Earlier this year, I faced a hard fact.
The breast implants I had put into my body at the age of 18 were making me sick, and I needed surgery to remove them.
It took 10 years for me to learn that the plastic from the implants was the cause behind so many of my crippling health problems. I had been suffering from a mystery systemic mold overgrowth for over eight years (which baffled my doctors) and it was getting worse by the day.
I felt devastated when I realized what I had done to myself.
When I was 18, the words “research” and “long-term consequences” weren’t in my vocabulary. Body positivity and acceptance was not a thing in my social circles back then, and I was surrounded by several women at my waitressing job that had implants. It didn’t seem like a big deal, and I had a large surplus of income from my new job with nothing to spend it on.
This is what I look back on as my “perfect storm.”
But, the consequences didn’t hit like a storm—they happened so slowly over the years that I blamed everything else but the implants. I labeled myself as the type of person who had a “sensitive system” and “angry gut.” It was just who I was.
The health consequences of having breast implants was never a topic that I thought much about, let alone imagine writing publicly about it. Undergoing a breast augmentation is still one of the few things that I truly regret. I will never forget the first time I saw my body after the surgery, and feeling my stomach drop. I would have done anything in that moment to undo my choices.
Like many others who have made regrettable life choices at a young age, I wish I could go back in time and remind my younger self that my body was beautiful just the way it was. I’d ask, “Have you thought about how this will impact your future as an athlete, or how this could impact your health over time?” I’d maybe even try to persuade my younger self to use that money for a European backpacking adventure or a sleeve tattoo. Anything else.
I was barely able to afford to pay for the surgery in the first place, let alone paying to undo the procedure. So, I did what any other 18-year-old would do when they make a mistake without immediate consequences: I ignored it.
Despite society’s shift away from idealizing larger breasts, a startling number of women still undergo breast implants. Of the 1.8 million surgical procedures performed in 2016, the number one was breast augmentation. In 2000, a reported 5.8 million women had breast implants.
Considering the fact we have very limited research on the long-term health consequences of breast implants, it’s shocking to see how many women still undergo the procedure. We are nothing more than lab rats with a very low reward. Having larger breasts will never be worth the impact they have had on my body.
Over the last few years, research, and documentation of breast implant illness has grown. As of just this past month, there have been a reported nine cases of a rare form of cancer linked to implants. More and more women and doctors are now coming forward and speaking out publicly about breast implant illness.
Clinical research on the symptoms of breast implants.
It is now known that the biofilm around implants, over time, creates the production of mold and yeast in the body. It is also known that having breast implants significantly impairs the body’s immune system, which in turn makes you extremely susceptible to a myriad of health complications.
While there are some that are able to lead normal lives with breast implants, I fell hard into the other category: my body was using all of its energy and resources to “fight” off my implants and my health was falling apart because of it. My immune system was destroyed. Not knowing the cause of my various illnesses only complicated the situation.
At my lowest, I was no longer able to run (I had adrenal failure despite taking good care of my body and sleeping all the time), I experienced extreme daily exhaustion (and caffeine addiction), had a constant candida skin rash covering 75% of my body, had severe joint and muscle pain, felt uncontrollable anxiety if I didn’t eat sugar (fungi overgrowth in my gut), and my vision was getting progressively worse (I experienced a 50% loss of overall vision due to inflammation in my eyes in 2016).
It was a weird random mix of diagnoses from my doctors: a mystery chronic eye inflammation illness, candida, lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance, chronic pain, anemia, leaky gut, IBS…It went on and on.
I was tangled in a mess of diagnoses and doctors appointments. But again—because I had no idea the cause—was often left reverting back to my original response: denial. Treat the symptoms as best I could and hope for the best.
The road out of my jungle of health problems was paved by a single person: my fiancé, Michael.
It was during a discussion with him at the beginning of the year that I first mentioned my desire to remove my breast implants (before I knew they were making me sick, and I simply felt they were the only thing about myself I didn’t like), but I had no means of doing so financially.
