BREAST IMPLANT ILLNESS STORY
They took everything from me, including friends and my own family. No one knows how debilitating this illness is unless they have lived it.
I’ve been in the BII community since 2015 when there were less than 2000 women who found each other on a Facebook group “Breast Implant Illness and Healing by Nicole." Finding that group saved my life.
At the time of Explant, I was 52 years old and at year 14 with Saline Smooth McGhan implants.
December 5, 2015, I had my “light bulb” moment. I will remember that day for the rest of my life because that’s the day I learned there was hope after a decade of trauma and debilitating illnesses. At the end, I felt like I was going to die every day, and I wanted to. I was no longer functioning and nothing in my body worked any longer. It was 14 years of slowly being poisoned to death. My entire body suffered from head to toe, inside and out.
My story of BII began in 2001: I was a 38 year old single mother, had a great job and purchased my own home in Calabasas, California. After growing up in a low income family in a small midwest town and a lot of physical abuse from early relationships, I wanted more out of life. I left, moved to LA and worked hard to make a good life for myself.
I was thriving and I had everything I ever wanted… until I decided to fix that one thing I hated.. my tubular breasts. I couldn’t even look at my breasts and was mortified for anyone else to see them. I had never seen anyone with breasts as weird as mine and the internet wasn’t anything like it is today. I lived in the plastic surgery capital of the world and decided to treat myself to a “LIFT”.
I chose a well known Beverly Hills surgeon to consult with. I was very excited for the appointment to finally get my breasts fixed. At the consult, I was surprised when he suggested implants as the best option due to the amount of skin I had. He said there would be less scarring as the incisions would be in the nipples and the implants would fill them up and I would be thrilled. I had zero knowledge on breast implants as they were never on my radar. He was adamant that the results would be much better and recommended Saline Implants because they were 100% safe and would last a lifetime! He’s an expert and I know he wouldn’t suggest something that would hurt me.. right? I completely trusted his recommendation and agreed to the augmentation. I booked the surgery right then.
I was never thrilled with the implants. My areolas were huge, scarred, lost all sensitivity and I still needed a strong underwire bra. I kept them hidden away as I did prior to augmentation because they still sagged. Huge waste of eight thousand dollars. I definitely would have been happier with the lift that I originally wanted. I didn’t question the surgeon at my post op appointments because he said they looked great. I respected this man so much that I thought something was wrong with me for not liking them. I decided that I’m stuck with them since he said I would be buried with them someday. I moved on with life and never thought much about them again … until they almost killed me.
The first year was ok. By years two and three, I slowly began to deteriorate but NEVER considered a correlation. FATIGUE was the first symptom as I remember going to my car and sleeping on my lunch breaks. I never thought much of it. Single Mom, crazy work hours.. I was a busy lady and I was simply tired. I went to my PC and was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism so I now had an excuse for being over tired. I was put on medication to control it but still needed those daily naps to get through my shifts. After another year later in 2004, I sold my home, left the best job I ever had, and moved to another state where I could afford to support my son and me. I was struggling to get through the days and I had to find a way to work less hours. I was 41 and thought I was just getting older and this was normal. I would be told numerous times over the next decade that I was “probably” experiencing perimenopause.….Must be normal.
ARM PAIN / ANKLE STIFFNESS: Over the next couple of years (years 4 and 5 with implants), the symptoms increased little by little. The next problem to get my attention was sharp pain deep in my arm that woke me up at night. It occurred every night and was in the same spot. I thought for sure I had bone cancer or something. After at least 6 months of this, I had X-rays and eventually an MRI, which showed nothing. Along with this, I was experiencing fairly extreme morning ankle stiffness. It would take a while before I could walk straight. My job required being on my feet during the majority of my shifts so that is how I justified this issue…. Must be normal.
NECK: The next problem was my neck. It ached 24 x 7. I was seeing a chiropractor for adjustments and acupuncture every 4 to 5 weeks and paying out of pocket because insurance didn’t cover. It was the only thing that seemed to help but only for a short period. Every few months, my neck would lock up and I couldn’t move. It was extremely painful and a steroid pack and shot would get me moving. I went to a neurosurgeon, had an MRI and was diagnosed with degenerative bulging discs and foraminal spinal stenosis at C5-6-7. So there was an excuse for this too. The spinal stenosis was on the right side yet the excruciating pain was always the LEFT which happens to be the side of my body that suffered the most when I had implants. This became debilitating over the years with numerous epidural injections, physical therapy and continued monthly Chiropractor visits so I could keep working. I was physically tossed around like a rag doll by an abusive boyfriend when I was in my 20’s so I decided that this must be normal.
