Breast Implants: Recovery & Discovery
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My Personal Journey
My Experience with Silicone Gel Breast Implants
Today, at the age of 59, I continue to struggle with one health crisis after another. I was confident that, after I was explanted in 1994, my health would improve and I would be able to regain some semblance of good health.
I am one of the unfortunate who has not been able to regain my good health.
In 1980, at the age of 34 and after 2 children, I continued to be self- conscious of my non-existent breasts and throughout high school and my early 20’s, I was constantly teased about my body thus developing a low self-esteem. I decided to do something positive for myself in that regard, and after reading articles in health magazines, I consulted a plastic surgeon. He convinced me that breast implants would improve my appearance and would last a lifetime, and that no one would be able to tell that I even had implants. The plastic surgeon also remarked that the product was so natural that even some doctors were unable to tell when a patient had prosthesis. It would, he added, be a minor procedure, and after a week of recovery, I would be able to resume my day-to-day lifestyle. The plastic surgeon emphasized that nothing further would ever need to be done ~~ a one time procedure! Moreover, he explained that he had seen many women who had been in the same situation as me, and that these women had been so happy after augmentation. At that age, I was a naïve and trusting woman and would never question the advice or recommendations of a medical doctor. I looked up to and respected the medical profession and believed in its integrity.
Little did I know that my life would be turned upside down and I would begin a marathon of doctor investigations, multiple surgeries and biopsies that would leave me, my family and many medical professionals puzzled as to why I was so ill? With all of these investigations and surgeries/biopsies, it put a strain on our fragile health care system.
I had been in the workforce since the age of 17 and prided myself on my career accomplishments in the office environment. In 2001, at the age 54, I became totally disabled.
During the early years, as I was experiencing one health crisis after another, I became very frightened because I had yet to make the correlation that the breast implants were the cause or contributing factor in my illnesses. I remember my family doctor asking me during one of my office visits: “Did you ever think that perhaps the implants were the cause of your problems?” It certainly gave me something to think about but I reflected back to the words of the plastic surgeon that specialized in this area and decided that this could not be possible.
As early as 1981, a year after being implanted, I was back at the plastic surgeons because my implants had hardened and were painful. This was my first experience with closed capsulotomies (one of many for both breasts). Five years later, in 1986, I had my first surgery where one of my implants was removed, the scar tissue cleaned up, and the same implant re-inserted. Again, in 1988, the other breast was operated on, and again the same implant was re-inserted. The plastic surgeon told me that this sometimes happened and was nothing to be concerned about. During this timeline, I experienced extreme fatigue, had constant bronchial infections, muscular-skeletal pain, and peripheral neuropathy. I suffered from constant migraine headaches and frightening memory loss. Once a vibrant, energetic woman, I could barely get out of bed in the morning to start my day. I knew that something was terribly wrong, but I was still unsure of why this was happening. There were days where I wondered if I would awake to see a new day.
As I was the sole provider for my family, I had to push myself to remain in the workforce so that my family’s needs would be met. In 1992, I visited the plastic surgeon again as I had concerns about what the media was reporting about breast implants. He assured me that I had nothing to worry about because the media had nothing concrete to substantiate their claims about illnesses and breast implants and were alarming the women needlessly. He did some blood work for his study and sent me on my way. I continued to be his guinea pig. If I had known then what I learned later in 1994, I would not have hesitated to have my implants removed at that time.
In 1994, after complaints of extreme and unusual pain in my left breast, my family doctor ordered a mammogram. I remember that day vividly when I received a telephone call from her and she told me that it appeared that my left implant was ruptured. I was so frightened at the thought of silicone leaking into my body. I made an appointment with the original implanting plastic surgeon but could not see him for a couple of weeks. I had received the news about my implant just three days before my daughter’s wedding reception and wondered how I was going to get through such a beautiful time with a smile on my face. I was crumbling on the inside; however; I knew I had to stay strong for my daughter.
I joined a support group for breast implanted women and attended my first meeting. As I sat in the background and listened to the other women discuss their personal situations, it seemed as if these women were talking about me! From the host of symptoms to their illnesses, I was experiencing the same! The memory loss… the brain fog… I was not mentally handicapped after all ~~ I had gone for a psychological evaluation in 1988 of cognitive functioning reaching out for some answers.
We all had something in common: breast implants!! I did some in-depth research and quickly educated myself about the problems that I and many other women were experiencing. I knew then when I had my appointment with the plastic surgeon, I would tell him that these implants have to be removed. After my appointment with him, he cautioned me that I would have no breasts and he recommended that I have saline inserted. I absolutely refused to have anything else put into my body.
