If you missed Part I, check it out here first!
What they don’t tell you is that implants are not like real boobs. (I mean, that’s kind of like, “duh,” right?)
They don’t look like real boobs, they don’t feel like real boobs (well when you have as little real breast tissue as me anyway), and they don’t behave like real boobs. The silicone ones do feel more like real boobs I believe, but I am so thankful now that my only option was to get the saline implants. I have read too many horror stories about the silicone implants…silent ruptures, gel bleeds, silicone migrating to all parts of the body…
When you wake up from the surgery and the pain meds start to wear off, there’s a HUGE amount of pressure on your chest. It’s like someone has both palms pressed against your chest pushing on you…always. There is a constant pressure and tightness. Maybe that was just me because my own originals breasts were so small and my skin was stretched so tight and my implants were under the muscle. I thought the pressure would go away with time and healing, but it did not. It never did. Eventually, I got used to the feeling.
To cope with the tight feeling in my chest, I started to slouch and hunch over without really realizing it. Bringing my shoulders down and forward helped to relieve the pressure and stretching feeling. I will admit that my posture was never great in the first place, but implants definitely made it much worse. It is still a habit I am trying to break now.
My right pinkie would also randomly go numb. That hasn’t happened again since the removal. I also had/have a muscle or nerve in my back on my right side that tingles too. That is the best way I can describe that sensation, and that has not disappeared. It comes and goes. It must be nerve damage from that first surgery.
When you sleep at night, the implants slide in the “pocket.” I am a side sleeper, and sleeping on my sides for the past 10 years was never the same. I always had to grab one “boob” and pull it up so that it was comfortable to roll on my side. I also learned how to sleep halfway on my side if that makes sense. Not truly on your side, but not really on your back either.
The cleavage that I had hoped for never came post-surgery either. SO bathing suit shopping was still a struggle…for many reasons.
One: Implants are not real boobs and do not behave like real boobs. Stiff saline implants are the opposite of real boobs. They aren’t squishy. They don’t mold nicely into a bathing suit top. I had to wear a very structured, padded, push up top to try to control those bad boys and to get any form of cleavage.
Two: When you wear a structured, padded, push up bathing suit top, you end up accidentally flashing people.
Yes, it’s true. The implants are under the pectoral muscle. When you use that muscle (or use your arms which then engages that muscle), it squeezes the implants and causes them to move to the sides. When you are wearing a structured, padded, push up bathing suit top, and the implants move to the sides, it causes the cups on that bathing suit top to pop up, and you end up flash your nips at everyone. So when I would hold onto the railing on a boat…flash. Hoist myself up on a raft in the pool…flash.
It was a lot of fun.
Not to mention that having implants under your pec muscles constantly pushing your chest IN makes it uncomfortable to actually use those muscles in any real way. The more you use them, the more the implants suffocate you. At least that’s how it felt for me. I avoided any kind of exercise that would cause me to have to use my arms and pecs. Plus, the pec muscles were CUT during the surgery to place the implants underneath. This is permanent. My muscle will never have the same strength again.
My surgeon downplayed that too. I remember him making a joke about how I was not doing bodybuilding competitions, and I wasn’t going to be an Olympic athlete either, so it didn’t really matter. Something about how I wouldn’t be doing triathlons. This little thought creeped in to my head during that conversation…but what if I want to someday? Boobs were more important.
Bra shopping was still a struggle too. Bras don’t fit boobs that are 98% implants very well either. Real boobs – squishy. Fake boobs – stiff.
Dress shopping became even more interesting, as well, because dresses would be my size until it was time to zip them up over the implants. Then they wouldn’t fit.
HUGS. Hugs were forever ruined with implants. Imagine hugging someone with two water balloons pressed between you. Except the water balloons are inside you. Pushing your chest in even more with the hug and suffocating you.
I was also always worried that they would pop too. Then I would have to have another surgery.
How many surgeries would I end up needing anyway?
My magical fix slowly started turning out to be not so magical after all…
Life With Implants
The first full year that I had the implants, I went away to college. I got sick A LOT. That’s just college. That’s just living in the dorms around so many people. Even though I had gone to a high school with around 3,000 kids and had barely been sick (maybe 2 times?) in my four years there. Hmmm… Even though NOBODY else seemed to be getting as sick as me as often as me. Hmmmm…
This phenomenon continued throughout college and beyond.