Next was the LEFT shoulder… On to an Orthopedic shoulder specialist. An MRI indicated degenerative impingement and bone spurs. I had quarterly rounds of cortisone injections in my shoulder which got me through the next several years. The surgeon I was seeing suggested I go ahead and have shoulder surgery to put me out of my misery. 2 weeks before the surgery, I ended up with Frozen Shoulder. If you’ve had that, you know how awful it is. The surgeon was going to continue with the surgery even while it was frozen. A friend suggested I seek a 2nd opinion. I made an appointment with the best in town and his words “you cannot have surgery on a frozen shoulder or you may never come out of the frozen state”. I canceled the original surgery and went through 6 months of Physical Therapy to get my arm moving again. Again, all out of pocket expenses. I continued on with injections to keep the pain under control because I had so many other issues going on. I assumed this was all from the physical abuse and…. must be normal.
WRISTS may have been the most painful thing to deal with because the slightest movement would send shockwaves through my body. Some days nothing, other days I would be in tears with the slightest movement. I couldn’t pick up anymore than a coffee cup without pain. I saw two orthopedic hand surgeons for this over the years because it too became a debilitating factor in my life. After 2 MRIs, both surgeons diagnosed a rare bone disease call “Keinbocks”. I was hoping it was Carpal Tunnel which could have been an easy fix. Both surgeons offered surgery but there were no guarantees and both said it could end up worse. With that option, I had continued with quarterly cortisone injections which gave me some relief for a couple of weeks. They became so painful that from 2011 to explant in 2016, I wore metal plated wrist braces 24 x 7. I only removed them to shower. This deeply impacted my quality of life. Obviously, I blamed the physical abuse on this too… must be normal.
KNEES 1st Orthopedic knee surgeon that ordered the MRI said it wasn’t all that bad but suggested he go in orthoscopically and clean the arthritis out. I went to another for a 2nd opinion and was told they were not that bad and shouldn't have any type of surgery. I stuck with ortho #2 and started cortisone injections in my knees. They certainly felt bad to me. It was hard to walk. I ended up in metal plated knee braces (just like the wrists), all day - every day for 5 years. It was awful. Once again, I blamed the physical abuse. Must be normal.
BREAST SWELLING The biggest red flag during my 14 years should have been in 2010 (9 years in), my LEFT breast swelled up to double it’s size and stayed that way for 8 weeks. My OGBYN sent me to a general surgeon and a plastic surgeon for their opinions. The mutually made decision was to have surgery to remove the swollen lymph nodes to check for cancer. The outcome was not surprising “you’re fine and your implants are in perfect condition". The swelling eventually went down but that breast remained tender and hot to the touch for several years. The doctors never suggested the implants could be a problem so I just moved on thinking ….must be normal.
While dealing with the debilitating issues listed above, there were many more issues slowly taking over my life. There was ALWAYS something wrong with me. I was constantly dealing with a random problem and going from Dr to Dr. I was no longer able to work full time and the “part” time that I was at work, I wasn’t very productive. I worked in commission sales and went from making a very good living to just making a living. I was in my prime but sick all the time. I really did feel like I was dying and my brain wasn’t fully functioning. I was becoming a shell of the lively energetic woman that used to handle it all. By the time I was 48 (10 years with implants), my 88 year old grandmother functioned in a much more productive way than I did. IN EVERY ASPECT. Mentally and physically.
The rest of the symptoms that started from time to time to being full on 24 x 7:
My LEFT hip had a non stop dull ache that eventually hurt with every step I took. I ended up donating my bicycle and elliptical because I couldn’t use either one. Bone scan showed Osteopenia in my left hip. So here I go again… must be normal.
MONTHLY CYCLES became unbearable and unpredictable. I would be out of commission for days at a time in ridiculous pain. I never called in sick for a cycle until I had BII. I was sent to a specialist who recommended Endometrial Ablation. I had that done and the cycles stopped completely which was great. Considered this part of the perimenopause I was repeatedly told I probably had. This must be normal.
LOW BLOOD PRESSURE/CHEST PAINS/HEART PALPITATIONS I had several ER visits due to chest pains and passing out from maintaining a low blood pressure. But there were never any real answers. I was always sent home and told nothing was wrong. I was eventually put on Midodrine by my oncologist to keep the blood pressure up. My husband took me to the ER so frequently that it became normal practice to drop me off at the entrance and pick me up in the rear parking lot where he would find me laying in the grass.
COPD/BREATHING PROBLEMS By the time I got to year 12 with implants, I was having trouble breathing and saw a pulmonary specialist who diagnosed me with chronic COPD and asthma. CT Scan indicated my lungs were full of blebs (described as little holes). It became so bad that within a year, I struggled to bend over and put my own socks on. I struggled to breathe. Attempted numerous very expensive medications that were not covered by insurance, but nothing helped. In the fall of 2015, (year 14 with implants) at 52 years old, the pulmonary suggested an oxygen tank after no improvement from the medications. I am a former smoker so there was a reason for this too. Must be normal.
