Lazy? Crazy? I wouldn’t necessarily describe myself with those words. I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if others perceive me in that way at times. The life that I am currently living is not the one that I imagined for myself 20 years ago. In fact, it’s very different from what I ever conceived.
At the age of 22, I made a decision that quite possibly changed my life in a drastic manner. I made the decision to get breast implants. It was my decision, only mine. No one convinced me that I would look better that way. No one said that I looked bad or trampled on my self esteem. I was thin, active, and outgoing. In my mind, though, I wanted more. Men can say all they want about a woman’s body but I think that breasts play a big part in the attraction factor. They exude femininity. I was out of luck. My bra size was an AA or A at best. It bothered me greatly. When the opportunity to change that came along, I was ecstatic. It gave me a hope for a “normal” figure. My fiancé was very supportive. He wouldn’t have made the recommendation or pushed me to do it. It really didn’t have anything to do with him – or anyone else. My mother didn’t seem to understand. My father seemed indifferent. My papaw, he cried. He just couldn’t believe that I would feel so bad about myself that I would want to alter my body. It didn’t change my mind because it wasn’t really up to them.
I went to my consultation. I listened to the risks. I wanted the surgery. No one was going to talk me out of it. My doctor had been performing surgeries in Dallas for many years. He recommended saline implants to be placed above the muscle. They were supposed to look more natural that way. His office offered me a discount because I worked as a paramedic. It all sounded great. The plans were made and I was ready.
The surgery, in 1999, went great. I don’t remember much about it but my fiancé, Mike, took me home that afternoon. He and my mother took care of me post op. There weren’t any complications. My breasts healed fine and I was happy with the result. It definitely was a big confidence boost for me. I could finally purchase more flattering clothes. It wasn’t about looking like a swimsuit model. I wanted to look more proportionate. Most of the people that surround my life now do not even know that I have implants. That’s okay. That’s the look that I was going for. For a little while, it was all going good.
Our first child was born in August of 2000. I had some difficulty breastfeeding but didn’t think much about it. After the birth, I begin to notice that my breast shape looked odd. If I bent over, the skin directly over my sternum would pull away from my chest and the implants would fall to the center. After doing a little research, I realized that I had developed symmastia. Symmastia is defined as “a confluence of the breast tissue of both breasts across the midline anterior to the sternum”. It is also referred to as “uniboob” or “breadloafing”. My original doctor agreed to consult with me about the problem. He said that my breasts appeared similar to his wife’s breasts and didn’t see anything wrong with them. I was not in my 40’s or 50’s so his words were not very comforting. I sought a second opinion from another Dallas plastic surgeon. He felt confident that he could repair them by removing the old implants, placing new implants under the muscle, and sewing the skin back to the sternum. The recovery would be a little more difficult because it would take much more caution to prevent the skin from tearing away from the sternum again. At a quoted price of $7,500, my repair would have to wait.
In early 2002, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. Soon after my diagnosis, I became pregnant with our second child. The pregnancy went good. He was born healthy. I did, once again, have difficulty breastfeeding. My middle child was often sick over the first several years of his life. He was in the hospital several times. He was at home on an apnea monitor for a while. If weird things could develop, it would happen to him.
Over the next several years, I began to develop symptoms of fatigue, weight gain, etc. I attributed a lot of my symptoms to stress. I was working in an ER as a paramedic and my job was stressful. Towards the end of 2007, I started having low grade fevers by the end of every day. The fatigue slowly worsened. My primary care physician ran labs to evaluate my symptoms (CRP, sed rate, ANA). They were all normal. My chest xray was normal. He treated me for my chronic sinus infection. My CBC was within a normal range but my WBC’s were always low. I asked my primary doctor about potentially having Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and wanted to see if I should be consulting an endocrinologist. He said no. My job suffered as a result of my health. I was late a lot, my anxiety seemed to worsen, and brain fog began. My home life suffered because I couldn’t keep things organized. It was a big mess. I was eventually diagnosed with ADD and placed on Adderall to try and combat some of the symptoms. I’ve been placed on antidepressants on several different occasions for depression also.
