On a more personal note...Let's talk about Breast Implant Illness

December 13, 2020  •  2 Comments

First off, I know this story is long, but I promise you, if you have ever gotten breast implants, thought about getting them, or you know someone who has gotten them, you need to read this all the way to the end. It could save your life or their life. Literally. 

So rewind to 2012, I was a 32 year old mother of two amazing girls that were 4 and 2. I had finally been successful at getting rid of all the excess baby weight I had gained, my two year old was actually sleeping through the night and I felt like a healthy human being again. As much as I hate to admit it, I struggled with loving the post baby body that I saw when I looked in the mirror. How could I not love this incredibly strong body that lovingly grew and breastfed two healthy daughters? Well. “things” seemed to have “deflated” and headed south if you know what I mean. Obviously I’m talking about my boobs. If you want to hear my story you’ll have to get comfortable with breast talk, so prepare yourself or move on. Ladies, we all have them and we all seem to have a complicated relationship with them. They are magical milk makers, yet we never seem happy with them. 

Moving on. My recent weight loss and joining the ranks of working moms made me more conscious of my deflation situation. See, I worked for an amazing plastic surgeon who seemed to wave a magic wand and make all the things you dislike about yourself disappear. So I saw aesthetically perfect women all day. Super helpful for my new found confidence right? I had a daily reminder that I had the option of turning my own sad postpartum hooters into a lovely perky set of bosoms. I wish I could say my nature as a confident, outgoing, promoter and believer of self love was present in reminding me beauty prevented me from considering surgery to make me feel better about myself. But I can't say that. Suddenly my confidence seemed to be hinged on how many pencils I could hold under my lady lumps.  I was not feeling the self love I had once possessed. Let's face it ladies, it’s hard being a woman. We are shamed for how we look and shamed even more for doing something to improve it. Still, as easy as implants would be I was hesitant to consider them because of my 10 years of experience as a  surgical technologist. I had, first hand, seen the horrors of what happens when silicone implants go wrong. Silicone implants had actually been banned by the FDA for quite awhile because of these dangers. In 2012 the FDA had just lifted that ban. However, like many other surgeons  my doctor refused to use them. He only used saline implants because he believed them to be a perfectly safe option. In all honesty I just wanted my sad deflated balloons put back where they started. I already HAD big boobs, why would I want implants? I thought a lift would be a much better decision for me, but after consulting with my boss and doctor he explained that lifts cause a lot of big, ugly scars, and the healing process is harder and takes much longer. He then explained that putting in a small implant behind the muscle would have the same effect as a lift would and without the scarring and a much faster recovery. Win win, I was in. After all, they were “perfectly safe” what could go wrong?

I took the plunge and I loved it. My ex husband loved it, he would watch me walk across the room for the first time and who doesn’t love to be seen as more than a mother with throw up on her shirt? I had so much more confidence with my new beautiful knockers. I can’t pretend I didn’t absolutely love how they looked and how they made me feel, even after they tried to kill me. Yes, you heard me right, I said they tried to kill me. Let’s fast forward to 2018. I’m now 39 years old, a successful photographer, (which was always my dream profession), I had started my own amazing non profit foundation that was helping so many people, I had divorced and was co parenting with my ex like a boss and to top it off I was dating a wonderful man that my daughters and I adore. Life could not have been more amazing. I was living my best life, the life I had dreamed of! Everything was perfect, except one very big problem, my body began to feel like I was dying. Literally it seemed like everything was falling apart and it got worse and worse as time went on. I was terrified and completely confused. I was 39 not 79! First I had my gallbladder out because it just stopped working, next I needed a cervical fusion on my neck with plates and screws due to rapid degenerative disc disease. I couldn’t sleep or concentrate, there were days I couldn't even get out of bed. I would tell my doctor about all of my random symptoms and I know she thought I was nuts but she was always kind. She tested me for everything under the sun and nothing added up, she would treat symptoms and move on. But I kept pushing. I KNEW something was very wrong. Because I LOOKED fine on the outside people didn’t take me seriously. So I continued to push when I didn't improve and she would try another test. Years went by and nothing explained what was happening to me. I was gaining weight for no reason, I suddenly had high blood pressure, my hair was thin and falling out, my mouth was incredibly dry and I had a non stop metallic taste in my mouth, I suffered from horrible night sweats, headaches, joint pain throughout my body, hands and feet swelling and feeling like there was fiery electricity running through them,  my skin was rapidly aging and constantly puffy, my muscles were so weak I couldn’t blow dry my own hair, my skin had weird rashes, hyper pigmentation on my face that kept spreading, muscle spasms, random unexplained fevers, dehydration even when I guzzled water, memory loss and cognitive impairment that got so bad I couldn’t recall common words and would say, “I know it starts with an A and I just can’t remember the rest.” The one thing I knew for sure was that this was not just in my head. 

