Friday, January 4, 2019

Why I removed my breast implants!

I have had quite the year so my posting has been put on hold. I wanted to share something very important to me that I had learned this year. Breast implant illness. Stay with me for a minute because I know how that may sound and when I first heard those words I did roll my eyes a little. Until I didn’t.
For the past 11 years I have had horrible pain in my right shoulder, arm, hand and neck. Because it gets so bad at the base of my skull, I assumed I’ve been having headaches. I was also a mom and figured this is what happens with kids and toddlers. But, I was wrong.

So let’s rewind a little bit. 13 years ago, I decided to get breast implants. I have always been completely flat. No cup at ALL flat. I was always made fun of and called a boy. I hated to see my body because I looked like a child in the mirror. All that teasing finally got to me. Women had breasts and here I was with none. I didn’t just have “small breasts” I couldn’t wear bras at all. I was stuck stuffing the smallest cup bras or using silicon breast inserts. Even my manager at a local casino told me I needed to fill my uniform out and introduced me to stuffing, and told me I should get implants.  There weren’t a lot of options to make it look natural and no matter how much I stuffed. I can't fake cleavage because I didn't have any tissue to push up anyway. So I went and had breast augmentation surgery. I was conservative and only went up to a B cup. I didn't have much tissue to try and stretch any larger anyway.

2003 pre-implant

Immediately after my surgery, my right breast was super high and looked hard while the left breast looked soft, low, and natural. I had either immediately developed a capsular contraction or the plastic surgeon had placed my implant in wrong. When I asked questions they said it was a capsular contraction (which is rare IMMEDIATELY after surgery. Usually capsules take weeks or months to form, sometimes even years) anyway, they were injecting me with steroids and the receptionist there told me I must, “really be a smoker” to have developed this. I have never been a smoker. My mind does not tolerate stimulants. I can’t even drink coffee so let’s not blame me and figure out how to fix this!

I have very few photos like this, I became really good at dressing to hide my breasts but here you can tell the right breast is not like the left. It was hard and deformed and never dropped into the pocket.

I had ended up pregnant with my 2nd son before I was completely discharged. I was still seeing the surgeon for steroid shots and only a month post surgery and they refused to see me again because I was pregnant. Not even to make sure I was healing after surgery to discharge me!

So I found a new surgeon who would see me, make sure I was healing properly and talk to me about what capsular contraction even was and tell me what my options would be. I was pregnant, planning on breast feeding so any surgery repair would have to wait.  But at least she saw me, told me my options (New implants or cutting open the capsule to release the implant) and let me know I was healing. At this point I wasn't in any pain, didn't know there even could be any pain, and figured I'd decide what to do after I was done having kids and nursing.

Fast forward 2 years after surgery, I had just gaven birth to my 3rd child. I started to get such bad headaches and just always had so much pain in my head, shoulders, neck, and arm.

Around the time my headaches started. I had learned to "lift" the left breast so it would match the right one to hide the problem I was having. Plus I was nursing so my milk helped hide it too.

About my headaches I did the following. 

  • I had seen a neurologists who said I was just fine. 
  • I seen a dentist who did a root canal and checked my teeth. Maybe I had an infection or something that was causing my pain? After all the work I had done on my teeth for years, I was still in daily pain.
  • I went to an allergist next. I was told I was allergic to cats and molds. At the time I didn't have any allergy symptoms. No sinus pressure. Nothing. I didn't feel that could be causing my headaches and tension since I wasn't having symptoms.
  • I was seeing a chiropractor for adjustments 3 days a week for months at a time. When insurance would run out, I would stop going. It was $20 a visit and over the years jumped to $40 a visit. $40 spent 3 times a week for a month cost me almost $500 and the pain was ALWAYS still there. So I eventually, discontinued going.
  • My family Drs over the years would all say the same thing. I was just under a lot of stress. I never was able to get one to ever give me any tests to check my muscles. 

So I had to live with this. So I started just waiting it out. Living with this and no options. I never would take any pain medication because the few times I tried things, they never took the pain away so it wasn't worth it to me to take anything.

So last year, 10 years into this daily pain, I decide that this is not normal and I needed to keep looking for answers. I had developed sciatica pain shortly after the neck pain started but it didn’t start to really bother me badly until about 2013.
I met with my new Dr who sent me for an EMG to test all the nerves in my hip, back and neck areas where my pain was. The tests all came back normal. My nerves were not damaged it had to be something else. He wrote me a script to see a physical therapist and I didn’t go. I ended up sick, the kids got sick, work got busy and I let it get away from me thinking that it won't help if it's just stress anyway, but it ended up a blessing because I may have just wasted my time and money if I had went!

Fast forward to august 2018, my sister in law, sent me a link to a you tube video of a women who had gotten sick from her breast implants and it dawned on me.

  • 1. I have had a capsular contraction for as long as I’ve had this pain.
  • The pain is only on the right side, the side that has the capsular contraction is in.
  • The pain isn’t only in my head. It’s in my breast, shoulder neck and arm too.
  • But then again I thought of how much this would cost me. None of my Drs have ever found any cause for my pain. Every single one was told I had a breast implant complication, capsular contraction. Wouldn’t someone have figured it out? So that thought held me back from making any drs appointments at that time.

