‘I was self-conscious after having a baby, so I got breast implants. I got the ‘healthier’ option. When I woke up from surgery, it felt like the air got knocked out of my lungs.’

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“As I sat there scrolling through hashtag after hashtag, my eyes filled up with tears. There on social media, I discovered what has been affecting my health for years, and while I knew what I had to do to make it go away, I also knew I was in for an incredibly emotional journey and personal growth.

Courtesy Dasha Hardin

Almost five years ago I wrapped up a very tedious breastfeeding journey and had lost the last of my baby weight. Like most moms I was self-conscious about my new ‘mom bod’ and didn’t quite feel like myself. I was stressed, trying to balance being a new mom, living in a new area, and starting a new job. I was filled with self-doubt, low confidence, and wanted the ‘old me’ back. If only I could go back in time and tell myself that I looked great and my ‘snap-back’ was awesome but that’s not how life works.

Shortly after, I got an opportunity to change something about my body and thought it would make me feel like my old self again. I had always felt my proportions were off, especially after having a baby, so I got breast implants. I got saline implants, the ‘healthier’ option, and told the doctor I wanted to look natural. The surgery wasn’t considered to be anything crazy and my recovery was expected to be about three days. It’s actually so commonly done that it can literally be completed over a long weekend with most women going right back to work.

Wayward + Wild Photography

When I woke up from surgery, it felt like the air got knocked out of my lungs and a pile of bricks was put on my chest. I was in a ton of pain and felt so much pressure in my chest and I remember crying the day after surgery regretting the decision. The pain continued for months and I’d express my concern at every follow up, but the doctor assured me everything was healing well, and it was all part of the process, and I probably didn’t handle surgeries well. So, I quieted my concern and ignored my intuition and the cues my body was giving me that something wasn’t right. It wasn’t until about three months post op that I was able to start feeling normal and work out. This was not the ‘typical recovery’ I had so frequently heard about, but I was finally recovering and loving my new shape.

Courtesy Dasha Hardin

About a year and a half later I got pregnant and a variety of health issues started popping up. It started with horrible neck pain that never went away and eventually caused a migraine. Sharp pain and tightness in my chest, and frequent shortness of breath. Fluctuating body temperature going from cold to hot randomly, intense exhaustion and fatigue, and the smallest tasks were a challenge. But my pregnancy was very hard, this was my second kid, and I was older, so I assumed that’s why I felt this way and figured it would improve once my hormones balanced and she started sleeping through the night. Plus, I worked through my whole pregnancy, breastfed for over a year, and always took on more than I probably should have, so I figured I couldn’t have expected to always feel great with all that!

But when the breastfeeding was done the chest pain persisted. When I was getting enough sleep the exhaustion and brain fog continued. Even though I was eating a healthy balanced diet and exercising, the symptoms not only continued but got worse. They would come in random spurts like my body was fighting something and was winning until it just couldn’t take it anymore. I lowered my refined sugar intake, cut out gluten and dairy, ate fruits and vegetables for every meal, supplemented with an amazing whole food supplement, balanced my cardio and weightlifting, lost weight, gained weight, went to a chiropractor weekly, stretched daily, used a TENS unit, did medical yoga, took Epsom salt baths, and did just about everything to not feel this way. Yet it always came back and kept getting worse!

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Trying to figure this out and fight it has been one of the most stressful, frustrating, and confusing times of my life. I’m in the field of health and wellness, I was doing everything I knew to do, and while it helped, it wasn’t getting rid of my issues and I couldn’t understand why. I couldn’t comprehend why I’d feel good one day yet feel like I got hit by a truck the next. Why I was motivated and had energy sometimes, but it took everything in my power to simply get the day started other times. I’d frequently find myself not being able to get out of bed until 10 a.m. or there would be days when I would wake up at a decent time, but I’d walk around in a fog like an out of body experience and the day would fly by without me getting anything done because I JUST COULDN’T!

Anyone that’s known me for a while can tell you this is not how I used to be. I have always been a person who is constantly moving and never sits. A multitasking queen who can run off of minimal sleep while still getting everything done. My whole life I rarely slept in, especially for multiple days in a row, and the latest was usually around 9 a.m. even after pulling an all-nighter. But ever since the health issues started, I slowly lost the energy and motivation and had to force myself to do basic everyday tasks.