In that first full year with implants, when I was at college, I actually started googling things like “Can breast implants make you sick?” I found a website that talked about it and also about the removal process. Even back then, I started to feel like something was wrong. I read that removal was complicated because of the scar tissue capsule. Do you leave it in or take it out? Removal of the capsule is difficult, and most plastic surgeons leave it in. I would have to travel to a special surgeon who would take it all out, and it would cost a lot more. I put the thought out of my mind. I paid a lot of money for these boobs. I wasn’t getting them taken out.
My second full year with implants, the “rashes” started…if you can call it that. It was the spring of 2009 when the first break out happened. Itchy bumps (but not exactly hives) all over my chest and neck. I went to my family physician and had tests. I went to a dermatologist and had tests. Nobody could tell me what or why. My dermatologist told me multiple times that was just acne. Um. No. I know what acne is. Hundreds of little itchy bumps do not just appear in a matter of hours. NOT. ACNE.
The scalp itching started not too long after that too. Intense, insane itching. Did I have lice? No. Why is it itching so much? The rashes continued. I changed laundry detergent. I changed shampoos. I stopped wearing t-shirts that rubbed against my neck. Nothing helped. The blood tests didn’t reveal any answers either. I felt like a crazy person. Something was wrong with me. I knew something was wrong, but nobody could give me any answers.
It took a few years, but I finally discovered that Benadryl helped. I started to wonder if this rash and the itching were not an allergic reaction. Someone actually suggested that to me. So I would take Benadryl when I would feel the itching start. That is the only thing that stops me from full on breaking out in my crazy unidentified rash/hives/whatever this is.
The problems continued.
The end of my senior year of college, the period problems started. Well, I had problems before that. The word endometriosis was thrown around a lot. Inflammation. I was on the pill, but I started having break through bleeding. It got worse and worse (still on the pill). I went to a new gynecologist. She switched my pills. She switched them again. I did a transvaginal ultrasound. I did another. No answers.
I went off the pill. No change. I was spotting and bleeding for about three weeks per month. I saw another gynecologist. Same song and dance. Nothing.
My tongue went numb for a few weeks…months. I went to the doctor again. Did another blood test. I was borderline anemic (still bleeding 3 weeks/month at this time). No other answers. I took some iron pills.
I started a new workout and clean eating program (21 Day Fix). My tongue went back to normal…on and off.
I was still getting sick ALL OF THE TIME too. That’s just being a teacher. That’s just what happens when you work in a school.
My immune system was shot.
The Search For Answers
I thought that all of these symptoms were related somehow. They had to be connected. I would go to the doctor with a long list of symptoms, and he would look at me like I was crazy. I felt crazy.
I started doing a lot of research on my own since the doctors and the medical tests weren’t providing me with any answers or relief. I came across leaky gut. I found Dr. Joel Fuhrman (author of “Eat to Live”). I saw him on Dr. Oz one night when I was flicking through the channels. I researched the crap out of nutrition. (My research and my thoughts on that for another blog post.) But basically I started eating WAY more fruits, veggies, seeds, beans, nuts, etc. I tried to cut back on processed foods and sugar. I was making smoothies every day. Eating salads.
That seemed to help for a while, but it’s hard to stay on track. Pizza. Chicken Wings. Wine.
Rock bottom was December of 2015. I got mono. (I now suspect that maybe this wasn’t the first time I have had it…chronic fatigue is a bitch you guys.) Took a few weeks and a few round of different antibiotics and finally a trip to urgent care to find out that it was mono. 6 months later, my glands in my neck were still swollen. I went to an Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist. I went for an ultrasound of my neck. He recommended getting my tonsils out.
In my quest for answers, I watched Food Inc. for the first time. (Think factory farms, Monsanto, corruption in the USDA, FDA, etc.) Then Fed Up. (Sugar is making us fat and killing us.) Then Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. (A guy with an autoimmune disease [chronic urticaria] that causes him break out in rashes cures himself by juicing and switching to a vegan diet for a while.) You can see why I was interested… I am asking you to give these documentaries a chance. You will understand more about where I am coming from. You will understand why I’ve been juicing and making smoothies and why I have been all health-obnoxious for so long. I could write a whole series of posts about those films. They were pivotal in opening my eyes, shaping my thoughts, and preparing me for what I was to discover next.
