“First off, I know this story is long, but I promise if you have ever gotten breast implants, thought about getting them, or you know someone who has gotten them, you need to read this all the way to the end. It could save your life or their life. Literally. So, rewind to 2012. I was a 32-year-old mother of two amazing girls who were four and two. I had finally been successful at getting rid of all the excess baby weight I had gained, my 2-year-old was actually sleeping through the night, and I felt like a healthy human being again.
As much as I hate to admit it, I struggled with loving the post-baby body I saw when I looked in the mirror. I asked myself, ‘How can I not love this incredibly strong body that lovingly grew and breastfed two healthy daughters?’ Well. ‘Things’ seemed to have ‘deflated’ and headed south, if you know what I mean. Obviously, I’m talking about my boobs. If you want to hear my story, you’ll have to get comfortable with breast talk, so prepare yourself or move on. Ladies, we all have them and we all seem to have a complicated relationship with them. They are magical milk makers, yet we never seem happy with them.
My recent weight loss and joining the ranks of working moms made me more conscious of my deflation situation. See, I worked for an amazing plastic surgeon who seemed to wave a magic wand and make all the things you dislike about yourself disappear. I saw aesthetically perfect women all day. Super helpful for my newfound confidence, right? I had a daily reminder I had the option of turning my own sad postpartum hooters into a lovely, perky set of bosoms. I wish I could say my nature as a confident promoter and believer of self-love was present in preventing me from considering surgery to make me feel better about myself, but I can’t say that. Suddenly, my confidence seemed to be hinged on how many pencils I could hold under my lady lumps. I was not feeling the self-love I had once possessed. Let’s face it, ladies, it’s hard being a woman. We are shamed for how we look and shamed even more for doing something to improve it.
Still, as easy as implants would be, I was hesitant to consider them, because of my 10 years of experience as a surgical technologist. I had seen firsthand the horrors of what happens when silicone implants went wrong. Silicone implants had actually been banned by the FDA for quite a while because of these dangers. In 2012, the FDA had just lifted the ban. However, like many other surgeons, my doctor refused to use them. He only used saline implants because he believed them to be a perfectly safe option.
In all honesty, I just wanted my sad, deflated balloons put back where they started. I already HAD big boobs, why would I want implants? I thought a lift would be a much better decision for me, but after consulting with my boss and doctor, he explained, ‘Lifts cause a lot of big, ugly scars, and the healing process is harder and takes much longer.’ He then explained, ‘Putting in a small implant behind the muscle will have the same effect as a lift and without the scarring and a much faster recovery.’ Win-win. I was in. After all, they were ‘perfectly safe,’ what could go wrong?
I took the plunge and I loved it. My ex-husband loved it. He would watch me walk across the room for the first time, and who doesn’t love to be seen as more than a mother with throw up on her shirt? I had so much more confidence with my new beautiful knockers. I can’t pretend I didn’t absolutely love how they looked and how they made me feel, even after they tried to kill me. Yes, you heard me right, I said they tried to kill me. Let’s fast forward to 2018. I’m now 39 years old, a successful photographer (which was always my dream profession), and had started my own amazing non-profit foundation that was helping so many people. I had divorced and was co-parenting with my ex like a boss, and to top it off, I was dating a wonderful man my daughters and I adored. Life could not have been more amazing. I was living my best life, the life I had dreamed of! Everything was perfect, except one very big problem.
My body began to feel like I was dying. Literally, it seemed like everything was falling apart and it got worse and worse as time went on. I was terrified and completely confused. I thought, ‘I’m 39, not 79!’ First, I had my gallbladder out because it just stopped working. Next, I needed a cervical fusion on my neck with plates and screws due to rapid degenerative disc disease. I couldn’t sleep or concentrate. There were days I couldn’t even get out of bed. I would tell my doctor about all of my random symptoms and I know she thought I was nuts, but she was always kind. She tested me for everything under the sun and nothing added up. She would treat symptoms and move on. I kept pushing. I KNEW something was very wrong. But because I LOOKED fine on the outside, people didn’t take me seriously.
I continued to push when I didn’t improve, and she would try another test. Years went by and nothing explained what was happening to me. I was gaining weight for no reason, I suddenly had high blood pressure, my hair was thin and falling out, my mouth was incredibly dry, and I had a non-stop metallic taste in my mouth. I suffered from horrible night sweats, headaches, joint pain throughout my body, hands and feet swelling, and feeling like there was fiery electricity running through them. My skin was rapidly aging and constantly puffy, my muscles were so weak I couldn’t blow dry my own hair. My skin had weird rashes, hyper-pigmentation on my face that kept spreading, muscle spasms, random unexplained fevers, dehydration even when I guzzled water, memory loss, and cognitive impairment that got so bad I couldn’t recall common words and would say, ‘I know it starts with an A, and I just can’t remember the rest.’ The one thing I knew for sure was this was not just in my head.