After leaving the ER, I began working at a pediatric clinic. I was hoping that the decreased stress would help me a little. I found out that I was pregnant with our third child in 2008. I was still having problems. A local chiropractor began treating me for a hip misalignment. He noted that I had pain over my thoracic duct and worked on trying to alleviate some of my sinus problems. He recommended that I push for some labwork to investigate a viral cause. I consulted my ob/gyn through the pregnancy about the continued low grade fever, swollen lymph nodes, and fatigue. He also recommended that I follow up with a viral workup. My ENT continued to treat me with antibiotics throughout my pregnancy to try and combat sinus infections. My WBC continued to be low through the pregnancy.
I was finally able to have surgery in 2009 after my son’s birth to repair a deviated septum and remove a mucocele from my sinus cavity. My ob/gyn followed up with me regarding the fatigue and adjusted my thyroid medication again. My symptoms didn’t really improve much.
In early 2010, I began having sinus problems again. I tried to combat it with sinus washes and Motrin but it didn’t help. I began to have very painful nodules in my neck and axillary region. I was diagnosed with another sinus infection and back on antibiotics I went. Over that specific weekend, I started having extreme tenderness in the area between my axilla and breast. It was difficult to even hold my child. The nodules were obvious and they were painful. My doctor said that it was possible that I might be suffering from fibrocystic breast disease. He also checked on my thyroid levels again. A new medication adjustment was necessary but he would not agree to check my CBC and did not recommend that I see an endocrinologist yet. It was time to find a new doctor.
By the end of that same week, the lymph nodes on the back of my head were large and painful. I started with a new physician. He ran more labs and sent me for a thyroid ultrasound. He started me on another round of antibiotics for my sinus infection. He called the next day to let me know that both of my thyroid antibodies were very high – I had Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. It is an autoimmune disease that causes hypothyroidism. He also informed me that I had tested positive for Chronic CMV (Cytomegalovirus) and Chronic EBV (Epstein-Barr). They weren’t in an acute state, though. CMV is a common virus and infects a lot of people. There isn’t usually any cause for concern. Once infected, your body retains the virus for life. It usually remains dormant if you are healthy. EBV is also a common virus and most commonly presents as infectious mononucleosis. Chronic EBV is diagnosed much less frequently. It is known to cause fever, liver dysfunction, enlarged spleen, swollen lymph nodes, anemia, etc. The combination of chronic viruses had resulted in symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I didn’t really want to discuss that diagnosis with my physician, though. That wasn’t a diagnosis that I was prepared to accept. My primary care doctor recommended that I follow up with endocrinology and infectious disease. My thyroid ultrasound showed a small nodule but it wasn’t very concerning.
I saw my primary care doctor again within those 2 weeks for continued problems. He decided to extend my antibiotics for 28 days. I remained on the antibiotics but had developed tender nodules in my neck, outer breast area, groin, inner thigh, and back of knees. Soon after, I developed more nodules over my sternum and clavicles. I can’t really even begin to explain what was going on at that time. My whole body didn’t hurt. It was like hundreds of palpable nodules and I could point out the ones that were painful. I was still running a low grade fever. I tried to explain to my doctor that it made my eyes burn. It didn’t make much sense to him. He recommended that I see a general surgeon about the nodules. They seem to be progressively becoming more palpable and tender. It almost seemed like they initially started by moving from one localized region to another but I could still feel them. Some were hard and round; some odd shaped and cyst like; some felt like BB’s.
My ENT followed up with me about my sinuses. He used a scope to visualize my sinuses but didn’t believe that this was related. He also asked if I had been referred to an infectious disease doctor. A few weeks later, a CT showed another 2cm mass in my maxillary sinus. I believe that the mucocele had redeveloped. Unfortunately, I was not able to follow up after that.