In 1986, I met my husband-to-be and we married in 1992. My husband did not know about my implants. It was my secret, and I was too embarrassed and ashamed to admit that I had done something so vain to my body. I did not know where to start in telling my husband, but I knew I had to. It put a tremendous strain on our marriage and after thousands of dollars in marriage counseling, we were able to accept my situation and go forward.
I was explanted in 1994 but my health continued on the negative merry-go-round. I was off work for 2 ½ months after explant; it definitely was not the easy procedure that my plastic surgeon claimed it would be. A few months later, I ended up in the hospital with angina and had to have an angiogram (one of 2) to rule out a heart attack. One investigation led to another, and one surgery led to another. I was tested for multiple sclerosis, lupus, sarcoidosis and stroke. I continued to work, although I do not know how I did it. I dreaded interaction with my co-workers because I was extremely forgetful. If I did not write instructions down, I was in trouble. I was supposed to be getting better but this was not the case. I did not know what was happening -- I was now seeing a rheumatologist, a neurologist, a cardiologist, a gynecologist, an ENT specialist, a dermatologist, a gastroenterologist, and a psychiatrist. When and where would it all end!
I wrote for hospital records and I questioned my doctors and my plastic surgeon. By 1994 it was well documented that there were risks associated with silicone breast implants. The plastic surgeon emphatically denied that there was any link between implants, diseases and illnesses, but chose to keep my positive ANA, abnormal ECG and other medical information to himself until I started asking for my records! He never told me that I was risking the integrity of my central nervous system or the functioning of my brain. He chose not to discuss the seriousness of autoimmune diseases, or the fact that they are incurable. He denied that there was a rupture, claiming that my implants were intact! So why was I in surgery for close to three hours for a supposedly minor procedure? His response when I confronted him was “Sue Dow Corning…….” It’s not about the money, because no amount of $$$ will bring back my good health. I could not understand why after surgery, I had become progressively worse.
The pathology reports for many of the surgeries and biopsies that I had do not indicate that silicone is the culprit. It is so difficult to find anyone in the medical profession to admit the horrific complications from breast implants. My facial rash, mild portal inflammation of the liver (variant of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis), chest pain/palpitations, Hashimoto’s thyroid disease, incipient lupus, vasculitis, hiatus hernia, gastric reflux, GERD, osteoarthritis, severe sleep fragmentation, ovarian cysts, breast calcifications, breast cysts, granuloma annulare, nerve biopsy, muscle biopsy, fibromyalgia, etc. confirm a complicated medical history with multiple co-morbid conditions. These are not your average illnesses for one woman to experience. These bags of poison gave me a lifelong full body pain because of the slow and steady toxicity. Silicone illness is a new disease, and we, the explanted women, need to be studied. Once in the bodily system, it cannot be removed – it goes into all the major organs, even passing the “blood brain” barrier – presenting a myriad of unusual and vague health problems, some of which were so debilitating that I lost my ability to function in society. I have been sentenced to live a shell of a life in pain and distress while my immune system cycles to argue with this toxin.
In February of 2001, I was unable to continue working. After 18 years in the same position, my doctors diagnosed me as totally disabled. I worked hard my entire life to maintain a good quality of life for my children and had looked forward to life with my new partner. At present, receiving a meager disability benefit has put me in a lower income bracket and leaves very little for any extras.
A breast core biopsy of the left breast in 2002 found 11 calcifications. Today, I am faced with new cysts in both breasts. Calcification is also known to be the end stage of tissue destruction around prosthesis.
Of great significance was my diagnosis in 2003 of vasculitis and nerve palsy. Losing the function of my left thumb (I am left handed) presented me with many challenges. Everything from my writing ability, to lifting, to holding, to dress myself changed drastically. Many times I would try to pick up a plate only to have it fall because the strength and grip are just not there. The aggressive treatment plan of 100 mg of Cytoxan and 50 mg of Prednisone was horrific and the side effects were unbearable at times. I experienced nausea to hair loss, to disturbed sleep, and the uncontrolled swelling and weight gain which all wreaked havoc with me not only physically but also emotionally.
I was a perfectionist in my home environment, from cleaning, organization to preparation of meals etc. All of this has now taken a back seat. I can do very little to help and feel saddened that my husband, who is still working at a full time job, has to undertake these tasks to make our home acceptable.
