I’m going to warn you right now, this is going to be a long post. Pull up a chair and grab a cup of coffee if you’re into that.
In 2020 I had a “Mommy Makeover” surgical procedure. I had been left with a lot of loose skin between weight loss and three pregnancies, and I wanted it gone. I had my separated abdominal muscles repaired. And, I had my saggy, deflated, very asymmetrical breasts (a C and a DD for reference) evened out and lifted.
Leading up to the procedure, I was undecided in regards to just having my breasts lifted and the larger one reduced, or to add implants. In speaking with the surgeon’s office, silicone implants were recommended for shape. It was said that I would likely be unhappy with the results otherwise. I had heard about breast implant illness, but thought it just happened to women who never really wanted them in the first place or those who felt pressured by someone to get them. Neither was the case for me. I was over the asymmetry and difficulty in buying bras, bathing suits, or simply clothes with words or stripes! So I proceeded to have the asymmetry “corrected” with two different sized implants, placed under the pectoralis muscle.
The right side did have a complication leading me to have to go to the wound clinic for two months. I did know about surgical complications, but I got through. I did have a large and ugly scar on that side, easily covered by clothing.
In autumn of 2021 the symptoms started. I was stressed and anxious about my first bodybuilding show. On paper I was not doing anything extreme. My cardio was an hour of walking or hiking every day. My weight lifting was 5 days x 45 minutes of moderate intensity. My calories were mostly around 1300. Mind you, I’m only 5’1″. I lost about ten pounds in 6 weeks and was more interested in just trying a show than being competitive. This former obese girl wanted to see what the experience was like and then if she didn’t forget her routine or fall on her butt on stage, perhaps keep going with the sport. But, the anxiety of it seemed to throw my health off the rails. To clarify, I took no “performance enhancing drugs” or anything of the sort.
August 2021 my menstrual cycle got weird with short cycles. In September, I felt like I could not get my heart rate up mountain biking. My resting heart rate dropped into the 50’s. Blood pressure was low normal. Menstrual period lasted 14 days!! Worst, I was very dizzy much of the time. I stopped bicycling, motorcycling, and even doing ashiatsu massage for a period of time for fear of falling off the table! Hemoglobin and electrolytes tested normal.
October 2nd was the show! I had fun and did not fall or forget my routine. I’d actually love to do another one! However, I was still dizzy. TSH tested fine. On the 11th, the low-grade fevers started. On the 20th I got COVID, which was acutely worse including higher temperature, loss of taste and smell, plugged ears and temperatures around 101.
The low-grade fevers of 99.2-99.7 persisted into December. It came with the kind of fatigue that a fever brings if you know what I mean. It was hard to function.
In December my lymph nodes were swollen. I kept getting cold sores, fluttering and ringing in my ears and weird joint pain. Testing indicated reactivation of Epstein-Barr virus. We attributed it to COVID, but I’ve come to learn that implants can trigger it as well. I shut down my massage business for two weeks to rest and did a strict cleanse type of diet to try to correct things. I took natural antivirals. I developed an itchy rash.
In January I started tracking fever days and there were 19. I thought perhaps I was dying but again, lab tests were normal. I didn’t feel normal. Not at all!
Somehow in February I had 2 solid very good weeks, but after a weekend away the fevers and fatigue returned. CBC was unremarkable and Lyme was negative.
In March we checked CRP and ANA which were normal. 18 fever days and a ridiculously heavy period. My cycles remained short (22 days roughly) with bleed days numbering 7-9 throughout this. We started the process of referral to Mayo Clinic to try to figure me out. While I waited on that to happen, I thought I should check my hormones, so I did a direct labs test through Everly Well.
April 2022 and my hormone panel results revealed off-the-charts-low testosterone and progesterone. Cortisol was in a normal pattern but low in levels. DHEA was low. In May I saw a hormone specialist and started taking bioidentical progesterone + DHEA to try to correct this. And, I felt great all of June and half of July! I had one fever in that time and it was brief. I felt like myself again.
Then it came back 🙁 By mid-July 2022. Several times throughout this journey, well-meaning friends and family brought up breast implant illness. I brushed it off. After all, I found a problem with my hormones!
In August 2022 when I had my follow up hormone testing and appointment, the doctor even asked me about having implants. That was what finally got me. I joined Breast Implant Illness and Healing by Nicole on Facebook, which as of this writing has 171,500 members! I listened to podcasts including Danica Patrick’s story. Her hormones were also depleted and she had similar symptoms. Every day on the Facebook group I read about women with similar stories who explanted and reclaimed their health. It didn’t take me long to realize I needed to get them out.
I booked two consultations but didn’t even do the second one. After speaking with Dr. Tracy Kayan I knew she was my gal. She was highly recommended in the group, too. I live four hours from her office, so all appointments other than the procedure itself were done virtually. Surgery was scheduled for October 11th. Exactly one year from my first fever.
Using a breast implant illness symptom tracking worksheet, as of September 16, 2022 I had 41 symptoms.
My initial writing of this post is exactly 2 weeks post-op. I had my implants removed “en bloc” or an one piece for each including the capsule the body forms around the foreign object. I had the large side reduced and both lifted. I’m a comfortable size C and recovering beautifully. I have 27 remaining symptoms, 14 of which have improved but not gone yet and some which I won’t know until I can resume exercise towards the end of November and recheck my hormones. Here are the symptoms that are gone:
- Brain fog
- Difficulty concentrating
- Numbness/tingling in extremities
- Eye floaters
- Sore throat
- Heart palpitations
- Sharp pains in breast (right – due to capsular contracture)
- Pain or burning near implant (right)
- Hair loss
- Digestive issues
- Withdrawal from friends/family
- Addictions (frequent alcohol)
- Recurrent infections (BV, UTI)
- Feeling like I was dying
And improved already:
- Ringing in ears
- Throat clearing
- Fibromyalgia symptoms
- Dry skin (my face was so bad!)
- Dry hair
- Poor sleep
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Night sweats
And as to the results? Yeah I’m happy with my form! Like happier than before! I look forward to being cleared for exercise and resuming my athletic lifestyle. The hardest part of recovery so far is relaxing. I have more energy than I have in the past year and have to try to limit myself to 3000 steps per day and 8-10# weight restriction.
I have so much to be grateful for, but want to say my husband’s unending support has gotten me through. My close friends and family who kept checking in on me, and everyone who ever brought up breast implant illness to me or shared their own story.
Ladies, I’m not here to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t do with their body. But if you want to change something about it, know there are safer options. For breasts, lift and fat transfer are much safer than implants! And in my case, lift and reduction.
Here’s to healing!
**5 week update**
I am SO happy with the work that Dr. Tracy Kayan did for me! You can visit her website at https://www.kayanplasticsurgery.com/. Any fears that I had about disfigurement are long gone. The scars are going to fade to almost nothing. My energy the past week and a half has been through the roof! I feel like my energetic self again!