Real Fit for Real Life
Featuring everything & anything to help you & your family live a fit, full, delicious, joyful life
Long time, no post. Alas, I’m back because this topic requires a lengthier narrative than can fit in an Instagram or FB post. I’ve alluded to a big, scary decision and going under the knife. I’m sure most followers and friends assume it’s Lyme/babesia-related, and in a roundabout way, it is. But let me start at the beginning.
By 2010, I had birthed three babies, attempted breastfeeding all three (albeit each time got much shorter in duration, as I had some traumatic nursing experiences that made bottle-feeding much more appealing), gained 40-50 lbs and lost 50 lbs each time. After baby number 3, my cholesterol tested high and my doctor put me on a special diet that led to even more weight loss. Meanwhile, my fitness career continued to expand. I found myself suddenly in the best shape of my life, but my boobs had utterly deflated— just sad sacks of skin that I had to scoop into my bras. I could hide it with good bras, those cutlets you insert into your swim tops— but my insecurity in my intimate life was overwhelming. I wouldn’t let my husband even touch me there because it killed the mood immediately for me. I also began to consider bikini bodybuilding and knew I couldn’t get on the stage with my saggy, loose, empty boobs.
To be clear, my sweet husband always said they were fine, he loved me as is, but he finally said, if this bothers you that much, I will support your decision and pay for your implants. Also, I feel the need to preface— this was Utah County. I was surrounded by fake boobs. Moms would gather at the swimming pool, sharing plastic surgeon recommendations. Getting implants didn’t feel like an action only porn-stars took. It felt like what all the moms were doing. I had a few consultations, and most said I required a lift. Having a squeamish husband, I wanted to avoid a lift if possible because of the scarring involved. So when a plastic surgeon in Provo told me he had a method of placing implants so that I wouldn’t need a lift, I was ecstatic. When I “tried on” the implants, I kept asking for a smaller pair. I didn’t want to look fat. I was so lean at the time and fairly short-torsoed, I wanted to look proportionate. But he said he would need to see what size would best fill the skin.
At the time, I was told implants were safe. That maybe 1-2% of women get autoimmune issues. Just to replace them every 10 years. Ten years felt like an eternity, and I figured I could decide in 10 years if I wanted to keep replacing them. So in June, 2010, I fixed my pitiful breasts with Allergan silicone implants. I did feel they were bigger than I wanted, and not as high as I wanted. But they were a drastic improvement, and the best part— no visible scars!
Fast forward to September 23, 2020. I went under the knife to get my implants out, deciding not to replace them. Why?
1.) I don’t want to commit to having surgery every 10 years for the rest of my life. I hate it. It hurts. It causes immense anxiety. It’s not fun.
2.) I’ve had quite a few health issues over the years (not even including my Lyme/babesiosis) that have not responded well to medications ad traditional protocols. This has led me to wonder if my implants are the culprit. I have asked my allergist, ENT, pulmonologist, primary care doc, and functional medicine doctor all the same question: could my implants be causing this? And every single one replied, based on the recent literature, it’s possible. My functional med doctor went a step further and demanded I get the damn things out as soon as possible. I’m lucky. Not every woman suffering breast implant illness has supportive believers. I understand that disbelief enough with my chronic Lyme and babesiosis.
3.) Even if all my health issues are what they are and not caused by my implants, they have become a source of structural pain. My back, neck, and shoulders despise every bra I wear, leading me to not wear a bra much of the time. This has only made my boobs once again saggy, only now they’re just bigger. It’s always a pain buying clothing, because I’m a L or XL on top and a S on bottom.
4.) Above all, I want my daughters to know that they are perfect the way they are. I sit here, on day 3 of recovery, still in so much pain, and I feel a sense of relief that these things are off my chest, that my body is mine, that I am free.
That said, I did finally get that lift. Now that they’ve been stretched out even more by implants for a decade, I knew it would be necessary for me to still have some semblance of feeling good in my skin. I’ve done my research. I’ve read countless stories of women on the Breast Implant Illness FB group, and while some learn to love themselves completely, some with no breasts at all due to cancer, others struggle immensely with their self-confidence after explanting without a lift. Each woman has her own journey; each must make her own decision. I had enough tissue to warrant a lift; my surgeon recommended it, and I felt good about that decision. I will have to learn to appreciate the scars.