I have withdrawn from activities and roles I once found rewarding and fulfilling. To be able to go to a movie and sit through it is most difficult. At one time, when visiting family members, I would help in meal preparation. Now, it is an effort to put myself together and make the effort to visit. I put on a brave face as I don’t want my children to realize the extent and severity of my disability as they worry about me. They know that I am unwell and have expressed concern about all the surgeries and testing that I continue to go through. They have their own families and I do not want to be a burden to them.
My life today is constant pain. I have been robbed of enjoying my two beautiful grandsons and granddaughter. I am not able to run with them, or to get down on the floor and play their games with them. My heart aches that I am unable to pick them up to hug and kiss them when I first see them. They do not understand when I say “Nana can’t do it”. My husband has a shell of a wife who can barely function from day to day. Many say that physically I look great but they have no idea of the internal hell I go through daily.
The Canadian women were not compensated fairly in the meager amounts of money that Dow paid us. To me I found it a slap in the face and an insult because I have suffered terribly from being implanted. No amount of money will bring back the life I lost. One cannot put a dollar value on that!
This is not how I envisioned my life at 59. The doctor marathon continues, it is endless, it is despair. I do not see longevity in my life, even though it is prominent in my family. I have been robbed not only of my health but also of precious life, and I find it difficult to write the words that describe my misfortune. Life as I knew it is over!
I would also like to write about the betrayal of the plastic surgeon who implanted me and explanted me. It follows:
Betrayal by the Medical Profession ~~ The plastic Surgeon ~~ I never questionned the integrity of a Doctor!
I felt betrayed by the plastic surgeon that implanted me. There were many inconsistencies in his statements to me throughout the years. He withheld medical information; would not provide me with medical records when I requested them. He stated that none of his patients ever asked for that type of information. I reached the point where I questioned whether or not the implants that he returned to me were indeed my original prosthesis of 1980. I went as far as having a DNA company try to extract my DNA from the implants but there was no detectable human genomic DNA recovered from the surface of the implants, their contents or outer shells. The implants are semi permeable. Due to osmosis, my body fluid can bleed into the implant and the silicone can bleed out. I strongly felt that he was covering up what had actually happened to me during the course of my surgeries and his studies that were funded by Dow Corning and which I had innocently agreed to participate in. I went as far as voicing my complaint with the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons. I felt I was just another naïve woman who was foolish enough to believe in him. However, in the end, I left no stone unturned to try and get answers as to what happened to me because I had silicone gel implants!
Due to my mistrust of this plastic surgeon, I lost a lot of respect for the medical profession. This continued with the specialists that I started seeing and I requested all operative reports, biopsy reports, laboratory, CT scans etc. to be forwarded to my family physician and kept a copy for my records. These were my medical records and I had a right to see them. I have complete confidence in the two primary care physicians that I have looking after my needs.
As far as Dow Corning is concerned they were a corporate giant and felt they could cover up the injustice the implanted women suffered.
There are 562 telling documents from Dow that were presented in court by attorney Dianna Pendleton. Lois Duel, a Dow employee, would be the best source of information as she was the one who did the shredding of information. It is important to note the following:
Concealing from FDA
Lois Duel, Dow Corning memo to Bailey Lipscomb and other regarding the “January, 1991 Monthly Report.” Under the heading of “Technical Communications.”
Duel notes that she “spent many days reviewing, filing and/or trashing retained document in my files. Major progress was made, but there is more to do.”
Had Lois Duel not destroyed these files when she found that there was to be an investigation, I believe the answers to these health issues would be known today.
I spent two years exploring cognitive behavioural therapy. This presented me with the mechanism to understand that my medical condition is not something that was self inflicted and helped me to accept the circumstances and learn to take “one day at a time”. The therapist used my surgery as an example that “each new surgery was an assault on my body” and I agree with this analysis. As the multiple surgeries, biopsies etc. continued, it comprised my daily functioning to the point where I couldn’t fight back anymore. I was quite nervous that perhaps my employer would terminate my employment due to the “lengthy absences”. I finally reached the point where I had to put my pride aside and give in. I had reached the plateau where I could no longer continue working.
"Silicone breast implants are ticking time bombs......however we do not know when they will go off and what damages we are faced with".
Please view excellent video by implant survivors:
(please let us know if any links go down)
Implanted Women's Stories
Please view excellent video by implant survivors:
(please let us know if any links go down)
Implanted Women's Stories
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