“Almost 8 years ago, I sat alone in a plastic surgeon’s office. I was only 22 years old and at a consultation to get gel breast implants. I was just coming off a 45-pound weight loss and I was left with hardly any breast tissue. I wanted to feel feminine again and I felt a breast augmentation was the best decision.
There are a few reasons why I made the decision to go under the knife. I was newly married at the time and my ex-husband told me that implants would really help to ‘spice things up’ in our relationship. Our marriage wasn’t solid and I was constantly finding him viewing pornography, which made me feel unpretty and undesirable.
I was not a stranger to being self-conscious about my looks. Throughout my life, I felt so many insecurities – most of which stemmed from verbal abuse by my own mother. She often taunted me about my weight and body as it grew. As a teenager, she would call me names like ‘ fat pig’ and persistently comment on the size of my thighs. I would often hide my meals in my room so she wouldn’t see me eat out of fear of yet another crude remark. She ripped my self-esteem to pieces and I never felt good enough, physically. Her words carried so much weight and led me down a dark path of bulimia.
Once I went through with the surgery and got the breast implants, I felt so good and so confident about myself… but then over the years of having them, things began to take a turn and I started noticing changes in my health.
I remarried and had my first child three years later. This was around the time that I started picking up on abnormal chronic fatigue. I was 25 years old and there was no apparent reason why I was falling asleep during the day. But all of my blood tests kept coming back with normal iron, b12, thyroid, and all. So, I figured it was just part of being a new mom and I shook it off.
As the years went on, I had my second child. I kept catching myself thinking about how I felt better the year prior with each year that passed by. My depression and anxiety grew. My memory started failing me and I experienced the worst brain fog of my life. It got so bad that I would have trouble forming complete sentences at times. My hair started falling out in chunks that would clog the drain.
My fatigue got so bad by 2018 that I was requiring 10-12 hours of nightly sleep followed by a 2 to 3 hour nap during the day. To add to this, my joints were so swollen and painful that I could not wear a wedding ring anymore. I also could not do cardio, run as well, or lift weights because my muscles ached.
On and off for the last several years, I have developed an inflammation of the sternum called costochondritis; the symptoms mimic a heart attack. I went to the ER a few times for an EKG, but it turned out normal. In 2018, I had my blood drawn 6-7 times total to check my thyroid, iron levels, hormones, cbc, everything. All of the tests came back normal, except one. My doctor told me, ‘Your hormones are at a menopausal level.’ But I rechecked these levels the next month and everything was normal. I was at a loss. I was 29 years old and I felt like I was going on 80. Worst of all, I had nowhere to turn and no doctor could figure out what was wrong with me.
It wasn’t until I began posting publicly about my breast augmentation in early 2018 that I had a few people comment about ‘breast implant illness’ or BII. When I first heard about it, I pushed it to the back of my mind and honestly did not give it a second thought. After all, my implants were FDA approved and my plastic surgeon told me they were safe. What could go wrong, right?
As the year went on, my health problems got worse. I remembered what others had said regarding breast implant illness and I decided to finally do my research. I joined a large group on Facebook dedicated to BII and I started reading every post. Every single story I read sounded just like my own story. All of their symptoms resonated with me. After a few weeks of research, I realized the possibility of my implants being the culprit for my declining health.
I started digging and educating myself on topics such as what implants are truly made of and other known facts about them. I was horrified at some of the things I had learned, many of which I did not even think to question or ask prior to getting them implanted. For example, a few of the ingredients in both saline and silicone implants are heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, mercury, and nickel. Other ingredients include neurotoxins such as Acetone, Polyvinyl Chloride, and Phenol.
Many plastic surgeons will argue that saline is the safer option of the two, but saline implants are made with a silicone shell. Therefore, you still have silicone within your body and most ladies are not informed of this fact. It made sense why these implants were wreaking havoc on my health and disrupting my hormones and endocrine system.
Once I decided that my implants could be poisoning me, I made the decision to get them taken out. I was not 100% sure if explanting would heal me, but I knew it certainly could not hurt. I had years of my life stolen from me and I was willing to do anything I could to feel alive again. I made my first consultation for an explant with my original doctor who did my breast augmentation and it did not go so well.