Finally, in 2019, my doctor had an ‘AHA’ moment when she decided, ‘I am going to test you for an autoimmune disease.’ My blood finally came back with a possible answer. Not a clear one, mind you because I didn’t have all the markers for autoimmune, but I had one. All I could think was, ‘HALLELUJAH, we have a clue to this mystery and my misery.’ My new rheumatologist agreed it was an odd result, but we would just treat it as a mixed connective tissue disease and see what happened. I was elated! Sounds crazy, but I was so happy to have a possible answer to the years of suffering. A step forward to hopefully getting my life back! I started the medications given to treat malaria (yes, malaria) and they were brutal at first, but I got used to them. Unfortunately, they can take 6 months to actually start working and showing any improvement. Well, months went by, and of course, I didn’t have much improvement. My frustrations were growing once again, and so were my symptoms.
As luck, God, the Universe, and all things Holy would have it, I went to see my friend for a hair appointment in February 2020. I was sharing my health updates with her and she suddenly stopped me. She said, ‘Brandy, this may sound crazy, but I follow someone on Instagram who has been posting about her health issues for a while, and it sounds just like yours and it was her breast implants! Did you know a lot of them have been recalled? It’s called Breast Implant Illness, and she got them out, and literally, ALL of her symptoms went away as soon as she woke up from surgery!’ I swear I still remember this moment and how I felt. I initially thought she was crazy, but it also felt like a light bulb went off. I picked up my phone and started researching. I dove in HARD. It was like waking up from a nightmare. I wasn’t crazy, I wasn’t alone, and there was an answer to my prayers!
I called my rheumatologist on the drive home and talked to him and shared what I had learned. He immediately said, ‘Yes, Brandy! I had a patient last year who presented JUST like you and she had her breast implants taken out and she never needed treatment again. I absolutely suggest you consult with a plastic surgeon.’ I was elated. However, COVID-19 decided to teach me some more about patience, and I had to wait to see someone. The extra time allowed me to find a huge network of women suffering from Breast Implant Illness!
Breast Implant Illness was recognized by the FDA in July 2019, and the recall for Allergan implants started shortly after. Silicone and saline implants have been proven to cause anything from autoimmune disease to cancer. I thought, ‘How did I not hear about this before? Why wasn’t I alerted to the dangers once they were known?’
Finally, I met with an amazing plastic surgeon who could not promise me an explant of the implants and capsules would help me, but based upon my symptoms, he felt strongly it would be worth a try. He had several patients who had immediate relief as soon as the implants were removed. The cost of taking them out was more than putting them in, and far more than a single mother has to throw around. PLUS there was no guarantee it would work. A difficult decision to make, but I knew I had to try. Because if this was Breast Implant Illness and I left them in, I could die. Once I realized this, I could not get those things out of my body fast enough.
The night before my surgery, every joint on the left side of my body was screaming in pain and my hands were in so much pain, I couldn’t hold my phone. July 30, 2020, I woke up from my surgery and all that pain was GONE. Just like that, GONE. It felt like a miracle. Every day since, my life and health have gotten better and better. Every symptom I suffered from is almost completely gone. It’s hard to believe how much pain I was living with just 5 months ago. I gambled with my health and I won. I know so many women don’t like to admit they have had plastic surgery, much less talk openly about it, which is why so many women still don’t know about BII. But please, don’t let it stop you from sharing your story. Sharing your story could save a life. It saved MY life, and I intend to return the favor, and to love myself and my beautiful, non-toxic ta-tas, just the way they are.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Brandy Angel of Athens, Georgia. You can follow her journey on her Instagram and her website. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more stories about Breast Implant Illness:
‘I was 22 and wanted to feel feminine. My husband said breast implants would help ‘spice things up.’: Woman removes implants after plagued by Breast Implant Illness, ‘removing them gave me the confidence I lacked for years’
Read more stories about self-love:
‘She’s never going to find someone now. She’s finished. A woman is single at 40.’: Newly single woman shares self love journey, ‘I am more than okay’
‘She dressed up that 200-pound body. She bought it new clothes. Her confidence oozed out of her.’: Woman reflects on self love, ‘I am going to love myself without losing weight’
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