WHITE BLOOD COUNT I was referred to an Oncologist because my White Blood Count stayed at and above 24,000 for over 6 months. I was diagnosed with Hemochromatosis which is too much iron in the blood. There was never an answer found for the high WBC. I was the healthiest sick person my doctors have seen. Must be normal.
SINUSITIS/ ESOPHAGUS / VOICE BOX NODULES/ VOCAL CORD DISFUNCTION / REFLUX I spent years going to an ENT for many issues. My nose and head was so stopped up in the mornings that I couldn’t breathe. I continually had sinus infections. I tried numerous expensive allergy meds with zero relief. My voice sounded horse and I was constantly clearing my throat and sniffling. It felt like a had a blockage in my sinuses. I called them “balls of snot” It was gross and painful. I also struggled to get food down. It felt like everything I consumed would get stuck in the esophagus. It hurt and was extremely uncomfortable. Lots of testing, poking and prodding down my nose and throat. I was diagnosed me with Gerd, chronic sinusitis and vocal cord disfunction. Medications did nothing to help any of this. I guess this is normal too. I’m incredibly unlucky to have all these issues.
TINNITUS, DRY HAIR/MOUTH/EYES cystic acne, libido 100% gone. Hands and feet always extremely cold under any conditions. I wore long johns under my clothes every day and LIVE IN FLORIDA. I could not get warm. I had a weird body odor that would not go away no matter how many showers I took. I had a constant metal taste in my mouth. I lost all sense of smell and taste. My skin and scalp broke out in sores that wouldn’t heal. My gums began deteriorating and my teeth started rotting. I’ve had 9 root canals and most have been extracted for failing. My scalp, eyebrows and eyelashes had large gaps that would not fill in. I moved the part in my hair so my bangs would cover my LEFT eyebrow and cheek. That side of my face was drooping and PC said it was most likely Bells Palsy.
NOISE AND LIGHT SENSITIVITY to where I avoided the outdoors. I couldn’t handle bright light, the sounds of people talking or even music.
UTIS, kidney and yeast infections. I had Monistat and Pyridium on monthly auto ship from Amazon. The yeast and UTI’s just never went away. After eating my stomach would bloat and often would be bent over in pain. Terrible constipation.
I had non stop VERTIGO/DIZZINESS. I felt like I was super drugged or drunk. I could sleep 20 hours a day and it still wasn’t enough.
Taking a shower seriously felt like I had run a marathon. My hair became extremely dry and felt almost like hay. My skin dry, face peeling and fingernails were covered in white dry spots. If I put on14K gold earrings, my earring holes would fill with pus within minutes. (this is still the case today). A 14k chain on my neck turns my skin black (still does to this day). I react to adhesive, elastic in underwear, bathing suits, socks… all elastics continue to irritate my skin.
COGNITIVE FUNCTION was gone BY YEAR 10. I lived in a constant state of confusion. I struggled to comprehend and follow conversations. I stuttered and slurred like I was under the influence. I could no longer follow a movie, comprehend a book or do basics like sort laundry or prepare a simple meal. Everything was confusing and it was as if I forgot how to do things I’ve done all my life. I no longer cooked or shopped because I was too confused to make or follow a list. I would get lost in stores that I had shopped in for years. I had a great deal of trouble driving. I would easily become lost and I couldn’t make decisions on when it was safe to make a turn or change lanes. When I did attempt to talk, I stuttered and slurred my words. I couldn’t remember simple words or the names of friends and family. I was not functioning and became incapable of handling or coping with daily life. My 23 year old son was on the front lines in Afghanistan the summer of 2014. He was stationed at the Kabul Airport which was a constant target of attack. He would Skype me every Sunday morning and I tried to hide my issues. I couldn’t burden him with what was going on with me. I didn’t even know what was going on with me and I sure wasn’t going to tell him that his mother was dying. On our calls, I could always hear bombing sounds in the background. I couldn’t take it. I couldn’t contain the tears. I would lose it, I couldn’t talk and I would cry uncontrollably. Understandably, the calls became less frequent. I was his only parent and mentally incapable of being the support he needed. This will haunt me the rest of my life. He did return home safe, sound and a decorated war veteran. Thank God. I’m so proud of him.
I am not exaggerating when I say I stopped functioning. I stopped leaving my house except for Dr’s appts. I stopped attending parties, wedding and even funerals. My grandmother died at 91 in 2013 and I was too sick to travel out of state to her funeral. I lived with her for much of my childhood and nothing would have stopped me from attending. BII did.