 Another photo where you can see how full the upper right breast was compared to the left.

I decided to look more into a capsular contractions. All I knew was that capsular contraction would make breasts look uneven. I searched what happens with capsular contraction I knew immediately this has to be what I have been dealing with.
I was upset. Why did no one ever tell me it could cause pain? How does it cause pain? It's just tissue around an implant. My implant didn't hurt. I was nervous. Not only did I feel disfigured from surgery already since the day they were implanted, but my plastic surgeon did not care about me. He wouldn’t even make sure I was done healing. I did not want to have another surgery. I didn’t want to take any risks now. I was scared.  I did want these things out of me for so long though, that was actually the perfect time to finally get them out and feel whole again.

I had joined a breast explant support group on facebook (Found Here) and had read so many stories of women talking about their plastic surgeons dismissing their claims of being unwell and in pain. What plastic surgeon who makes all his money off of our insecurities, would want to admit that what he is selling could harm you? What if my surgeon doesn’t believe me? What if my insurance won’t pay for it? I learned most plastic surgeons won’t even bill insurance anyway. It’s such a crazy market.

Over the past few years I had developed a lot of new allergies. Not just mold and cats, but now dogs, trees, pollen, weeds and grass too. I was having asthma induced allergies after never having asthma in my life. I was meeting with my allergist talking about how most of my allergy symptoms have been fixed with meds but i was still getting headaches I originally came in to fix, and could implants cause the headaches. She told me, "Well yes, you have a lot of nerves in that area". Just her saying that, she gave me the confidence to speak to a surgeon and not be afraid of being dismissed.

I went for my consult and waited 3 hours to see the surgeon and she agreed with me right away. She said it was definitely my implants causing my pain and she could take them out and put in new ones. But I didn’t want new ones. What if the capsules just kept coming back? I said no, please just take these out of me! And so surgery was scheduled just a week and a half later! They said they wouldn't even try and bill insurance because they wouldn’t cover it since it was cosmetic. This made me so angry to think about, It's no longer a "cosmetic" issue when this "Safe" implant was causing me pain almost every single day of my life. I had to come up with $4,300 to undo this mistake. To be me again and to finally get a chance to heal. She said she would do a capsulectomy and remove all the scar tissue from around both of my implants.

The day of surgery I was very nervous. The staff was so good to me, my surgeon was going to get these out! I woke up from surgery and she said I had a grade 4 capsule. I was an orange like thick capsular contracture around that breast implant. It was calcified and hard. Being calcified meant it was hard and sharp. If you can find a video on a calcified implant, it sounds like they are hitting rocks and cutting through sandpaper. It's not like skin at all. The worse part yet, something I had never in my life ever heard was possibly, my muscle had grown to and attached and tethered itself and to my implants capsule. No wonder I was in so much pain. Movement HURT! Every move my muscle was being pulled in multiple directions. That muscle spasmed so much after my surgery. For over a week it would spasm. It was so painful but also such a relief knowing it was free. I immediately felt like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders for real, because it was!

I could even take deep breaths again. Who knew implants could change your breathing?
My allergist pre surgery would comment on how I needed to exercise my lungs because i wasn't breathing deep enough. I went from scoring a 69 at each visits breathing tests, to now scoring an 81, 5 months after explanting. Proof that I could now breath better. I was never told that having implants would effect my breathing and ability to take deep breaths but here was the proof!

The capsule They removed from my right implant. Look at that thick, nasty thing. My surgeon never did give me a photo of the left capsule. These are pictures of a printed sheet so they quality isn't good.

Here is how my healing process went!
Immediately after surgery I felt lighter. I had muscles spasming in just the right breast, and after a few days air had travelled into my right shoulder and I had developed post surgery shoulder pain. There is a nerve called the Phrenic nerve. It originates in the neck and goes all the way down to the diaphragm. It would take a few days of walking around for the pain to subside but it is pretty common after surgery.

I had noticed that my right breast looked like I had a small breast, and my left was completely flat. I just assumed it was swollen and waited.

At my 1 week play op visit I saw the aide, as the surgeon was too busy that day with consults. She looked me over, said to wear the compression belt for another week, and gave me some silicone stripes to put over my scar to help soften them up. She told me to come back in 2 weeks.

1 week post-op. Still swollen but my pain was better than it had been with the implants! It's like my muscles felt some relief!

My right breast was still larger then the right and the more and as I was able to move around better I noticed that it felt like it had fluid in it. I had posted in the Breast explant support group about this and was told about something called a seroma and that I should definitely have it checked out just in case. A seroma is a pocket of clear serous fluid that sometimes develops in the body after having surgery. The fluid is composed of blood plasma that has seeped out of the ruptured small blood vessels and inflammatory fluid produced by the injured and dying cells. I did some internet research and it really did sound like that was my problem.

So 2 weeks later at my 3 week post op visit, I saw the same aide. She checked me out and looked at my scars and was sending me home. Thanks to the help I had online, I asked her about the fluid in the right breast and told her that it felt like water was inside of it. I told her I had noticed it after surgery but just thought I was more swollen on that side due to the capsule. She left and brought the nurse in to see me. She confirmed that I in fact did have a seroma in my breast that needed to be drained.

