By Kelly Hollands @glow_beauty_skincare_wellbeing
I have never seen myself as someone who would have cosmetic surgery. I was happy with my body and had never focused on any flaws. I had always been extremely lean and was one of those people who didn’t have to exercise or watch my diet to stay in shape, I exercise often and try to eat healthily. I was also lucky that I snapped back to my pre-pregnancy weight with both of my daughters, within just a matter of weeks.
At the age of 32, after having my second child, I developed a severe case of Mastitis. The pain was excruciating and it seemed to eat away at my left breast. I visited many doctors and even had a stay in hospital, but it seemed that whatever tissue and fat I had in that area had disappeared. I was only a size 8 in clothing and weighed just over 8 stone, but suddenly tops and dresses hung off me. The most fitted tops made me look uneven and I became extremely self conscious. I wasn’t someone to put on weight easily and as we know, the weight never comes or goes from the place you want it to. I tried to resign myself to the fact I would remain ‘lopsided’.
After a few months of feeling unhappy with how I looked, and lacking in confidence, I made the decision to have breast augmentation surgery. Elective surgery was something I never in a million years thought I would have. Because of this, I chose a top consultant in London who had worked on celebrities, believing if it’s good enough for them and they trusted him, so should I. Within a matter of weeks, I had breast implants that suited my frame and size. I didn’t tell anyone. As stupid as it sounds, I didn’t want to be judged and I certainly didn’t want to look any different to how I did before or to draw attention to myself.
I had the surgery in August 2007 and by November I was suffering severe anxiety and panic attacks. I had lost my Nan, my second Mum, in the October and this had affected me deeply so I just put it down to that. Over the following months and years, I found myself extremely low in mood so visited my GP and was prescribed anti-depressants. I only stayed on these for a very short time as I wanted to ‘get through this’ period myself.
After five years of having the implants and feeling horrendous most days with nausea, headaches, severe fatigue, anxiety and low mood, a major scandal broke out regarding Poly Implant Prothèse – a French company that produced silicone gel breast implants (PIP). The company was pre-emptively liquidated in 2010 following the revelation that they had been illegally manufacturing and selling breast implants made from cheaper industrial-grade silicone since 2001. It turned out I had been fitted with these implants.
The PIP breast implant scandal saw 47,000 British women affected. All the women were fitted with silicone implants containing industrial grade chemicals never intended for medical use. I decided this was probably the reason I was feeling so unwell and made an appointment to have the implants removed and a new ‘safe’ set fitted. A decision I would later regret.
I remember waking from the surgery in 2012 thinking I would feel different. I was expecting to be told the removed PIP implants had discoloured or ruptured, but this wasn’t the case. They were intact and I was reassured this new set were safe. Looking back now, I can’t believe how naive I was to think that any set of implants are safe!
From November 2007 to the day before I had heard about the PIP scandal, I never for one minute connected my ill health with my implants. Why would I? Even countless doctors hadn’t! The day the news hit the headlines, I felt I had a lifeline. A reason for why I felt so unwell. Once I’d had the implants removed and new ones re-inserted, the consultant assured me that it wouldn’t have been the implants that were making me ill. The ‘hope’ that it was the implants causing me such severe health issues quickly evaporated. I went back to believing I must have some mysterious illness that no one had found and that I was slowly dying each day.
From 2012, my health deteriorated even quicker. I found myself developing many more strange symptoms including numbness and tingling in my arms and legs, blurred vision, tinnitus, cold hands and feet, eczema, hair loss, brain fog, lack of concentration, IBS, poor memory, panic attacks and insomnia, to name but a few! I saw my GP on many occasions who told me I was ‘just a busy Mum’! My weight had also ballooned from a size 8 to a size 14. I had severe bloating all over my body, including my face which was constantly puffy and my skin was almost translucent. I didn’t recognise myself.
After visiting my GP with my 11th bout of chest infections in 13 months (of which I was prescribed strong antibiotics each time), he gave me a leaflet on Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). He told me to go home and to think about ‘cutting my life down’ in every aspect from work to socialising. I literally had no social life to cut! I was too drained and ill for one. I did however work extremely hard and was a successful Makeup Artist. There were many days where I would work, come home exhausted and sleep fitfully for 16 hours. I felt like I was dying, but then I’d give myself a good talking to and say ‘don’t be so stupid. Dying people don’t go out to work!’.
I felt like I was trapped. No one could understand exactly how unwell I felt. I had days where I just wanted to unzip my body and step outside for five minutes rest.
I threw myself into healthy, clean eating and was forcing myself to exercise in a desperate bid to re-energise myself and lose the weight. I joined an outdoor boot camp and went three times a week, as well as a running club, that I still belong to today. I signed up for The Royal Parks Half Marathon in October 2015. To this day I have no idea how I made it round in 2 hours 12 minutes. I felt horrendous and suffered for weeks on end after.
I saw many private consultants from 2012 to 2016 and was diagnosed with many health problems including B12 Deficiency, a Pituitary Adenoma, Tachycardia and food intolerances/allergies. I was put on Beta Blockers, but they made me feel even more unwell so I came off those. I changed my diet and cut out wheat and gluten. I still felt no different and my weight never changed.
I’ll never forget the day I realised I had Breast Implant Illness (BII). It was January 2017. I was sitting in the lounge with my husband and two daughters, spending yet another evening searching online and Googling ways to help my health, when I happened to get a searing pain in my right implant. The pain was like nothing I’d experienced before. I honestly thought the implant must be rupturing. I quickly Googled ‘pain in right breast implant’ and hit return. Staring back at me were rows and rows of the words ‘Breast Implant Illness’.
