I am an energetic basketball mom, a wife, a former teacher and a three time cancer survivor, most recently a breast cancer survivor. Today I am living my life completely FLAT. I am happy, healthy and living my best life! Without breasts!!!
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017. I had a double mastectomy and reconstruction with Mentor smooth silicone breast implants and within days I began to experience an array of debilitating health issues. It started with headaches, migraines, anxiety and insomnia, followed by debilitating fatigue, rashes, chronic pain, hair loss, difficulty breathing and difficulty swallowing and feeling like I was choking. I went back to my surgeon several times, not once did she tell me that it could be from my breast implants which were "safe and FDA approved.”
Other breast cancer patients that I had spoken with were complaining of similar health complications and they attributed their symptoms to chemotherapy and radiation treatment. But...I did not have chemo or radiation, and I was not taking hormone inhibitors, I only had surgery and reconstruction. So WHY was I feeling so horrible like I had one foot in the grave??? At one point I assumed that my cancer came back, aggressive stage 4, and that could be the only explanation for why I felt so sick. I went from walking 5-7 miles a day to not being able to walk around the block.
Then I heard about Breast Implant Illness. A woman described to me how she was sick and bedridden from her breast implants. Her symptoms mirrored mine, and it gave me hope that I could finally find an answer and have a chance to get my life back. I had no interest in going through more surgeries for reconstruction. I was sick of cancer and everything that came with it, I just wanted to move on and get my life back, I wanted to be done with living in cancer land. This meant I would be left completely FLAT, with no breasts. To be honest, I was completely OK with that if it meant my life could go back to normal. I had my implants removed after just four months and all of my symptoms have completely resolved. After my explant I felt so amazing that I wasn’t even concerned about taking the bandages off, because whatever the result was underneath was 100% worth it to be able to be feeling good and living life again. And when I did finally take them off I was not disappointed, my surgeon did a great job of making me FLAT, exactly what I asked for. My scars and my lack of breasts do not sadden me, they remind me of my strength and resilience to battle and overcome cancer. They remind me of my bravery to put my health above all, so that I can be around a little longer for my family. My scars tell my story, and I hope that I can inspire other women to BE BOLD and embrace the opportunity to go against the expectations of society and just do what is best for your health, even if it means having no breasts.
For me, having Breast Implant Illness was worse than having cancer. Having no breasts and being FLAT gave me my health and my life back and it gave me freedom. My breasts do not define me, there is so much more to who I am as a human being than having breasts. I wish plastic surgeons would stop making women feel that they need to be made “whole” again after having a mastectomy. There is nothing whole about breast implants, I had never felt more broken. They are sacs of toxic chemicals that keep us sick and can even give us another cancer.
I was shocked and horrified that none of my doctors informed me that this could happen. Even worse… how many other breast cancer patients is this happening to? My experience led me to become an advocate for raising awareness about breast implant safety. I was saddened to learn that the FDA and our medical community have failed to protect patients. The FDA was hiding over 446,000 reports of women who were harmed by breast implants. Doctors gloss over important facts during consultation appointments and women have been left struggling for years with chronic illness and autoimmune diseases. There is NO ACCOUNTABILITY by the breast implant manufacturers and they have been allowed to continue marketing and selling their product, despite the fact that all four manufacturers are currently in violation of their FDA approval agreements. The FDA still has failed to hold them accountable. Plastic surgery societies in the USA have less than 2% of surgeons participating in NBIR, the breast implant registry used for the tracking and surveillance of breast implant recipients. Australia has over 90% participation rate from surgeons using the Australian ABDR registry. We need to demand better!
In my advocacy journey, I have shared my testimony twice at the FDA in Washington D.C. I have been an administrator in several online support groups, I am co-founder of BISA Breast Implant Safety Alliance and co-founder of GPAC Global Patient Advocacy Coalition. I am also a patient advocate member of the ASBrS American Society of Breast Surgeons and I participated as a speaker in the BIHS Breast Implant Health Summit. I work closely with the Arizona Society of Plastic Surgeons, and I have taken awareness efforts to the Arizona state capitol. We have been working with state senators on implementing legislation that will mandate surgeons to provide patients with proper informed consent and patient information literature, including our patient/doctor checklist that must be signed and discussed as part of the informed consent process. We are now working on this legislation in several states. I am passionate about raising awareness and protecting patients. I believe every patient should be given the opportunity to make an informed decision regarding breast implants and every patient deserves to have all of the information prior to having surgery. I have so much love and respect for my fellow advocates who continue to work tirelessly to fight for accountability and patient safety. I am blessed beyond measure to stand with our community of brave and selfless women. Huge thanks to you Tara, for everything that you do for our community.
Love and hugs, ♥️ Robyn Towt
In March of 2019, Robyn Towt, along with 80 other women harmed by Breast Implants, traveled to Washington to testify before the FDA. What a powerful moment as Robyn held up her implants for the panel to see and states, "these implants were worse than all 3 of my cancers."
On behalf of our entire Breast Implant Illness community, Thank you!
We are grateful that you give so much of yourself to advocating. You seek the change that truly will make a difference for our next generation! The courage you display daily as you take on creating change in legislation is beyond inspiring.
After surviving cancer 3 times, I believe you are the definition of a warrior. You've been through so much and yet you never complain, you just continue to fight for what's right!
We are so glad you're on our team!
I also have the honor to call you a dear friend and for that I am forever grateful. My days wouldn't be complete without you in them. Thank you for being you!
Love you tons! ♥️ Tara
Copyright © 2022 Breast Implant Illness Support - All Rights Reserved.
( . )( . ) tarahopko.com