Financially it became difficult for me to work and place my 3 children in childcare so I decided it was time to stay home. This was an extremely difficult decision because I knew that it would make a big impact in my healthcare coverage. We tried to pay for COBRA insurance as long as we could but it just became too much. There wasn’t any way for me to continue following up with these doctors over and over again. The general surgeon said that he could biopsy a couple of the nodules but didn’t really recommend it. I didn’t get the opportunity to follow up with infectious disease. My sinus surgery didn’t really make a big improvement so I didn’t want to pursue another possible surgery. So here we were. No insurance. No answers. Complete frustration. I began to wonder if these symptoms were all just in my mind.
The past few years have not been any better. The nodules improved. I still continue to have episodes of low grade fever. My sinus problems are still chronic. I began taking colloidal silver orally and as a nasal spray. It has seemed to help with that. My antibiotic usage has drastically reduced. I believe that there is still a chronic issue. I wish that I knew what was causing it but I don’t. There was a point that my symptoms seemed to be related to a candida overgrowth and I questioned that the sinus problem might be related to a fungal infection and not a bacterial one. My hypothyroidism has made me miserable. It’s like a roller coaster that never ends. My nodule was not visible on the last ultrasound (good news). My endocrinologist decided recently to change my thyroid medication and see if it will help my fatigue. The fatigue is ridiculous. I shouldn’t be this tired. I am way too young to feel the way that I do. On top of the fatigue, I’ve developed recurrent headaches. I usually pawn them off on sinus headaches or hormones. Either way, I am getting very tired of them. The migraines will put me in bed at times. I do everything in my power to continue my normal daily life but sometimes these get the best of me.
So back to the implants. Over time, the implants definitely decreased in size. The rippled edges became more visible but it didn’t bother me too much. The symmastia improved quite a bit as the size of the implants decreased. In March of 2012, I woke up to find that my left implant had ruptured. Standing in the bathroom, looking in the mirror, and I thought that I was going to vomit. We were trying to get ready to go somewhere and I had no idea what to do. My left breast was just sitting there sagging. It wasn’t fully deflated but it was a big difference. I tried to get in the car and go on as planned but I had to tell my husband to turn around and bring me home. I didn’t even know how to tell him. I was completely distraught and embarrassed. What was I going to do? We were not in any financial shape to have them replaced and I knew it. I called my original surgeon to try and get more info about the implant because I had no idea where my cards were. He proceeded to tell me the name of two prominent manufacturers that he used during that time period but he could not confirm the type of implant because they didn’t “keep patient records that old”. My implants were 13 years old. I was so upset and I couldn’t do anything about it.
It’s now been 3 years and the implant is still here and ruptured. Yes – 3 years. For 3 years, I have been making my breasts look even by inserting a silicone insert into my bra. We went on one vacation the summer immediately following the rupture but none since. Slowly, the implant has leaked more and more. No swimsuits. No revealing clothes. It’s becoming more and more difficult to hide. The silicone insert that I have been using is no longer big enough to make them even. What little self esteem that I had (after gaining so much weight) is now gone. My opinion is, of course, what matters most. My husband will say that it doesn’t bother him. I’m sure that he is okay with it but it has to be a little awkward for him. If I dealt with it in a better fashion, it probably wouldn’t be so bad. I find it very difficult to act appealing when I don’t feel that way. You could tell me all day long that I’m attractive or desirable. If I don’t feel that way, though, it really doesn’t matter. We are 15 years into our marriage. Intimacy already suffers. It is really suffering now. How do you get someone to understand that the issue is not personal? I would take it personally. My lack of intimacy has nothing to do with the attraction factor. It has to do with low self esteem and lack of desire. It’s horrible to know that I am causing that much distress to my husband and marriage but I really don’t have an answer to fix it.