Firstly, he did not believe in BII, which was not a huge shock because many doctors don’t. However, he could not name any ingredients in the devices that he was implanting women with. Also, he told me that he thought I would be unhappy after removing them and that I would look ‘disproportional’. I walked out and I knew he was not the guy for this job.
I chose Doctor Jae Chun in Newport Beach, California, one of the top explant doctors in the world. I chose him because he believes in breast implant illness, so much that he stopped implanting women and only explants full time now. After a brief phonecall with him, I knew he was my guy because I did not have to ask hardly a single question. He told me everything I needed to know and more.
On December 2nd, I flew from Florida to California to have my surgery on December 4th. My nerves were shot, but I knew this was the right thing to do. I was still plagued with thoughts of, ‘Is this a waste of money and time?’ I remembered the previous surgeon’s comments as well. I thought, ‘Will I be disfigured?’
But surgery lasted a little less than 2 hours and went very well. He removed both implants as well as the capsule, which is the scar tissue that forms around the implants.
Removing the capsule is important if you are exhibiting symptoms of BII since the silicone gel can actually leech through the implant. Also, BIA-ALCL forms within this capsule so this is super important. BIA-ALCL or Breast implant associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma is a cancer of the immune system caused by breast implants.
This past February the FDA admitted to the public that ALL breast implants have the possibility to cause this cancer. With my surgery, I decided to opt out of getting a breast lift since I want more children in the future. I also decided against the popular option of a fat transfer because I was done messing with my body.
As soon as I awoke from surgery, I noticed two immediate things: 1) My chest felt lighter than it ever had and 2) I could actually breathe in deeply. Doctor Chun was able to get all of my capsule out and said I actually had a small contracture on my right implant. This explained why my right breast was so much smaller than the left!
Over time, the contracture may have gotten worse, so I was thankful to have removed them when I did. I went home that night wearing drain tubes in each breast to prevent any hematomas or seratomas. They were very weird at first, but not super uncomfortable as I thought they would be.
Within a few days, the drains were removed which was slightly painful. The day after surgery, I noticed that my face (and whole body) were less inflamed and slimmer. I got more color back into my face and it started producing oil again; my skin had been drying for so long.
I went to my post op appointment 2 days after surgery and got my breast implants back in a bag. Doctor Chun took my hand and placed the bag between my fingers and told me to feel how heavy they were. I could not believe it, you guys. I had this weight sitting on my heart and lungs for 7 years. I went home and weighed the implants to find that they were 2 pounds each! No wonder why I was having chest pains and trouble breathing for years and years.
My breasts took around 4 weeks to fully heal pain-free and around this time I was given the clear to resume light workouts. It wasn’t until 12 weeks post-op that I was able to use my chest again.
I am now over 5 months post op and I have lost nearly 20 pounds, most of which I feel was inflammation in my body caused by the implants. I can now do more pushups than I could do with my implants in and I feel stronger than ever. Most of my symptoms have improved or disappeared and my energy is so high that I don’t need a nap. Today, I tend to wake up around 5:30 each morning rather than sleeping in.
My breast size went from a 32DD to a 34B and I admit finding some bras have been tough because my breasts are asymmetrical. But I am truly happy with my natural self. My breasts look pretty good and not disproportional as my original plastic surgeon said.
I remember getting the okay from my surgeon to unwrap myself on post op day #2 to take a shower and I was so worried. I thought for sure that I would break down in tears once I saw them… but that never happened. Instead, I was relieved.
Removing my implants has given me a new sense of self confidence that I had lacked over the years and for most of my life. It’s funny how I had to essentially go backwards in order to truly appreciate myself. I want this to be a lesson for my daughter as well as any females out there. You do not need surgery to feel confident, sexy, or worthy. You’ve already got what it takes.
I get it. In this day in age, we tend to live our lives on social media and when we are plagued with these perfectly edited, altered man-made bodies. It can be so discouraging! However, true beauty isn’t about the size of your chest – it’s how you rock that attitude. Today, I’m happy to be with my current husband who stands by this as well.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sia Cooper of Diary of a Fit Mommy. You can follow her journey on Instagram here and Facebook here. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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