Additionally, my surgeon is a microsurgeon who specializes in breast reconstruction and another step he likes to do is fat graft in some cases. Fat graft, or fat transfer, requires liposuction from another area of the body to the breast to help prevent collapse of the chest wall, which can lead to looking concave. He recommended this for me. I did a lot of research, and at first was strongly against this. There aren’t long-term studies on this procedure, and the BII group advises against it. I rounded up all my research and concerns and went back to my surgeon via TeleMed. He explained his method in detail and how he prevents hard lumps from forming. He adamantly told me the benefits vastly outweigh the risks and that I was a good candidate. At the moment, I haven’t even taken off all the bindings. I’m swollen and bruised beyond belief. So I can’t say yet whether or not I have regrets about this part of my decision. In the end, I decided to trust him completely. Perhaps I should learn my lesson about trusting plastic surgeons, but I wanted to go in with him feeling I had full faith in his expertise— I wanted his best efforts and for him not to half-ass it, so I just told him before surgery, I’m putting all my faith in you and please, make me look good.
So, how was surgery with an underlying illness? Honestly, this has terrified me most. I was feeling really great for a few months but relapsed a few weeks ago and immediately went back on my meds. I was worried I’d have to postpone my surgery. Luckily my meds started working fairly quickly, and I actually felt better than I have in the past year. I did ask my surgeon if I could continue taking my antibiotics and antimalarials up until surgery day, and he said yes. With babesiosis, I have had a few moments of near passing out— my BP just plummets out of the blue. In the recovery area after surgery, the nurse was trying to get me to go pee. She seemed rather impatient, like they were all ready to go home, and I was the lingerer who wouldn’t wake up (I’ve always been a lightweight with anesthesia and have a history of them kicking me out before I’m ready.) One nurse tried to coerce me out of bed by telling me how much an overnight hospital stay would cost, about $10k. So I tried, but I kept saying, I might pass out. They thought I was being dramatic, and my nurse got me onto the toilet, but I couldn’t pee. I said, I’m passing out now and got off the toilet so I could pass out on the floor. In my comatose state, I was vaguely aware of her pulling the string and yelling for the nurses to come help her, that I had vagaled. I came to enough to stand and try walking back to my bed but passed out again in the nurses’ arms. My nurse kept saying, but her blood pressure was fine! How did it drop so fast? I kept mumbling, "I have babesiosis." But of course she didn’t know what the hell I was talking about, because most people in the medical field know very little about tick-borne illnesses. My nurse just kept saying, she vagaled twice! Twice! I guess I set a record. And I showed her. She felt bad, I could tell, and she began to actually take care of me, giving me oxygen, juice, Animal Crackers that I was too nauseated to eat.
Somehow I got home, where I broke out into that about-to-vomit sweat twice, but my emetophobia prevented the much-needed vomiting from coming to fruition. My retired nurse mom texted me that I needed to let my body vomit or I could vagal. So when it happened again right before bed, I Jedi mind-tricked my body into letting it happen, and I felt much better, except for a sore esophagus and throat. Pretty sure the last time I vomited was when I got my implants 10 years ago, that’s how strong my phobia is. I don’t think the vomiting was caused by my babesiosis, just my body’s hatred of anesthesia.
So day 1 wasn’t great. But day 2 was much better, just managing pain and sleeping a lot.
Have you noticed any immediate health improvements? Right after surgery when my husband picked me up, he commented on how white my eyes were. Every time I pass a mirror, I feel the same shock— how are my eyes so white?! My eyelids also look better— they used to look like I had purple eyeshadow on. My facial skin looks a bit brighter. Other than that, I’m still in too much pain to notice other health improvements. But after seeing my eyes, I have hope for more improvements! I have hope I can get my immune system back to help fight this Lyme and babesiosis once and for all.