Since having the implants, many medical issues have developed. Some may not have anything at all to do with the implants. Some might. My list includes:
Hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis), Chronic CMV, Chronic EBV, Depression, ADD, fatigue, brain fog, difficulty concentrating, memory problems, weight gain, anxiety, irritability, headaches, painful nodules, joint pain, toenail fungus, constipation, dry skin, hair loss, sensitivity to sounds (repetitive noises / tapping really bothers me), decreased libido, chronic sinus problems, dental problems, arm and hand numbness…
Prior to staying home with my third child, I had been a paramedic for 15 years. I am not ignorant to the medical profession or medical terms. I am fully aware that my symptoms can be related to other issues and intertwined. If you were to look up my symptoms on blogs or certain websites, it would pull up an enormous amount of info that would scare the crap out of you. I don’t read blogs. When I decide to do research, I focus on medical journals and clinical trials. I look at actual radiological reports. When I first began looking up my symptoms and the symptoms of candida overgrowth, I came across a physician by the name Dr. Susan Kolb. Dr. Kolb is a plastic surgeon in Atlanta. She is the founder of Plastikos Sugery Center and Millenium Healthcare in Atlanta, Georgia. She learned about the problems from breast implants on a first hand basis. She was, in essence, her own first patient. She has developed protocols that help women with biotoxicity problems from breast implants. She is also the author of the book “The Naked Truth About Breast Implants”. I have learned a lot about breast implants from her videos and articles. Breast implants are recommended to be changed every 10 years. They have a shelf life. I’m sure that I was told that before signing my consent, but you really don’t consider making a financial goal of replacing your implants. I should have, though. We have all heard about the dangers from leaking silicone implants. Saline implants, though, are made with a silicone based shell. Most people probably don’t take that info into consideration. They can be textured or smooth. All shells will begin breaking down once in the body but textured implants seem to break down more. The textured implants can flake off and get into the implant capsule. They can also get into the lymphatic system and lymph nodes. A foreign body reaction in the lymph nodes can (rarely) cause lymphoma cells. Smooth implants do not flake and are more commonly used. Saline implants do often leak. Over time, a slow leak can be contaminated with mold due to the environment. More information is being researched about the creation of biotoxins by implants. Biotoxins can greatly affect the immune system. Her video on YouTube explains this more and elaborates on sick building syndrome and the relationship between implant symptoms / autoimmune issues. She explains the reason that a lot of us have multiple symptoms but physicians are unable to place a diagnosis.
I have been contemplating a consultation with Dr. Kolb but I am not sure that it will be within financial reason. Her office can arrange a consultation and surgery within the same week. It is difficult, however, with three children at home, to travel to Atlanta and pursue this.
A few months ago, I was going through some old paperwork and came across one of my breast implant cards. When I saw the manufacturer name, it didn’t look familiar to me. In fact, I don’t believe that it is one of the two that my doctor talked to me about over the phone. The card said that I had Textured Saline implants by PIP (Poly Implant Prostheses). When I began to investigate my implants, a sick feeling came over me. PIP is a manufacturer in France that is now defunct. The company was closed in 2010 amid controversy over their implants. The founder was arrested and accused of manslaughter and involuntary injuries caused by ruptured PIP implants. Apparently, his silicone implants were made from industrial-grade silicone (as used in mattresses) instead of medical grade silicone. PIP silicone gel implants were used worldwide but were never approved for use in the United States. PIP saline implants, however, were used here. I believe that it is estimated that 35,000 women in the US were implanted with PIP saline implants. They began using them in the US in 1996. In 2000, the FDA rejected the PIP implants due to high deflation rates. They continued to sell them here, however, until 2002 or 2003. I have not been able to find a definitive answer on the material used in their silicone shells. My implants may not have their defective silicone filling but I am not confident that the silicone shell in my body is made of safe materials. I will have to investigate that more. My other concern is now with the fact that I do, in fact, have textured implants. This goes back to the concern that textured implants have a higher capacity for flaking and causing complications. Several countries have recommended that women with PIP implants have them removed as a precaution. This new information really scared me.