 

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So less than a year ago, as I looked through hash tagged posts on Instagram everything finally made sense. I had discovered something called breast implant illness (BII) and I instantly knew that’s what my health issues were caused by. BII is basically breast implants making their host sick. Whether the body is rejecting them, they’re releasing chemicals into it, the muscle and tissue are being smashed and its causing pain, or all three, it is not yet fully known, studied, discussed, or even technically diagnosable in the medical community. Plastic surgery is a billion-dollar industry and breast implants are a best seller so it’s understandable why any possible issues would be so protected. There are plastic surgeons that acknowledge it, some who have been removing more implants than putting in, and others who now only remove and don’t put any in. Unfortunately, there are many more who do not acknowledge it and its not entirely their fault. The research on the safety of breast implants is minimal and spotty and as long as women keep getting them and business is booming, it’ll continue to be that way. The one known ‘cure’ is an explant, removing the implants from the body.

Implants are deemed medically safe, yet the studies haven’t been reviewed in years and lack thoroughness and legitimacy. But let’s use common sense: it’s plastic near the heart and lungs, sitting there at about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit and it is known that heating plastics can leech out its contents, which could be happening in the body daily. Additionally, if it’s under the muscle, which most these days are, it could be shaping that muscle in a way that is not natural for it and straining and putting pressure on all other muscles attached to it. The body also forms a scar tissue capsule around the implant which can attach to blood vessels, get calcified, hardened, or misshapen. This year, the FDA released new findings acknowledging an implant related cancer called Breast Implant Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma, or BIA-ALCL, a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (cancer of the immune system). While they had previously believed only textured silicone implants could cause it, they are now finding that all implants, silicone or saline, can as well. Whatever it’s made of, silicone or saline, it’s foreign and not an original part of the body, so there is always a risk for complications or rejection. Unfortunately, women are never told any of these things when getting implants, and since our normalizes it and it is such a common procedure, most don’t even ask for more information, myself included.

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As I began to do more of my own research, I quickly discovered just how many women out there are affected by this illness, some who lived with their issues for much longer than I have and gave up their quality of life, accepted the health issues as their new norm, were told by doctors, family, and friends that it was all in their minds, and even got misdiagnosed with autoimmune disorders or other illnesses. I joined a community of women sharing their stories and supporting each other, spreading information, sending encouragement, and helping one another come to the decision of removal and I am so thankful to have found them.

Although I had no official medical diagnoses, I knew I had to remove them. Acknowledging that and actually doing it are two different things and coming to the point of scheduling a visit with a plastic surgeon for explant from the time I knew I needed to do it was a difficult journey. They gave me confidence, made me feel sexy, and where very much a part of who I am and as silly as it sounds, there were times where I was more ok with feeling like total crap every day than accepting how I may look without them. Low self esteem is so damaging. Then there’s always the chance of nothing getting better even after removal, and that was the most terrifying possibility.

But I quickly began to realize that almost 5 years later I have changed. I now appreciate my body so much more for all it has done and continues to do. It carried two beautiful children, grew them to perfection, delivered them safely, and provided them nutrients. It tolerated all night study sessions with early wake ups, dancing every weekend, and running hundreds of miles in the mountains. What have implants done for me? Caused pain, discomfort, stress, and made me feel like I’ve missed out on living my life. They’ve made running and working out difficult, zapped all of my energy, and are slowly sucking the life out of me and its time to say goodbye!

Courtesy Dasha Hardin

So here I am, a week post explant and lift, living on the lighter less curvy side of things. But more importantly, I’m happy to say that many of my issues have already disappeared! My neck pain was instantly gone, from the moment I woke up, and as a result, I’m not getting migraines either! Its absolutely amazing! Even though I had surgery and get tired easily, somehow, I have more energy and a desire to do stuff! Despite having drains and incisions, I’ve been falling into a deep sleep and waking up early and refreshed! A weight has been lifted off of my chest (literally) and I can truly BREATHE, which gets me so excited to go on long runs again! Going from accepting my health issues as my norm to them disappearing in a few hours has been so surreal and exciting. I cannot wait for my health to continue to improve and look forward to being the new old me.

Nicole Holston Photography

But it doesn’t end here and in fact it’s really the beginning. Through the personal and intimate stories shared by other women with BII, I found the root of my unexplained health issues, and so did many others. I’d like to continue helping others by sharing my story, proving information, and raising awareness about breast implant illness. If I can help one woman realize what’s been going on with her body like so many helped me, sharing this personal story will be worth it.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Dasha Hardin, 29, of Augusta, Georgia. You can follow her journey on her blog and Instagram. Submit your story here, and be sure to subscribe to our best love stories here.

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