My eyes quickly scanned the pages and familiar words started to jump out at me ‘brain fog, hair loss, anxiety, weight gain, extreme fatigue’. My heart was in my mouth. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. My eyes swam with tears of happiness and joy. I had finally found the answer to my 11 years of suffering. I remember looking up from my iPad and staring around the room. I was numb with shock, but at that moment, I also had an overwhelming sense of calm descend on me. I knew I had found the answer and solution to my ill health and more importantly, what was going to make me well again and give me my life back. Explanting. It felt like hours before I finally found my voice and I just remember calling my husband over and getting him to read what I had found. We were both beside ourselves with excitement!
I frantically started searching for as much information on BII as I could. Out of 42 symptoms, I definitely had 37. I learnt that the shell/outer coating of the implant is made up of many toxic chemicals that get absorbed into the bloodstream. I felt disgusted and sickened that implants are so freely put into women without any of this being explained. Back in 2007, when I had the first set, I don’t even remember researching it myself. I believed them to be safe.
Within five days of my revelation I had visited three surgeons. Two of them discounted BII as a ‘real thing’ and told me it was all in my head! They said they would happily remove my implants and re-fit new ones, but that they didn’t believe BII existed. They told me I would look ‘deformed’ and to ‘seriously think about my actions of explanting’. I was so angry that these so called professionals were ignoring everything I had said and were just thinking of money.
Thankfully, I found an amazing surgeon in Surrey who listened and didn’t try and persuade me to have new implants. He explained that the body won’t always accept any kind of implant, whether it be breast, hip or even tooth. I saw him three times before my surgery. This was his recommendation so that I had thought everything through. It wasn’t just a case of putting myself through surgery and yet another general anaesthesia, there was also the psychological side of what I may look like. I had thought about this, for probably a second! I knew in my gut that BII was the reason I felt so unwell and I trusted my instincts. Even if I ended up looking like Magda from There’s Something About Mary, at least I had my health back.
I remember speaking to a friend about it and she was mortified I would even contemplate having my implants removed and possibly look saggy, just on a hunch that they were causing my ill health. My answer to her ‘I’m not just a pair of boobs’. I wasn’t vain before I got my implants and I certainly wasn’t hanging on to them now, knowing everything I did about BII. If I never removed them, I’d never know if they were the cause!
Just a few weeks before my surgery I decided to have a hair tissue mineral analysis. These tests are used around the world for the biological monitoring of trace elements and toxic metals in humans. I was interested to know exactly what was in my body and then I would repeat the process one year after explant. The findings were scary and even the therapist who carried out the test was amazed at how many heavy metals and toxic chemicals I had in my body.
On the day of my explant surgery, 7th March 2017, my husband drove me to Surrey. I felt excitement mixed with nerves. I knew that today was the start of the rest of my life. I had every faith I would be well again after these toxic bags were removed.
I was made to feel extremely comfortable with my own private room and the nurses were amazing. Unfortunately, the surgery didn’t go without any complications and I developed an allergic reaction to the general anaesthetic during the procedure which has resulted in me now having a lifelong allergy to adrenaline based drugs. All that aside, I woke from surgery in recovery and did something that I realised I had been unable to do for 11 years. I took a full, deep breath. I had zero pain. For years I had dealt with recurrent chest infections which had left me with Costochondritis. I had completely forgotten what it felt like to breathe without pain as I spent every day with a heavy crushing feeling on my chest, let alone to be able to take a full, deep breath. The Costocondritis had completely disappeared.
As I lay there in recovery, I had a feeling of peace. I knew that removing the implants was the answer and I actually laughed out loud and said to one of the nurses that the answer to my ill health of 11 years had literally been right under my nose the whole time!
Once back in my hospital room, I noticed how pink and warm my hands were. I grabbed a mirror and couldn’t believe what I saw looking back at me. Glowing, flushed cheeks and reduced puffiness! I had been so used to seeing a pale, bloated face and avoided looking in the mirror as much as possible. I was so excited to see the many changes over the coming days and weeks.
The weight dropped off me – something I now realise was water retention – no doubt filled with toxic chemicals. My energy was through the roof! My hair started growing back. My eyes sparkled once again. People had never commented on how ill I looked before, but suddenly they were remarking how well and glowing I looked.
Out of the 37 symptoms I had, just one or two remain today. I have been left with B12 Deficiency, for which I have monthly injections and I have Tachycardia, but thankfully I don’t require daily medication for it. I still get anxiety, but I am having help for that and it’s working.
After spending 11 years missing out on so many outings and activities with my daughters and husband, I was able to take part in everything. I was literally given my life back.
Do I regret my decision to have breast implants? Absolutely! I wish I had loved my body for what it was. It took away 11 years of my life. Time when I should have been enjoying my young family and living life to the full. It’s not all negative though. I’ve definitely learnt to appreciate my health. I regularly take part in waves of The Six Pack Revolution and am the strongest I’ve ever been.
Also, as it turns out, after explanting surgery, I’m not deformed! With the right advice, I should have been told to wait at least 6-12 months following my Mastitis for my body to ‘heal’. But, the past is the past and thankfully I realised what was causing my ill health before it was too late.
Unfortunately BII is very much a controversial subject. I have no idea why. Breast Implant Illness is 100% a real thing. I know. I’ve lived through it and thankfully, am now a survivor of it.
After posting this today (20 May 2021), this article was published by the BBC click here to read