning to give myself grace.

And I think it’s one of the greatest lessons I have learned throughout this whole experience. As someone who has had huge body dysmorphia issues my entire life, I’m learning to love myself. I think back to that same Ham Days that I ran the Pokey Pig. That evening when I finally felt well enough to venture back out, I went to put on a new pair of denim shorts that I had bought a few weeks prior. Here I was, truly healthy and fit, and I looked at myself in the mirror, shook my head in disgust and took the shorts off. Thinking back to that moment, and so many moments before then, makes my heart ache. Part of that girl will always be in me. She is hard to shake loose. A part of me didn’t want to take my “boobiversary” photoshoot that I have been looking forward to since before even having my explant surgery because it hurts a little to see myself and have the eyes of others see me. But as I said, I am learning to give myself grace–to be kind to myself, to be patient, and to remember that I am perfectly imperfect. ❤

Here are some photos in commemoration of my journey that I’ve been on. They are light-hearted, yet serious. They expose more internal than external. Because although symbolic, revealed skin and scars are not the makers of naked truth and vulnerability–that must be exposed from within. I am here now to share my journey and spread awareness of BII.

In an attempt to keep this blog post as short as possible, there are many details I didn’t write about, but instead incorporated into the two videos within this article. The video at the top of the page goes into detail about my explant surgery and implant specifics and includes footage of my capsule cutting ceremony. The video farther down in the article gives a quick look into BII and includes FDA video testimony from both surgeons and women, among other important information. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions.

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