After a few more serious conversations on the subject, lots of research, and the life-changing moment of discovering that I had the late stages of breast implant illness, he offered to pay for my surgery. It’s one of the most important things anyone has ever done for me.
I have no doubt in my mind that my future husband has quite literally saved my life.
I felt a tidal wave of emotions, gratitude, and the first glimpse of a light at the end of the tunnel in a long time.
In the months following our conversation about removing my implants, I fell deep into a rabbit hole of research. Thousands of testimonials from women with breast implants and post breast “explant” (the term for removing breast implants)—all described the same symptoms I had been suffering from.
It all was interconnected. I had a support group, and there was a clear path toward recovery. I was relieved to learn that the vast majority of women who explanted experienced an almost full recovery within a year.
In May of 2017, I scheduled the surgery to remove my implants and surrounding damaged tissues. My surgery date was planned for July 13th.
In the two months I waited, I dove headfirst into researching anything and everything to do with breast implant illness, breast implant removal, detoxing the body from mold toxicity, and surgery recovery timelines. I readied myself mentally, and tried my best to calm my mind about the impending surgery.
One of the biggest components to preparing my body for surgery and recovery was diet. I learned that sugar, high-carb foods, and yeast fed the overgrowth of mold toxins and yeast in my body.
A low mold/yeast diet meant: no more beer or any alcohol (as it’s fermented and contains a large amount of mold and yeast), no sugar, no gluten (often contaminated with mold/yeast), no fermented foods, no cheese (mold!).
Luckily, Michael and I had been following the bulletproof diet for a few months, and it aligned very closely with a low mold/yeast diet. I had also recently started a sugar detox. After feeling sick for so long, I was now desperate to do anything to help my body heal.
I chose to not publicly talk about my surgery until now because I wanted to be on the other side of the situation. Rather than end my story at the scheduling of a surgery and a cliff-hanger, I wanted to be able to tell it from a more reflective standpoint.
It took me three and a half weeks after my surgery to get to a point where I felt I could lasso all of the thoughts into an article I felt comfortable sharing.
I’m proud to say now: the day I removed my implants was one of the most important days of my life.
Unlike the first time I saw my body after I got implants, when I saw my body after removing them—it was like looking at the real me for the first time in 10 years. I felt whole and complete.
My small breasts were like a prize for the struggle I had been through. They were all mine, they were perfect for running and outdoor adventures, and never again did I have to worry about foreign objects wrecking havoc on my system.
I felt immediate relief on a mind, body, and soul level. My brain fog started to clear, my skin rash started to go away, my body no longer ached, and my extreme exhaustion was improving. There was a lightness in my heart. The surgery worked.
Now that I am overflowing with positive emotions and an abundance of knowledge on the subject of breast implants—here is the point where I am going to stand on my small soap box for a quick moment and say some important things.
I’m not going to sugar coat it (literally, ever again): if you are considering getting breast implants, for whatever reason, do not do it. Spend your money on an epic vacation, paying off debt, a new haircut, new clothes, taking 20 of your closest friends out for a night on the town, an expensive hand-made push-up bra—anything else!
Despite what plastic surgeons say (who just wants your money), breast implants are foreign objects in your body and are not permanent. Most surgeons recommend replacing your implants every 10-15 years.
Over a lifetime, even if you never develop breast implant illness, having implants can cost you well over $50,000, and that’s on the cheap side. If having bigger breasts means that much to you—a good push-up bra is so much cheaper and can do the trick. In total, my breasts have now cost me $20,000, not counting the cost of the numerous doctor’s visits associated with the symptoms from mold toxicity. It’s simply not worth it.
If you have breast implants, I hope my story has shed some light into the seriousness of how they can impact your body over time (if they aren’t already causing you health problems).
There are so many other women out there who either have implants or are considering getting them put in. I now believe one of my life’s missions is to encourage body positivity and increase awareness about the dangers of breast implants.
Elephant Watch: How to Bike Everyday:
Author: Crista Tappan
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Copyeditor: Travis May