True Stories

Serendipity Saved My Life: My Breast Explant Story

On August 5, 2018, I watched the documentary, The Bleeding Edge. At no time before that had I ever suspected, nor was it ever suggested by any of the numerous doctors and specialists I have seen over the years, that my breast implants could cause my many illnesses of unknown origin.

Watching and hearing the stories of women suffering from BII shook me and threw me for a tailspin because I knew that I finally had a culprit to my years of pain and suffering. Although I had been contemplating having my implants removed for a while, the urgency to do so didn’t happen until I learned that they could be killing me.

It all made sense. My ailments, so varied and seemingly unrelated, did have a root cause. So many emotions followed; I was elated and felt vindicated because I had been telling doctors for years that something devastating was happening to me, but I just didn’t know what. I also went into full-on panic-mode, feeling like my breast implants were now a ticking time bomb that could rupture at any moment, making me susceptible to toxic mold that could be inside them. Yes, mold.

I knew it wasn’t all in my head.

I was fully aware of the hormonal and other physical challenges of growing older; however, what I was experiencing could not be chalked up to old age or menopause. An avid reader, I’d enjoyed 20/10 vision my whole life, and then suddenly, in less than six months, my vision diminished to 20/20, which may not sound significant, but it was for me.

Brain fog? Honey, I would sometimes forget what I was saying in mid-sentence. Don’t get me started on the abnormal swelling and inflammation and joint pain in my hips, shoulders, and ankles. Rheumatoid and orthopedic doctors were stumped with my blood work showing no signs of rheumatoid factors but high levels of inflammation, apparent autoimmune responses.

The worst was the time I suffered full-body hives for several months. I also suffered severe anxiety and depression that made me too anxious and sad to leave my apartment. There were the heart palpitations and not just little flutters either, sometimes constant rapid heartbeats that I could feel through my chest. Chronic insomnia stole my sleep; for over a decade, I got maybe four or five hours of quality sleep a night. Lack of sleep causes additional health issues too.  

Almost every doctor and specialist I saw was adamant that menopause was the only answer to all of my health issues, but I knew in my gut that there was more going on. 

For years my body had been trying to tell me that something was wrong; essentially, my system had been rejecting the foreign bodies that had in my body for two decades. How is it that organ transplant recipients are given anti-rejection meds following surgery, but cosmetic or preventive surgeries that involve putting foreign objects in the body aren’t? How was it possible that almost every cosmetic surgeon on the planet could believe that silicone in any form is safe for internal use? How could I have not figured it out sooner? How could I do this to myself?

How it all began…

I was 11 years old when playing outside with my little brother; I challenged him to a race. “I bet I can climb the fence into that tree before you can!” And beat him I did. I climbed to the very top of the fence, as I’d done so many times before, always careful to climb over the barb. 

On this day, I slipped, and the barb sliced through my shirt, through the flesh of my chest, severely damaging my left breast. I don’t remember much of what happened that day. Weeks later, my mother took me to a doctor, where he explained I would probably be fine. In his “expert” medical opinion, my body would most likely rebound and develop naturally because I was so young. I didn’t.

In high school and college, I wasn’t one of the popular girls. Although I didn’t care about being “accepted” by my peers, I always felt… different. Different in a way that made me feel less than a young woman; something was missing, literally. 

Ultimately I chose a plastic surgeon in Georgia. At that point, I had lived my life without a left breast for 15 years.

My surgeon insisted that saline implants were my best choice because they were safer, softer, and would feel more “natural.” He never spoke to me about potential autoimmune issues, he assured me that I had nothing to fear because in the event the implants leaked or ruptured, my body would simply absorb the “safe” saline. He never gave me cause to suspect that the silicone casing of the saline implants was any danger to my health.

When Serendipity knocks, you answer.

I started down a path of what felt like rapidly declining health at around 42 years old, or maybe it started sooner; I honestly don’t know anymore. I do know that I’d had enough. I was done searching, researching, and hoping for answers. And I felt like my husband, family, friends, and co-workers were tired of hearing and seeing me not at my best. I decided the best I could do was accept my life of pain and try to make the most of living while I could. I had given up, but the Universe knew better. Serendipity led me to watch The Bleeding Edge because it was just the day before I found the movie that I had decided it was time to move on from trying to find answers.

Roads best traveled are long.

A dear friend once told me that “A road best traveled is long.” Long journeys allow you to wander and learn, explore and appreciate where you are, and even to look back to see how far you’ve come. On this road of recovery from BII, I’m choosing to look forward. I used to miss the strong, courageous, and vibrant woman I was before getting sick, but she had to make room for the stellar woman I am becoming.

On October 11, 2018, I underwent breast explant surgery and finally liberated my body from Breast Implant Illness’s debilitating effects. Now on the eve of my 50th birthday, I’m still on the road to recovery, but my prognosis looks fantastic.

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