I prayed for answers. I do believe in God. Looking back now, I feel like everything happened for a reason. Everything happened like it did to bring me here to this point today. The mono was the turning point that helped me put it all together.
I will never forget the night when I came across BII (Breat Implant Illness). It was December 2016. I just got home from a long cold day of bell ringing for the Salvation Army with my friend Susan and our NJHS student volunteers. I said a little prayer about getting help finding answers to the swollen lymph nodes, the itching, the period problems, and I logged into Facebook. I had started following this page, March Against Monsanto, after watching Food Inc. They posted an article with a sensational headline like, “Breast Implants: The Ticking Time Bomb in Millions of Women’s Bodies.”
I rolled my eyes hard. Please. Breast implants are safe. My saline implants were safe!!!!!
But then, everything I had done and read and researched…especially since watching Food Inc. and seeing the corruption with the USDA and the FDA with our food…I thought…maybe…just maybe…
I gave the article a quick read. Breast implants. Large foreign bodies placed inside the body. The body sees them as invaders. The immune system goes into overdrive. Your body walls them off. Your immune system becomes obsessed and consumed with trying to deal with these invaders. Basically everything else in your body starts to go to shit because of immune dysfunction. Cue the leaky gut. Cue the autoimmune disorders. Cue the inflammation.
Not to mention…what does the silicone shell of your implants do as it sits in a warm (98 degree) environment for 10 years? Does it start to slowly degrade? Silicone sitting at room temperature on a shelf for 10 years…maybe not. But what about silicone that sits in your body for 10 years? Hmmm…
The article led me to a website about Breast Implant Illness. Gee this website looks kind of familiar…is this the same one I was on all those years ago?
There’s also a Facebook support group. When I found it in December of 2016, there were between 10,000-11,000 members. Today there are over 50,000.
50,000 women all who have implants and all who are sick. This CANNOT be a coincidence.
I went to another Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor. The most highly recommended doctor in my area. He was a U of M grad too, so that helped. By the time I got in to see him, it was December 2016 (one year after I had been so sick). My glands were still swollen. I told him about ALL of my symptoms. I asked about breast implant illness, and I asked him if my body could be having a reaction to the implants. He said it was definitely possible. He sent me for a round of pretty intense blood tests. Full autoimmune panel + everything else you can imagine. I also went for an MRI of my neck to make sure that my swollen lymph nodes were not a symptom of something more sinister.
The results of my extensive blood tests came back. A YEAR after having mono, my mono (EBV) levels (both of them) were still way too high. My vitamin D was low. My ANA was positive. (When your ANA comes back positive, it means your body is having an autoimmune response to something/for some reason.)
That’s it. EVERYTHING ELSE CAME BACK NORMAL. They took over 10 vials of blood, and nothing. WHAT.
I learned two things. My body was taking FOREVER to fight the mono (can you say immune dysfunction?), and my body was having an autoimmune response to something. Those were the only two answers I got.
I started to think, could it be? I always thought that all of these different symptoms were connected. Doctors looked at me like I was crazy. Could it all link back to the implants? Could they be the root cause of all of these problems? Could this be the answer that I prayed for?
I prayed. I opened up Facebook. And there it was. It’s hard to explain, but I felt it in my gut.
There is no medical test to diagnose Breast Implant Illness.
Do you have implants, and do you have unexplained symptoms? Have you been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder?
Breast Implant Illness. Most doctors will tell you that it’s not a real thing.
There’s only one way to find out if the implants are making you sick.
Take them out.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, medical professional, or scientist. This post or any related posts are not meant in any way, shape, or form to be taken as medical advice or used in place of proper medical advice or a proper medical diagnosis. I am merely telling my story the way that it happened to me and from my point of view. I am explaining my thought process behind why I got and why I eventually removed my breast implants. I suggest doing your own research on plastic surgery and breast implants.