I decided that I would see if there were any other doctors near me that have the same beliefs. Most plastic surgeons will not address this as a real problem. My brother is an anesthesiologist. He has connections with a plastic surgeon near him who could do my explantation. The discussion has also come up about removing these and replacing them with new ones. It is a dilemma that really bothers me. My husband has joked about replacing them with bigger ones. He’s even made a comment to me about how he knows that I won’t be happy with myself if I don’t replace them. In some ways, he is right. I know that removing the implants is going to leave me with nothing. I would be lying if I tried to say that it wouldn’t bother me. I have been trying to convince myself that it couldn’t be worse than how I have lived the past three years. It can’t be worse than inserting a silicone boob in my bra every day and not being able to put on a swimsuit to get in the pool with my kids. It can’t be worse than hiding myself from my husband for the past three years. Complete nudity has not been an option. I don’t even want to look at myself in the mirror – much less let someone else. Of course I begin to question what attraction my husband will have towards me if I have them removed. It goes back to my feelings about breasts and femininity. If I take them away, am I going to immediately feel like less of a woman? If I go to a general plastic surgeon to have them removed, will they understand my concerns? Will they act as my advocate? I have contemplated going to the surgeon that my brother knows and letting him remove these, then potentially replace them based on what he sees during the surgery. Would a plastic surgeon really decide to decline new implants? Is it possible that all of my symptoms are completely related to other issues and have nothing to do with the implants? If I knew for sure that this was the cause, I would definitely want them out for good.
Upon doing more research, I found a Dallas surgeon by the name of Dr. Edward Melmed. Dr. Melmed is one of the few plastic surgeons that have publicly questioned implant safety. He is one of the characters in a documentary film by Carol Ciancutti-Leyva that is called “Absolutely Safe’. I have not personally purchased this film but I would like to watch it and see what other information is given. Dr. Melmed practices at Medical City Hospital at Dallas. I contacted his office in reference to a consultation. The lady that I talked to on the phone devoted a lot of time to me and was extremely friendly. She emailed me the explantation info and also the contact information for a few women who are around my age and have undergone explantation. I contacted one of the women. She responded to my email and let me know that she feels much better after having her implants removed. She said that she continues to improve daily. My consultation is scheduled for May 14, 2015. I am extremely nervous and anxious. I have gone back and forth about cancelling my appointment. I know that I do not currently have the funds to get the surgery done. I’m afraid that I am going to feel overwhelmed by the desire to pursue the surgery and not be able to follow through at this time. On the other hand, I am extremely interested in hearing what he has to say. I have a couple of people in my circle of acquaintances that have breast implants and similar symptoms. I would really like to be able to pass on information that might be helpful to them. I don’t really know that I will be able to make this decision until I have consulted with him and perhaps the physician that my brother knows.
My daily life right now is chaotic. I don’t really know how to explain the way that I feel. My life is in constant disarray. I can’t think straight. I can’t keep things organized. My house is a mess and it causes me anxiety because I know what I need to do to but I don’t have the energy or drive to do it. My patience is always thin. Unfortunately, this takes a toll on my family life. I know that I shouldn’t be this impatient with my husband and kids. It makes me sick to know that I ride a roller coaster of emotions and I can’t control it. I get aggravated when I am asked, “Are you out of your meds?” I don’t want a medication to define me. I don’t want my emotions to be directly related to the medications that I am on. It has been difficult to maintain appointments with my psychiatrist and endocrinologist. The endocrinologist has to come first. When my husband needs heart medication and my son needs thyroid medication, those issues come first. When my children need to see a doctor, they come first. That’s just the way that it is. Unfortunately, that sometimes means that my health takes a back burner. My thyroid problem has been difficult to deal with. I think that my thyroid has now finally atrophied enough that it is not working at all. That’s actually a good thing because my thyroid medication dosage should be easier to adjust now. I am currently off of my antidepressant and my ADD medication. The antidepressants always make me feel like a zombie. I hate taking them. I know that they make my mood mellower but it makes me feel so indifferent about everything. I think that the ADD medication definitely helps me with my organization and accomplishing tasks. Being off of it has not been good. The household chaos makes me feel out of control. I am, by nature, a control freak. Lack of control makes me irritable and frustrated.
