I Feel Sorry For Women With 'Perfect' Breasts

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 
Rachel Garlinghouse/Instagram

I was recently scrolling through my social media feed, when an ad popped up for bras. The models clearly had breast implants. Their sultry eye gaze and smug smiles alluded to sexiness, but I wasn’t buying into it. I find absolutely nothing appealing about breast implants after having them for almost four years.

This year, I had my breast implants removed, and I’ve never felt better. Though my implants looked absolutely incredible — symmetrical, perky, and round — they made me very, very ill. I’ve shared before that they made me feel like a zombie, someone looking around in a cloudy haze, watching life pass her by. I wasn’t an active participant in my own existence. Instead of implants giving me the freedom to saunter around in a skimpy swim top or show off some perfect cleavage in a V-neck tee, I was miserable, craving death or removal so my misery would be over.

When I see or hear of a woman who has breast implants, I do not envy her. Her perfect breasts — whatever that means — were the breasts she had before implants or the breasts she could have now without them. I don’t envy her constant back, neck, shoulder, and rib pain, nor do I envy the headaches, dry eyes and mouth, hormone problems, brain fog, or any other symptom of breast implant illness.

I’ve had several women share with me that they have implants and are “totally fine.” I’ve also had some of them come back to me and realize those odd and seemingly unrelated symptoms that have appeared since they got implants never make sense to their doctors. If their lab work and scans are fine, why are they sick?

Some of them received mammograms only to have the mammogram machine rupture the implants. Yes, you read that correctly. Oh, and that’s not all. Even if the implant is intact, breast implants can hide cancer around or behind them, undetectable by imaging. Women seeking to make sure their breasts are healthy can actually put their their breast health at risk by having implants during a mammogram. Ironic, isn’t it?

There are thousands of women who are dying from the foreign objects (AKA: toxic bags) sewn into their chests, located by lymph nodes, their heart, their thyroid, and their lungs. The cliché is true: beauty is deceiving.

What I know now is that those of us who have become sick from implants aren’t going to shut up or go away. Celebrities like Clare Crawley, Kayla Reid, and Michelle Visage have been open about their decision to explant. I’m thankful for their willingness to share their stories with others, because they are influential women with huge platforms.

I’m not trying to shame women with implants. In fact, I feel sorry for them. Unethical plastic surgeons capitalize on a woman’s insecurities and desperation to look better in order to mentally and emotionally feel better. Breast implants are generally sold as perfectly safe, yet the FDA recommends a black box (yep) safety warning be placed upon them. One reason is that some implants can cause a form of lymphoma called BIA-ALCL.

Sewing poison baggies — as I call them — into our bodies with the potential of a leak or rupture alone is scary, but since breast implant illness (BII) isn’t an official medical diagnosis, women are often tricked into believing it’s not real. How can something that’s not diagnosable be true? My argument is that just because BII isn’t in a manual, doesn’t make the experiences of women who have had it less valid.

BII is difficult to claim, because there are over fifty symptoms that are shared between different medical conditions. There’s also not a single medical test for BII. Women can have just a few symptoms, or many. I had twenty-nine symptoms, twenty-five of which disappeared after I had my implants and capsules (scar tissue surrounding the implant) removed. For me, the proof is in the pudding.

Unfortunately, many women with BII are told that our symptoms are all “in our heads.” Basically, we are declared mentally unhinged and not believed. However, I’ve read hundreds of accounts by women who have explanted and their symptoms have been significantly improved, if not annihilated.

My personal belief is that if the word gets out that implants are dangerous with the potential to destroy a person’s health, there’s no money in that. Women who don’t get implants don’t hand their money over to implant companies and plastic surgeons. The bare minimum of disclosure, the lack of an official diagnosable condition, and sparkly, promising medical offices lure women into making what will perhaps be the worst decision of their lives.

I have the utmost empathy for women who have implants, especially those who are clearly sick from them. This is not what we signed up for. Our questions were twisted, and our body insecurities were amplified. We truly didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into, and we don’t until it’s too late. Then when we seek help for being sick, we are told we are mentally unstable. We spend thousands of dollars seeking answers — and finding none.

What terrifies me is that when women do realize that their implants are making them sick, explanting — that is, having their implants removed — is very expensive. I’ve read accounts of women who are desperate to explant but cannot afford the bill. Implant removal, based on what I’ve read, is around $10,000. Some women borrow against their homes or retirement. Some even fundraise. The clock is ticking, as their health worsens, to find the money.

Here’s the kicker. Even if you can afford to have your implants removed, you have to find a doctor to believe you and is skilled enough to remove the implants safely, and you have to find a medical facility that is still scheduling elective surgeries in the midst of a pandemic. Then you have a month (plus) of recovery time, where you are restricted on activities such as driving, lifting your children, and working. Basically, only the privileged can explant.

I’ve been asked how in the world I can live without breasts, and I tell people, I wasn’t going to live with them. The inflammation in my body was out of control. Every day, I was certain it could be my last. I have never felt so ill in my life, trapped in my own body, begging God to let it be over. If I can keep one woman from going through the same hell, sharing my story is worth it.

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