I found out that the build up of this fluid, if left in, can turn into yet another capsule in my breast pocket or even become infected. They have to remove fluid if it builds up. They do the by inserting a needle into the breast pocket and draining it! She miss judged the amount of fluid I had and used a small syringe. So she poked me once, filled the syringe, poked me again, and them poked me a 3rd time to make sure she got it all out. She drained 55ccs of fluid and sent me home with more antibiotics.  I was told to stay compressed for another month and I would see them in 10 days to probably drain more fluid. I just knew I was going to be fine and that the seroma would not return.

After another 6 weeks of visits I was finally discharged and healed up enough to end my visits!

I got all dressed up for my husbands union Christmas party. I was feeling so good! I'm small, a size 0-2, and dressing for a small body with large breasts was always hard, all while trying to hid the unevenness. This was so nice. To buy a dress and have it fit me!

My family Dr met with me and after telling her my story set me up for physical therapy. My surgeon never mentioned any of this and yours may not either, so if you are explanting be sure to talk to your Dr as well if you have pain! You don't want to wait to work out the kinks in your muscles!

My PT was amazing. I may never be 100% better, but at least there is someone out there who’s going to try and help me undo 13 years of muscle damage. I was never told breast implants could harm my muscles at all, or affect my lungs. After knowing I had a capsular contraction, I was never told it would or even could cause any pain, then, or in the future. Just the disfigurement and a hard implant!

My story here isn't because I blame anyone, but to help spread awareness because many of our family Drs. don't even know any of this happens. Most of our plastic surgeons don't see us long term for care, yet they are the ones that know about these types of issues can happen and need to know what's going on in our bodies. I was told implants will "last forever," and not even to worry about coming in for any more visits. He knew I had capsular contraction and never said if I start getting pain or headaches to come back in that implants could cause that.

I hope my story can help some of you who may be suffering, or so those of you debating on getting implants can see that there are definitely risks that aren't really discussed. Capsular contraction is the most common risk, and means more surgeries to remove and replace implants! Many times, women go in for surgery after surgery trying to fix a capsule that just ends up reforming because your body is trying to protect itself from something foreign.  So be educated before you jump into getting implants. It really can lead to some horrible side affects and pain that can not always be undone. I truly regret that I ever got them and wish I had never made that mistake!

UPDATE February 2019.
It's now been another 1.5 months since I wrote this blog and I finished physical therapy after just a month of visits. I have been 100% PAIN FREE! I cannot believe I am even saying that! After having pain daily, to my pain getting less and less, to completely gone is amazing! My physical therapist was so helpful and kind! She was truly a miracle in my life and I will forever be grateful for the guidance and care I received from her. I just feel so good! I have also been doing yoga daily to keep my muscles in good working order. I'm learning what to feed my body and how to treat it so that I can stay my best self! My explant was the absolute best thing I could have ever done and I'm so happy to be well now!

You are your best advocate! Please use your voice and do not be afraid to demand the best care! NO one can do it for you! You deserve a Dr who will not only listen to you and your symptoms and concerns, but also work toward health and healing!
Since my explant I have found so much confidence that I had lost! I feel good in my own skin. I may have a flat chest but I'm still a women none the less and we need to remember that our value does not come from breasts! It comes from so much more than that!

Update: 8-16-19. 

It's me again! I wanted to share some more advice. I was pain free for months post physical therapy. I had almost $2000 in PT bills for just 1 month of service. I was going twice a week for a total of 8 visits. I was feeling so good that I started slacking with working out. I thought my muscles were fixed so why bother. I already have a hard enough time gaining weight so I really didn't want to work out if I didn't have to. However the pain slowly came back. Don't stop your self care too soon! I have started back up working out these muscles and it's already helping. I was told your muscles remember what they went through and will go back to their old habits if you don't work on them enough. So keep up your self care! 

Also if a plastic surgeon tells you your insurance will not cover an explant, ask your insurance company first! I made the mistake of listing to the women scheduling me and believed she knew what she was talking about. In reality, many surgeons simply don't want to deal with insurance companies and all the extra paperwork and want you to believe you don't have coverage. I found out in January that my insurance will in fact cover my explant. Between my insurance company and myself, we have been basically begging my plastic surgeon for the past 8 months, to give me the information needed to file the claim. I've gotten papers with the wrong surgery procedure written on it, a surgical report with conflicting information on it. I've had to ask multiple times for the codes to be included, only for my insurance to want the codes sent on the receipt instead. (Still waiting on for that). It's been a huge hassle and I found just how messy and unorganized my surgeons office is and hoping I can get the information I need before time runs out on filing a claim. 

 And since this is a homesteading blog, here I am, wearing a new dress I made, post explant, with my turkeys following me around!

Thanks for reading and take care of yourself! ~The Vela Homestead

1 comment

  1. I think you look absolutely AMAZING!!! You feeling better is the ultimate important factor here! I’ve really been considering an explant. Thanks for sharing!!


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