If you were to ask what symptom bothers me the most, it would be the brain fog. I find myself going into a room or a store and not remembering what I went in there for. I can look back on my day and not understand why I didn’t accomplish more. Lists help me on occasion. If I make a list of things that I need to accomplish, I can sometimes follow through on some of the items. It gives me a little sense of accomplishment. Lately, though, it takes everything in my power to just get up and perform basic duties. This is not fair to my family. It’s not fair to my friends. I don’t feel like being social. I don’t feel like doing things with my kids even though I want to. I don’t feel affectionate to my husband right now. I can’t help it. I don’t know how to change it. I suppose that someone reading this would say that it fits the definition of depression but I believe that there is much more to it. There are still the physical symptoms that accompany it. For the past week, my sinus problems have been really bothering me. My occipital lymph nodes (on the back of my head) are really swollen. One is almost the size of a ping pong ball. It has made it difficult to turn my head because the pain is so bad. Ibuprofen has been a friend to me for several years. I realize that it isn’t good for my stomach, but it is necessary. My low grade fever is back. I am running between 99.0 and 100.5 every day again. It almost seems to come in phases or cycles. I would probably say that it makes me feel like my body is battling itself at times. If my immune system is fighting one issue, then it can’t seem to keep up with it all and another symptom arises. My body just doesn’t seem to be able to maintain itself. I know that sounds weird. I broke down a few days ago and pulled out a bottle of Penicillin VK from my cabinet that was never used. I started taking the prescription to see if it would help my symptoms but, so far, hasn’t. My mother keeps telling me to go to the doctor. I don’t have a primary care physician anymore. Since we lost our insurance, we haven’t been following up with all of our physicians as much as needed. When I need lab work done, I just order it online through an out of state physician and go get it drawn. It’s really been a blessing to be able to do that because it saves me a lot of money. I can send my results to my endocrinologist as needed. So I don’t go to the doctor for all of this. I guess that I got so tired of no one being able to find anything that I gave up. I should have followed up with infectious disease and rheumatology but I knew that it would end up being too costly. So what do I do in a situation like this? My mom said that I should go see her primary care. And then what? How do I tell a physician that I have sinus problems that I haven’t followed up on, dental work that desperately needs to be done but I can’t afford it, and a ruptured breast implant that I can’t afford to have removed? It’s completely embarrassing. I feel like a complete failure. I have failed myself and my family.
This is not the life that I would choose for myself. I don’t like living like this. This is not me. I loved my job as a paramedic. I loved being able to help people. I still try to help the people in my life but I am finding it more and more difficult to accomplish. I love my marriage and my children. I wouldn’t trade any of this. I just wish that I could be that person again. I wish that I had the energy to do the things that I want to do. I wish that I felt good enough to play with my kids and joke around. I wish that I could get my house and life organized enough to function better. I wish that I wanted to be more affectionate towards my husband. People often say that they wish to win the lottery or live in a nicer home. That’s not me. I do want to get to a point where finances are not so constraining. It definitely makes things much more difficult. Being wealthy is not on my list of priorities. We live week to week (as do most people we know). We are a single income household. My husband works extremely hard to keep us above water. I want contentment. I want peace.
The dilemma continues. If someone came to me with money for my surgery or we were able to come up with enough, I would still be inclined to use it on other things. We all need dental work. We all need to do follow up appointments with our other specialists. I began to contemplate a fundraiser for my surgery. That way, if we came up with other money, I could focus those funds on my family. I guess that it would make me feel less guilty about needing money for myself. I have heard myself tell people, “You can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself.” I know that is so true. Unfortunately, it makes me feel greedy to put myself before my children. I also feel so disorganized right now that the thought of being down for a few days terrifies me. Relinquishing control is very hard (although I wouldn’t exactly consider myself “in control” right now). My children don’t have any idea what is going on. It’s not really their place to understand. My two oldest boys are old enough to help around the house but they don’t do much. If I ask several times to get help and they don’t, I often give up because I just don’t have the energy to fight with them over it. My husband works hard all day and I know that he doesn’t want to come home and have to pick up my slack. If I can’t use my arms for several days, how is my household going to get by? In a perfect situation, I would get my house cleaned and organized before the surgery. I would do my grocery shopping and plan out meals ahead of time. I would arrange for someone to help me with my youngest child for a few days. I don’t like asking for help. I should be able to take care of my own family. I’m not doing a very good job. I don’t even want anyone in my house right now because I am so overwhelmed. I don’t know where to begin. I have 50 projects going on at once and can’t seem to finish even one of them. This is the story of my life.