Finally in 2019 my doctor had an AHA moment when she decided to test me for an autoimmune disease. My blood finally came back with a possible answer. Not a clear one, mind you, because I didn’t have all the markers for autoimmune, but I had one. All I could think was HALLELUJAH, we had a clue to this mystery and my misery. My new Rheumatologist agreed that it was an odd result but we would just treat it as Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (because of all of my random symptoms) and see what happened. I was elated! Sounds crazy but I was so happy to have a possible answer to the years of suffering. A step forward to hopefully getting my life back! So I started the medications given to treat malaria, (yes malaria) and they were brutal at first, but I got used to them. Unfortunately they can take 6 months to actually start working and showing any improvement. Well months went by and of course I didn’t have much improvement. My frustrations were growing once again and so were my symptoms.

As luck, God, the Universe, and all things Holy would have it I went to see my friend for a hair appointment in February 2020. I was sharing my health updates with her and she suddenly stopped me. She said, “Brandy this may sound crazy but I follow someone on Instagram that has been posting about her health issues for a while and it sounds just like yours and it was her breast implants! Did you know a lot of them have been recalled? It’s called Breast Implant Illness and she got them out and literally ALL of her symptoms went away as soon as she woke up from surgery!"  I swear I still remember that moment and how I felt. I initially thought she was crazy but it also felt like a light bulb went off. I picked up my phone and started researching. I dove in HARD. It was like waking up from a nightmare. I wasn’t crazy, I wasn’t alone and there was an answer to my prayers! I called my rheumatologist on the drive home and talked to him and shared what I had learned. He immediately said, “Yes Brandy! I had a patient last year that presented JUST like you and she had her breast implants taken out and she never needed treatment again. I absolutely suggest you consult with a plastic surgeon.” I was elated. However COVID decided to teach me some more about patience and I had to wait to see someone. The extra time allowed me to find a huge network of women suffering from Breast Implant Illness!  Breast Implant Illness was recognized by the FDA in July 2019 and the recall for Allergan implants started shortly after. Silicone and Saline implants have been proven to cause anything from autoimmune disease to cancer. How did I not hear about this before? Why wasn’t I alerted to the dangers once they were known? 

Finally I met with an amazing Plastic Surgeon who could not promise me that an explant of the implants and capsules would help me, but based upon my symptoms, he felt strongly that it would be worth a try. He had several patients that had immediate relief as soon as the implants were removed. The cost of taking them out was more than putting them in and far more than a single mothers has to throw around PLUS there was no guarantee that it would work. A difficult decision to make but I knew I had to try.  Because if this was breast implant illness and I left them in I could die. Once I realized that I could not get those things out of my body fast enough. The night before my surgery every joint on the left side of my body was screaming in pain and my hands were in so much pain I couldn’t hold my phone. July 30, 2020 I woke up from my surgery and all that pain was GONE. Just like that, GONE. It felt like a miracle. Every day since my life and health has gotten better and better. Every symptom I  suffered from is almost completely gone. It’s hard to believe how much pain I was living with just 5 months ago. I gambled with my health and I won. I know so many women don’t like to admit that they have had plastic surgery, much less talk openly about it, which is why so many women still don't know about BII. But please don’t let that stop you from sharing your story. Sharing your story could save a life. It saved MY life and I intend to return the favor and to love myself and my beautiful, non toxic ta-tas, just the way they are. 


The Gritty Peach Podcast feature- https://anchor.fm/cassidy-carson-gonzalez/episodes/Not-So-Fun-Bags-ejtsup?fbclid=IwAR0bH1cuozEby1DNTlGEFdKJUIEHm-XHqfzf-DE5YQLtLxu7BQTBGgbyTGM





Wow Brandy! I had no idea! Actually, I didn't know you had breast implants. Glad for you that you figured it out and are well again. You look great btw. I know that life is going well for you. God's blessings.
Elizabeth DiGiacomo(non-registered)
I'm so glad you're doing better and on the upswing. Praying things continue to go up from here. You shot our wedding back in 2018 and now we are expecting our first child next month so we need you around for those photos, lol. In all seriousness though, my husband and I joke about me getting my boobs done one day. I think I'll just stick with the itty bitty titty commitee after reading this traumatic story. Thank you for sharing the ins and outs of what so many are nervous to talk about.
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