During the last few years of implants, I suffered with severe depression. I didn’t want to get out of bed. During the night, I didn’t sleep. Crazy insomnia for years. The silence in the dark of night was spent wondering if I would live another day and the constant words “what is wrong with me”. I spent years of my life feeling like I was in a drug induced stuper… I knew I was dying… and by the end of the illness, I wanted to. It’s all I thought about. I wanted to be put out of this never ending nightmare. My arms, legs and feet would go so numb in the night that I could chop them off and not feel it. My legs would kick/jerk out of control. It was awful.
THIS IS NOT NORMAL. I am in no way shape or form a hypochondriac.
10 days after my “light bulb” moment, I explanted (Dec 15, 2015). I went to another highly reviewed plastic surgeon in Florida for consult. I was so sick that I put in writing what I wanted to say at the consult because I knew I wouldn’t be able to get the words out. He had never heard of BII but promised to remove my implants along with all of the capsules. The surgery was less than an hour and there was zero pain. I came into the surgery center that morning in a wheelchair in ridiculous joint pain. I told my husband and the surgeon if I didn’t make it through the surgery, it was ok, I didn’t want to spend another day on this planet suffering this way. The surgeon held my hands and we prayed to God to heal me. I walked out later that day already feeling better. I went back two or 3 days later for a post op and he and the entire staff were absolutely amazed the woman in front of them. I was putting sentences together, breathing, walking.. smiling and feeling hope for the first time in years. I was alive and it was nothing short of a miracle.
I asked about the capsules. He said “they were thin” and the body would absorb them. By this time, I knew better. Capsules do not get absorbed by our bodies. I immediately got another loan and scheduled an appointment out of state with a surgeon who knew how to remove the capsules. I wasn’t going to take any chances because this new found feeling of being alive was something I longed for and I was not about to let it go. A few weeks later, my husband drove me 12 hours away and I had a 4 hour surgery to remove the capsules from my ribs and chest wall. That was a very painful procedure. But, I knew I was going to have my life back. I was right… I did.
No oxygen tank, no braces, no injections, no ER visits.. NO MORE DOCTOR APPTS since explant. I fully function, work full time and spend ALL OF my free time helping a huge community of women that are sick with Breast Implant Illness. I receive hundreds of messages every week from women around the world who stumble across my Breast_Implant_Illness page on Instagram.
I have said that I didn’t get sick until year 7 or 8 but when looking back, I realize that it started much sooner but I contributed the symptoms to stress, motherhood, age, etc. Diagnosis after diagnosis… there was always a reason for the many issues. The sad thing was, those issues never got better even after numerous procedures, pokes, prods and piles of pharmaceuticals. It was 7 or 8 years until I realized that something was actually really wrong with me. It took that LONG to go through every possible medical profession and possible illness! It’s infuriating that my life became this dark hole that I couldn’t climb out of. I sit here now in 2021 writing this in tears. I’m pissed off that I lost so many years of my life.
We are told implants are safe and sadly many of us are deathly ill before we learn the truth.
THEY ARE NOT SAFE, NEVER HAVE BEEN AND NEVER WILL BE.
THEY ARE LITERALLY KILLING US.
This is why I work so hard to advocate for awareness. I cannot let my suffering go in vain. But I also hope the medical industry will take over and spread the word .. those of us that do this are entitled to have our lives back. To the naysayers.. I don’t spend every moment of my free time doing this because I have nothing better to do. I would cut off my right hand to have had the knowledge available that we share today. That is why I do it.
We often hear “BII symptoms are so across the board and could be anything” or “everyone deals with those symptoms from time to time” or “sounds like menopause” and my favorite “I have all that and I don’t have implants”. All BII victims have symptoms start with being occasional occurrences. As the years pass they grow to be every day, all day 24 x7.
Looking back, it’s actually amazing how we believe everything our doctors tell us. They do not have a crystal ball unfortunately. They are expected to give us a diagnosis when we have a problem and get out the prescription pad to make it all better.
That’s not what happens with a Breast Implant Illness patient… EVER.. the prescription pad is an endless merry go round that only mask things for a very short time. IT IS NOT NORMAL!
Kim spends much of her time advocating for BII, even while continuing to battle some continued health issues. What keeps her going is her amazing family & the "thank you for saving my life" messages she receives from the ladies in our community! This note from her son is a true testament to the incredible woman she is!
For the past 6 years, Kim has managed the largest Breast Implant Illness Instagram page... find her @breast_implant_illness
We would like to take a moment and honor Kim's son who has served in our armed forces overseas. Thank you for your service, Robert, and thank you to all those who are brave enough to risk their lives for our freedom. May God bless all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice 🇺🇸
Thank you for all that you do for our Breast Implant Illness community. We are blessed to have you and the passion & knowledge you bring to this community. Thank you for allowing me to share your story & for personally always being so loving and supportive to me.
Much love to you my friend
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