My Personal Battle With Breast Implants
At the young age of 19, I decided to get breast implants. It was a professional decision, albeit I did like my little breasts. They were tiny, but they were beautiful, symmetrical. I didn’t really realize just how perfect they were. I was a model, and wanted the catalogue work and the money that goes with it. And let’s face it, almost every small chested woman, no matter how much she likes her little boobs secretly wishes they were a little bit bigger.
I found the recovery from surgery absolutely horrifyingly painful and I didn’t feel “normal” for about 3 years. Even after that, they still didn’t feel “right.” I didn’t know it, but I had a mild grade capsular contracture, (Cap con is when an abnormal amount of scar tissue forms around the implant and it effects almost 50% of breast implant patients.) The contracture didn’t interfere too much with the aesthetic of my breasts and I was able to build an incredible career as a lingerie model. Life was good, so I buried the fact that I absolutely hated having breast implants. I hated the way they felt, I hated the way they looked, (top heavy) but most of all, as an athlete, I hated the loss of upper body strength, due to the muscle dissection.
In 2015, 14 years later, I decided, finally, that I wanted to take them out. I always hated them, so why not? I was scared, but I felt ready. Unfortunately, I met with the wrong surgeon for the job. He gave me every reason under the sun not to remove them (as I have learned from other women who have gone through explant, that most surgeons will do.) He scared me out of removal and gave me a horrible description of what I might look like without implants. He also told me that the only reason I was unhappy with my implants was because of X Y and Z and that if HE replaces them with better implants HIS way, I would be VERY happy. I asked him about fat transfer and again, he gave me every reason why that wasn’t a good idea either. I believed him and I left crying.
About a year later, I decided that if I was going to be stuck with these stupid uncomfortable things in my body then I might as well upgrade them to the nicest pair possible and I had a celebrity plastic surgeon, I’ll call him Dr F, perform an implant exchange.
I went down HARD after that surgery. I simply couldn’t recover. I felt severely fatigued all the time. Foggy and forgetful, moody and irritable. I couldn’t workout without feeling like I was coming down with the flu an hour later and it would last for TWO DAYS. I chalked it up to just being a weak human. I tried harder to be stronger. I took more vitamins. I worked out MORE. I ate even better than my already almost impeccable diet. I tried to get more sleep at night. Nothing worked. My allergies went through the roof, my sinuses went crazy and this continued for over two years.
Almost a year after my surgery, I hated my new fancy $20,000.00 implants just as much as my original $5000.00 set. They were twice as uncomfortable. They felt heavy. They were COLD to the touch. Dr F dissected my pec muscles on a whole new level of dissection and I lost full range of motion in my left shoulder. I found it impossible to do a single push-up even after a year of trying. And I still hated the way they looked. In fact, my original set was much nicer. I decided I would remove them regardless of the fear Dr. F instilled in me. I decided I would go through reconstruction with fat grafting if I had to. I started deeply researching explant, and came across thousands of women with breast implants who had all of the same health problems as me.
I wasn’t 100% convinced that the implants were my problem, but what I finally did realize, is that I HAD A PROBLEM. And my breast implants couldn’t possibly be helping the situation. On march 9th, 2016 I had a 3 hour explant surgery performed by Dr Lu Jean Feng in Cleveland, Ohio. The surgery included complete removal of all scar tissue, and meticulous muscle repair. Feng explained to me that the reason my allergies went out of control after my implant exchange was likely because, even sailine implants have a silicon shell, which slowly starts to break down over time. Most of the toxins from this breakdown remain trapped between the implant and the capsule (thin layer of scar tissue surrounding the implant). However, once the implants are removed in a standard way, all of the many years worth of trapped toxins flush straight into the body. (Dr. Feng is one of only a few surgeons who performs her explants “enblock,” which is a method that removes the implant with the capsule all in one piece to keep the toxins contained.)
After my implant removal my health did not improve. I saw so many Doctors, (some of whom actually told me that my health issues were all in my head). I had many blood tests and spent hours on the internet researching my symptoms. FINALLY, almost a year later, I found Dr. Dominique Fraden-Read. She diagnosed me with Hashimotos Desease, and Gilberts desease. Hashimotos is an auto-immune disorder, and Gilberts desease is a chromosome issue that actually makes it hard to detox, which explains A LOT about why I suffered so much after my implant exchange. I’ve been being treated with weekly immune boosting IV’s and glutathione, which is a liver detoxifier, and I’ve gone on a strict Hashimotos diet. I still can’t exercise without severe fatigue, but I can make it through the day now and I’m feeling positive that in the not too distant future I will have my life back 100%.