Why do I feel like I need to share my story? I know that there are people who will read this and think that I shouldn’t complain. I should have seen this coming. Exposing my body to foreign things could only cause problems, right? I think that is very easy to judge people when you have not stood in their shoes. I am not sharing my story to deter women from getting breast implants. Truthfully, I don’t think that it will. Someone could have placed this letter in front of me 16 years ago and it probably wouldn’t have made any difference. I know that sounds arrogant but I had already made up my mind. The risks didn’t really cause a huge concern to me. I guess that my goal with this is to convince women who already have breast implants to pay attention to their body. If things don’t feel right or unusual problems begin to develop with your health, pursue them. Research these complications that Dr. Kolb and Dr. Melmed discuss because, in my mind, they are real problems. This is not an easy thing for me to talk about. It opens up doors of insecurity and embarrassment that I really don’t want to open. Unfortunately, this is a problem that is very real to me right now. People who are close to me probably question whether there is any truth to this. Honestly, I don’t know. Until I get further along in this process, I don’t have any answers. I know that it is time to pursue the answers. I know that I have missed out on so many things and I don’t want to miss any more. I want to enjoy my life again. If removing these implants will potentially allow me to heal and feel better, then I have to move in that direction.
My appointment with Dr. Melmed was May 14th.
My husband convinced me to keep my appointment. I definitely considered backing out. I was a nervous wreck. The morning of the appointment met me with anxiety and nausea. I literally felt like I was going to vomit before meeting with Dr. Melmed. Thankfully, my husband was with me and the prayers of some great friends got me through it. On the way to the appointment, I talked to my husband about “my story”. I asked him to read it because I needed him to fully understand where I was physically, mentally, and emotionally. He read my paper when we arrived at the hospital.
Dr. Melmed’s office is not your typical plastic surgery office. The waiting room is small but interesting. Safari prints adorned the walls and the furniture. There were two vintage medical cabinets full of neat, older medical equipment. Linda was working at the desk. She greeted us and explained that Dr. Melmed was running late from surgery but that he would be in the office soon. He came in a few minutes later and greeted us personally from across the desk. The consultation began in his office. Upon entering his office, I first noticed two things on his desk. He had a fake glass of beer and a fake “spilled” cup of ice cream. It immediately lightened the atmosphere. He made a comment about it and explained to us the importance of making patients feel comfortable. Humor seems to help the interaction between doctor and patient, especially in tense moments.
Dr. Melmed first asked me about my implants and their age. He asked me why I was there. I had prayed all morning that I would be able to get through the appointment without crying but it didn’t work. I told him that I was afraid that my implants have been making me sick and my emotions came over me. He told me to take a few seconds and he began to talk to us about explantation. He told us about the patient that kind of started all of this for him. Dr. Melmed does other plastic surgery and reconstructive procedures but no longer performs breast augmentations. He began to list the complications that women have from breast implant placement. He also began to list the common complaints from women who have breast implants and have developed illnesses. I’m not quite sure, but I think he started out with a list of about 10 symptoms. I think that 9 out of 10 of those directly applied to me. I could tell that he had Mike’s full attention.
Dr. Melmed pulled out a photo album that he shared with us. It had pictures of general implant complications (capsular contracture, rupture, deformity, etc.). Rough statistics show that 20 percent of women have to undergo a secondary operation within one year of breast augmentation for complications. Saline implants leak at an approximate rate of 5% per year. He let both of us know that he would be forward and truthful. Breast explantation is often difficult mentally because of the decrease in breast size. He basically told me that men have the capability of looking at large breasts anywhere and at almost any time. They are everywhere. He told me that a man wants someone that he can have fun with and enjoy his time with. If my husband doesn’t have me to be fun and interactive in our family, then what good do large breasts do? It made sense and I knew it.