Do you think every woman with breast implants will get sick from them? Actually, I don’t think all women do, or maybe they can tolerate them longer. But after reading countless stories, I can’t help but think we were all lied to, that implants, both silicone and saline, can wreak havoc on our health even in the tiniest of ways. We have to be in tune with our bodies. We have to discount all other possibilities. Obviously, we can have real health issues completely unrelated to implants. And we need to treat appropriately without jumping to the conclusion that it must be our implants. But when you’ve exhausted all doctors, all treatments, all options, it’s stupid to be in denial of the possibility. I will say, when I contracted Lyme and babesiosis from a tick bite, it was annoying to have people tell me it was caused by my implants. Because Lyme is caused by a bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and babesiosis is a viral parasite, and they both came from the saliva of the female deer tick that bit me. I had to treat appropriately. At the same time, I do acknowledge that perhaps my implants suppressing my immune system didn’t help me fight it as well as I could have. It's not fun going under the knife just for kicks. But it's also not fun to die with your killers inside your chest muscles all along. (Yes, women have died from BII.)
How did you find your surgeon? Not only have I been on the main BII page for years now, but I also joined the FL Implant Illness FB group to do my homework on local surgeons. What’s crazy to me, is based on the comments shared, my particular surgeon has been performing one explant every week (he only does surgeries on Wednesdays) for months. And most of us are paying much more to get them out than we did to put them in. That says something about how desperate we are to get them removed. Explant surgeons can charge more because they’re in demand and not many surgeons are qualified to properly explant. I chose a microsurgeon who does a lot of breast reconstruction who has done many explant surgeries already. It requires great skill to remove the implants en bloc (intact with the capsule of scar tissue still surrounding it). Many surgeons try to convince women that they can leave the scar tissue in. But I have witnessed on these BII pages how horrible that can be! They can become infected, filled with fluid, and contain all the toxic implant ingredients, so that even though the implant has been removed, the toxins still remain to sicken these women. Sometimes the capsule can be stuck to the ribcage. An unskilled surgeon will tell patients that it’s too risky to remove it, or they will cauterize it. A microsurgeon can scrape it off meticulously, even if it comes off in pieces. It’s crucial to remove all of the scar tissue with the implants. My surgeon offers photos and video to prove that he has removed them en bloc. (I might share once I get it.)
Sad but true, most explant surgeons continue to perform implants. It’s their bread and butter. I found it upsetting to go to my consultation and sit in a room with 2 pairs of implants staring at me from a shelf. There are a few surgeons in the US who exclusively do explants and have quit performing implants because they strongly believe in BII. But most feel it’s a woman’s choice, and hey, big money if they can put them in for $6k and remove them for $8-15k, which is the national average, depending on where you live. (I actually think my implants were less than $5k.)
Does insurance cover explant? Usually not, because we women decided to put them in. So if we want them out, even if they’re making us ill, it’s considered cosmetic. Some surgeons will try to work with insurance. Mine did not. If your implants happened to be recalled, the implant maker will only pay for new implants. Some women have to do Go Fund Me. We got a Care Credit Card to pay over 18 months and may have to dip into retirement. I feel awful about it. But my hubby’s take was that if I get healthy again, I can work and make money, so it’s worth it over the long haul. No pressure.
What did you do with your implants? I paid for them. I wanted to keep them. I wanted to hold them in my hands and see the state of them. I wanted to remember this choice I made. So I went home with them. They’re still in a bucket on my kitchen counter as I type. I’m sure I’ll find a better home for them later. They’d make a great stress-relief ball. Looking at them reminds me how relieved I am to have them out of my body and the weight and burden off my chest.
Okay, friends. That’s all I can answer for now, because I have a lot of healing to do. I haven’t even taken off my dressings to take a look at things! I’ll keep you posted if you care. I am sharing so much in the hopes that my story helps someone else. And because I figure the change will be obvious and I always hate when there’s an elephant in the room. So there. It’s all out there. No elephants. I control my narrative.
Mother of 3. Fit-philosopher. Showing my kids how to be fit via living life to the max. Newbie photographer. Simplistic cook who shares easy, healthy meals. Lover of kid-friendly hikes & getting outdoors & unplugged.