‘I lost a cup size but gained my LIFE.’: Woman shares breast implant illness journey, ‘I no longer take my body for granted’

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“Many are the rewards of becoming a mother- you know, the obvious things like patiently growing a tiny life dwelling inside of the womb, feeling those first kicks, and our bodies changing throughout pregnancy. We get compliments on our ‘glow’ and we feel empowered by the beauty of a round pregnant belly when we look into the mirror. As for me, I felt extremely beautiful and confident while pregnant.

Our bodies instinctively create nourishment to feed our children, day after day, sleepless night after night. We listen to their tiny gulps at 2 a.m. with each let-down of milk. Our breasts fill up, then empty- again and again- for months, or even years. Each time they drink at our breasts- they suckle, pull and release. It can be draining, pun intended.  But, this milk will feed their tiny bodies, build up their immune system and keep them strong.

Over time, we watch as these little humans that relied on us for everything, turn into mature adults that we will forever call our babies. Those are all huge rewards. There’s nothing like it.

As wonderful and rewarding as motherhood is, I don’t think anyone prepares you for the changes that happen to our bodies. After I had our three children, my body was different. I mean, after all, it created three human beings! I had new marks on my body, and my skin was pulled to its capacity in order to grow and feed our babies.

My pant size grew four sizes, along with my cup size. My small A cup breasts became big C’s while I was nursing each time. At the end of nursing my third child, my body had changed so much. Each time I looked into the mirror, I didn’t see my pre-pregnancy body anymore, and that discouraged me. I decided the only way to boost my self-confidence was to go under the knife.

In April of 2012, I underwent plastic surgery for the first time and got 350cc of silicone ‘gummy bear’ implants, underneath the muscle. When I woke up from surgery that day, the first thing I immediately did was touch my chest. It was covered in bandages but I could feel the fullness, and that put a smile on my face. I was wheelchaired to my car, and driven home. For the next few days, I was in so much pain, taking medication as needed. It felt as though an elephant was sitting on my chest! Eventually, my body healed and the pain subsided.

woman confidently smiling in olive top and jeans, hand on hip
Courtesy of Orchid Vega

At this point, my confidence skyrocketed. I was ready for anything! I filled in my clothes and I enjoyed wearing bikinis and low cut tops again. I was once again happy with what I saw in the mirror, took more selfies, and as crazy as it sounds- even smiled more.

Until one year later, when that smile turned into a frown. I vividly remember, one day at home, not feeling well, feeling off, and not like myself. I sat on the edge of my bed thinking ‘something is wrong.’ I started having symptoms like shortness of breath and extreme fatigue, and when I went to the doctor, he prescribed me an inhaler, and referred me to a Pulmonologist where I received absolutely no answers.

And with time and my symptoms progressing, I went from seeing a Pulmonologist, to an Allergist, to a Cardiologist, to a Gastroenterologist, to an ENT, to an Internist, to then countless visits to the emergency room thinking I was dying… all without a single answer and wasted time. I was told by those medical professionals this was all in my head.

What? All in my head? So then what is the reason I am feeling: chest pain, swollen lymph nodes, hypoglycemia, IBS, anxiety/panic attacks, tinnitus, vertigo, melasma, cystic acne, joint pain, heart palpitations, and shortness of breath? My brain really must’ve been playing tricks on me! I don’t blame the doctors for my misdiagnosis, though. All of my labs came back normal, and they were just doing their job. It wasn’t their fault, but I had to get to the root of this problem. Being this sick affected my quality of life. I barely had energy to get out of bed or tend to my family, my blood sugar would drop every hour, and I was just miserable. I was slacking in my role as a wife and mother.

cystic acne on woman's face
Courtesy of Orchid Vega

In 2017, I began seeing a Naturopathic doctor, where he helped me figure out this mysterious puzzle. With endless research on my end, and his expertise, we concluded that my body was reacting to my breast implants, and I had what is known as ‘Breast Implant Illness.’ I ended up being diagnosed with hypothyroidism and being placed on medication. He also diagnosed me with adrenal fatigue and a host of other ailments, all which I knew I had been suffering with them for years.

woman laying in bed
Courtesy of Orchid Vega

Of course! This makes so much sense now!  I came to learn that breast implants, no matter the type, all contain the same silicone outer shell that has over 40+ toxic chemicals including mercury, formaldehyde, and arsenic- which will eventually affect the human body. The chemicals in the outer shell alone sweats while sitting inside our hot chest cavity, seeping toxins into our bloodstream, delivering them to our organs, and every other area of the body. Actually, it’s almost foolish to believe putting poison into your body will not have long term effects. For some women, it just takes longer to get harmed by those toxins than others. So, it’s not if breast implants will cause harm to the body, but when.

My Naturopathic doctor started me on a healing protocol I diligently did, and I also began planning for explant surgery.  I began doing research on plastic surgeons, went to different consultations, and finally found a surgeon who knew how to perform a proper Enbloc procedure. It’s important for the surgeon to know about proper implant removal, because our bodies create a capsule, or layer of skin, around the implant- as a way of fighting something foreign within us. So removing that toxin-filled capsule too, is crucial.

In April of 2018, I was on that operating table again, but this time removing the implants. After years of feeling so sick, I was beyond ready. I was ready to have my health back, and that meant everything to me. Of course I had my doubts… I was worried about what I would look like, or if I would love my body after surgery. But, the thought of healing outweighed any ounce of vanity.

Waking up from anesthesia this time felt very different. I felt alive. I felt light. I felt clear.

breast implants
Courtesy of Orchid Vega

I touched my bandaged-covered chest again, and was overwhelmed with joy of the thought of my bright future and gaining my life back. Again, I was wheelchaired to my car and driven home. I rested and nurtured my body for a few days- with barely the need for pain medicine.

Day after day, I was healing. Not just my scars, but internally too. My blood sugar became stable, the dark melasma and painful cystic acne cleared up, my energy levels increased. I no longer had the need for thyroid medication, although I still saved the last empty bottle of thyroid medication as a reminder of my healing. The overwhelming list of symptoms that I had were disappearing. It was astounding! God made our bodies to thrive and heal, if we treat it the right way.

woman smiling
Courtesy of Orchid Vega

So, I might’ve lost a cup size, but I gained my life- I could’ve lost instead.

Looking back, this whole process was a lesson. That our bodies are already beautiful, and God doesn’t make mistakes. He created us perfectly. A body that can produce a human being, make milk, and function daily- is a huge blessing. There is no need to place a toxic, foreign object inside of it to believe that. Yes, our self-esteem is so important, but what really shapes that? Are our self-esteems shaped by the images we see around us? Do we allow society to dictate what is beautiful? I believe so. Because why would a smaller chest be considered unattractive? How did you and I come to that conclusion? Exactly.

All of that aside, we need to realize that as women, our bodies are extraordinary and God created them to do amazing things. And when our bodies do change, it is evidence of that. Looking at the real reason as to why we feel we need to implant a bag into our chest is the point here. It’s not worth it.

woman in plaid dress smiling
Courtesy of Orchid Vega

Now, I look in the mirror and see an extremely strong person that has endured years of illness.  I now see someone who is forever grateful for this journey God has me on. He truly works everything out for good. I now appreciate my body and all it does for me every single day, and I don’t take it for granted anymore. And I will never let anything get in the way of my health again- for me, or for my family. And that is rewarding!  -OV”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Orchid Vega. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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