We began to discuss a little bit of my history. I told him about some of my symptoms and when they first began. I started crying and explained that I just needed some justification. For so many years, I have felt like no one believes me and I have begun to feel like I am just imagining it. He took my hand and looked me in the eye – and gave me that justification. He told me (very clearly) that I am not imagining my symptoms. They are real. If my symptoms are not real, then why is he seeing a multitude of patients that complain of the same things? A lot of women have breast implants and never face complications. They don’t present with immediate deformities or long-term illnesses. Other women, however, do. He explained that breast implants may not necessarily “create” the autoimmune disorders but they seem to trigger an autoimmune response. Unfortunately, that means that there appears to be a large number of women who develop autoimmune disorders after having breast augmentation. In my case, it was the Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. In other cases, it is Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, etc. There is a long list of common symptoms that many of us share. Some of us have the positive lab results to prove it, others don’t.
The next portion of the consultation was the exam. He made measurements of where the breasts are sitting now and explained to me his proposed outcome. We talked about the “lift” process if needed (internal and/or external). He took before pictures. Linda was in the room with us during the exam. We were still discussing some of my history and I commented on my frustration with the lack of information that is out there. She said that she would recommend that physicians take breast implants into consideration on a more frequent basis. If a physician is addressing a patient who has similar symptoms, they should be asking the patient whether they have breast implants or not. The sad thing is that it isn’t really recognized as a problem. These symptoms are usually shoved under another diagnosis and the possible true culprit is overlooked.
I asked Dr. Melmed about what sets him apart from using Dr. Kolb. He didn’t have a lot to say, but he said these two things; 1) he does not remove the surrounding lymph nodes as she sometimes recommends because he does not feel that it is necessary and 2) he would question a physician who performs a large number of explantations but continues to keep her own breast implants. Those are two very valid points. I am trying to take in all of the information and allow myself some time to absorb it. I can definitely say that it is Dr. Kolb who eventually led me to Dr. Melmed. She was the first physician that I found online who is addressing this issue. Her public awareness movement is larger. I have to give her credit for putting the information out there for people to find. I am blessed to have found a doctor that is closer to me, though. As far as her continuation with breast implants, it’s not really my place to judge. On one hand, I’m not sure that I could try to raise public awareness on breast implant dangers and still have them. On the other hand, these issues are not present in every patient. There are many women who can have augmentation after augmentation and never suffer from these problems.
Hope. Dr. Melmed gives me hope. He said that a lot of women get relief from symptoms immediately after surgery. The estimated peak time of recovery is nine months, however. I realize that some of my issues are irreversible. My thyroid is completely atrophied. That will never get better. I am hopeful, though, that the brain fog and fatigue will greatly improve. I have read a few stories from women who have undergone explantation and can attest to that. Once my body begins to detoxify, I believe that I will begin to feel much better than I have felt in a long time.
The next person that I met with is Janet. Janet is the lady that first drew me into his office via phone chat. Her outgoing attitude is easy to be around. She did say something that I found to be a little upsetting. She said that she can usually pinpoint a patient who is seeking a consultation for explantation before they ever say it. I asked her why she knows that just by talking to someone on the phone. She said that explant patients always sound so “unhappy”. How sad is that? Our lives are so disrupted and our health is so bad that we just sound “unhappy”. I believe it. I don’t like it, but I believe it. We discussed the cost and scheduled a tentative surgery date. Janet and Linda definitely made the whole experience so much easier. I am not comfortable in a snooty setting so it was nice to deal with ladies who seem down to earth.
My husband and I are in the process of finalizing the funds for surgery. I am anxious and stressed about the days to come but I am finally determined to follow through. I will slowly be spreading my story for more to hear. My goal is to make more women aware of the potential long-term illnesses that may be associated with breast implants. I would encourage women to pay close attention to their body. If my surgery goes well and my health improves as much as I hope it will, I will definitely devote more of my time to making the public aware. These risks are not only associated with silicone implants as many people believe. They are associated with ANY implants. It’s extremely scary.
As I move forward, I may still contemplate trying a fundraiser to help out with my surgery and care. I would also like to open up this group for others to share their fundraising efforts in pursuing explantation. We will just have to move forward slowly. I look forward to hearing from other women about their personal stories.