The photo on the left is what I looked like as I was healing from my double mastectomy in 2016. I am smiling, but that was not easy for me at all. In fact, I was having a very hard time emotionally being flat, bumpy and scarred. My self esteem was at an all time low and I could not wait to have breast reconstruction and get my breasts back. If you have read my book, Bittersweet: A Vulnerable Photographic Breast Cancer Journey, you know that the process was long and painful to get to the final results you see in the photo on the right.
I really do believe that my plastic surgeon is brilliant. My breasts are beautiful…but they have come at a cost that I was never warned about. I did so much research before the implants and I felt like I was asking all of my doctors the right questions.
Is there a risk of cancer from the implants? NO! I was told that only the textured implants had that risk and the implants I was getting were smooth with absolutely no cancer risk. The FDA announced last week that ALL implants, saline or silicone, pose a risk of a very rare cancer, BIA-ALCL. It is NOT breast cancer. It is a cancer that has only one cause…breast implants and women are dying from it.
Are there any other side effects I should worry about? No! These are the safest, most natural implants on the market. My Allergan brochure confirms this by saying “Silicone gel-filled implants are among the most studied medical devices. They are the subject of literally thousands of studies and published reports.”
I have found out through personal experience that neither of those claims are true. I don’t blame my plastic surgeon, because at the time, that is what he was told by Allergan, the implant manufacturer and it was backed up by the FDA. What makes me angry is that both Allergan and the FDA knew that there were problems with implants and that is why they were pulled off the market in 1992 and should never have been put back on the market in 2006 without extensive studies and full disclosure of autoimmune illnesses, implant ruptures and deaths caused by a rare implant cancer. The FDA is meeting in March 2019 to discuss breast implants and all of these issues.
So, how did I get to the conclusion that my implants have to be removed? When I was going through breast cancer, I documented every phase of it for my book. I took notes at every doctors appointment and I even have voice recordings of appointments with doctors. My friend, Kathleen, a breast cancer survivor, joined me to Breast Implant Illness and Healing by Nicole on Facebook about 10 days ago. There are 64,000+ women worldwide in the group and that continues to increase as women find out about breast implant illness. When I started to read the posts and comments I was absolutely floored! The Breast Implant Illness symptoms that women were describing were my own. I knew something was wrong 2 1/2 years ago, but when I spoke to my Primary Care Physician, my Oncologist, my Plastic Surgeon, and my Physical Therapist, all of them told me that the symptoms were due to my age, the effects of chemo, or menopause. You can also check out Healingbreastimplantillness.com, the official page for information.
I went back through all of my notes and created a timeline of events to better evaluate when I actually started to notice the symptoms and document how they progressed and got worse. My implants were put in August 2016 and my first complaints started 2 months later in October. A little over a year later in November 2017, I felt like menopause was really kicking my ass! I told my oncologist at the time, that I had shortness of breath, anxiety, exhaustion, heart palpitations, joint and muscle pain, constant sinus congestion, I was bloated and gassy, I bruised easily, and I had insomnia. Once again, it was written off as menopause. I was a little shocked at the time that menopause was so brutal, but had no other theories, so bought it hook, line and sinker.
I have had the breast implants now for 2 1/2 years and my symptoms have become debilitating. I have woken up on more than one morning and wished, to myself, that breast cancer had just taken me. That is hard for me to admit, because I used to wake up every morning with a smile on my face and most days singing. Even after 4 rounds of chemo, I was still a positive person. I love my life and I used to look forward to every new day. Several family members have suggested that maybe I am suffering from depression, but I know that I am not. My depressed feelings are a result of physically feeling awful all of the time! I have not been complaining much anymore, because nobody wants to hear about menopause! Now that I know that breast implant illness is real and that implants are causing women all over the world, including quite a few of my personal friends, auto-immune diseases, I feel a renewed passion for helping women going through this.
Here is a full list of my current symptoms and yes, I am sure that some of them are probably worsened by menopause, but let’s get real…I am 49 years old, not 90 and something is really wrong! Keep in mind, I did not have any of these symptoms after chemo was completed and before the implants were put in. I was already in menopause from chemo, so if they were all related to menopause, I should have been experiencing them prior to the implants.
• Anxiety • panic attacks • fatigue • heart palpitations • memory loss • insomnia • shortness of breath • sharp breast pains • swelling in breast tissue • back/neck pain • joint pain • muscle weakness • dizziness • blurry vision • sinus issues • frequent urination • chronic UTI • dry mouth • mouth sores • excessive thirst • weight gain • paranoia • achey teeth • swelling around my eyes • inflammation • difficulty walking • dry skin • vertigo • feelings of despair • Some days I physically feel like I am dying.
Believe me, I have not made the decision to explant lightly. Look at the before and after picture! This is going to be fucking brutal and I am angry! I already had to say goodbye to my breasts once! I never thought I would ever have to experience that again! But…my health is far more important than my looks. I am glad that I am weeks away from turning 50 because I have a deeper understanding of age and beauty now. I have grown so much as a person in the last 3 years since my diagnosis.
Our culture is constantly bombarding women with the message that our breasts aren’t big enough, our stomachs aren’t flat enough and we have to be perfect to be worthy. Social media only amplifies our failings by comparing us to women that can afford to change every physical trait they feel bad about with the help of their plastic surgeon and gobs of money.
I do not want to live my life feeling bad physically because of these silicone implants in my chest. I know that if I keep them intact, I will be one of the women that is diagnosed with an auto-immune disease, I think I am well on my way. I also do not want to look in the mirror and wish that my ass was smaller, my arms more toned, my legs thinner and I don’t want to hear a voice that says I am not sexy without breasts! I am rebelling! I have started to stand in front of the mirror naked and tell each part of my body that it is beautiful, that I am beautiful and that no matter what, I am worthy!!! No matter what our shape or size, we are enough! I am preparing myself for change and I don’t think it will be easy. I will struggle, but I am determined to accept the body that I am given once the implants are removed, because the biggest gifts that I can give myself are acceptance and love.
Keep following my blog as I share information about breast implant illness, the FDA, implant lawsuits and my process of explantation. For more information please go to, https://healingbreastimplantillness.com/ , this is the official website for breast implant illness.