As for my breasts… it took almost a full year after my explant for my breasts to start to feel “normal” again. They started out quite fibrous and contracted from all of the scar tissue. Some of my tissue healed right down to my rib cage and intercostal muscles making it hard to take a deep breath without feeling tugging and cramping sensations. My breasts were painful to touch (not unlike the implants, but a little bit worse.) To help fix these issues, I decided to have a small fat transfer procedure in July… which actually made things a little bit worse. It was a painful surgery because my surgeon aggressively tried to “re-drape” the breast tissue, which actually caused more scar tissue, and ended up being a waste of time, money and pointless pain/ recovery.
Shortly after that I discovered something called “Myofacial release.” It’s similar to massage, but slightly different. A Myofacial expert by the name of Erica Reid used her hands on my breast tissue twice a week, sometimes for 2 hour sessions. I took what I learned from her, and constantly applied the technique whenever possible on myself throughout the day. Driving in the car, sitting at the dinner table, watching TV, I quite literally had my hands on my breasts all day long for the next 8 months.
Slowly the scar tissue started to soften and my breasts began to feel like breasts. Unfortunately however, my left breast still had some stubborn scar tissue that wouldn’t let go of my pec muscle and my right breast was so damaged from all the surgery that it really didn’t have any contour at all. As much as I would have loved to have been able to go back to the body that God gave me and rock tiny cute boobs with pride, it just wasn’t in the cards.
So, on Jan. 24th, I decided to have another fat transfer… but this time, I went to one of the top fat transfer surgeons in the world, Dr Sydney Coleman, of TriBeCa plastic surgery. So far, I am so thrilled to say that it’s a raging success. I went in hoping for less than half of the beauty, symmetry, and fullness that I received. My breasts literally are almost perfect. They are full on the bottom, just like a real breast should be… they are soft and they bounce when I walk. I love them, and I can’t believe that after all of this, that they are actually mine. It’s been such a long road for me… and I finally feel like I have crossed the English Channel.
I believe that the reason most Doctors try to talk patients out of fat grafting is because it’s not time efficient for them. Dr F literally spent about an hour on me… slice, insert, sew-up and send home. He can probably squeeze in about 4-5 procedures in one day. Dr Coleman, however, spent a total of about 11 hours on me, many of which were spent in pre- op… taking pictures and carefully planning the operation… creating sketches of my body and colour coding them. The day of the surgery, he spent over 2 more hours taking more pictures and drawing on my body with a sharpie exactly where he was going to take the fat from and how/ where he was going to inject it. And then he went to work… sculpting my breasts like a true artist for over 5 straight hours, while I slept in twilight.
It’s been almost 2 years now since this whole battle started… 2 years of some of the most horrific physical and emotional stress I have ever had to endure. I look back at my perfect, untouched, pre-implant body and I ask myself WHAT was I thinking allowing someone to cut me open and shove two foreign objects in there?! Literally butchering my breasts, such a sensitive and scared part of the female body. And! dissect two of the most major muscles in my body as if it would be “no big deal” not to be able to use my pecs again.
I have shared this journey with all of you for one reason and one reason only, I’m not looking for attention, or sympathy. In fact, if anything, I find sharing this rather embarrassing. But I will accept a little embarrassment for the purpose of hopefully educating women from my mistakes, and trying to help them truly understand the risks involved in choosing breast implants. It is a multi-billion dollar industry, so of course, the implant companies and surgeons alike will always downplay the risks. But they are REAL. Just read the fine print in the contract they will try to make you sign, ridding them of any responsibility.
I have met a whole network of women throughout this process who have gone through/ are going through a much bigger battle than I have endured. They have suffered from ruptured silicon, or PIP implants and had to have silicon scraped from their rib cages. But despite their best efforts to remove it, it has travelled inside their bodies and filled their lymph nodes, crept into their brains, and some have even died because it got into their lungs.
So I urge you to try to learn to love the body you were born with. You don’t realize what you have until it’s gone. Touch your breasts, and tell them you love them… EVERY DAY! Tell every part of your body that you love it for that matter. And never, ever take its natural beauty for granted.
The picture above was taken after my implant exchange in 2015. This happens to be a shot that makes them look good. They certainly had their bad angles… which most breast implants do. I chose this one to prove that things are not always as they appear. Never compare yourself to anyone else, you have no idea what’s really going on. The grass isn’t greener on the other side, it’s greener where you water it. Thank you for reading my story and please share ❤️🙏
Written by: Heather Lacombe, Model
Image by LANE DORSEY