I Wouldn't Have Gotten Breast Implants If I'd Known This Would Happen
Before I got breast implants, my doctor said that silicone was inert and that they'd be perfectly safe. I had no reason to suspect anything otherwise—until one day six years after the surgery. I woke up in a middle of the night because my heart was racing and I couldn’t breathe. I wrote it off as a panic attack, though I’d never had one before. I meditated, did yoga, exercised, and considered myself a positive person, yet this unfamiliar "anxiety" kept returning.
Every day, my chest was tight, my heart was pounding, and my head felt dizzy. Soon, I started feeling so fatigued that I could barely get out of bed. One day, I couldn’t walk a block; I had to grab on to a wall so I wouldn't fall over. Did I mention that I was only 38 and hadn't had a single health problem for the six years before that?
I went to doctors, of course, but all of my tests came back normal.
As a matter of fact, my doctor said that, according to my blood work, I was the healthiest person he had seen that week. This was frustrating, to say the least.
To add to this conundrum, my symptoms continued getting weirder and weirder. The top of my stomach started pulsating, and I became intolerant to a whole range of foods. I used to take pride in my stomach's ability to digest the strangest delicacies from the dirtiest street markets all around the world, but suddenly I could not eat simple foods like beans, celery, or breads without getting sick.
Then, my joints started to hurt—first, my knees and elbows and then my hips. It got so bad that sitting on a chair for more than 10 minutes became a burning torture. I felt like I was an 80-year-old woman who had been run over by a truck. At night, I couldn’t fall asleep because of the pain; and in the morning, I couldn’t get out of bed because of the pain.
Then, the brain fog set in.
I felt like I was constantly jet-lagged, walking around with a pillow over my ears and a foggy glass jar over my head: I had blurry vision and struggled to stay alert or to comprehend what was going on around me. I couldn’t remember anything. My brain was so bogged down that, some days, I couldn’t remember the name of a friend I’d known for years. I felt like I was completely falling apart, yet doctors told me there was nothing wrong with me.
More new symptoms were showing up almost every week: ringing in the ears, recurring infections, hair loss, muscle weakness, headaches, mood swings, shortness of breath, IBS, slow cut healing, allergies to everything including my own houseplants, difficulty concentrating, tingling throughout the body, skin rashes, hormonal imbalance—I’m sure I'm forgetting a few others, but those were just some of the ailments I dealt with on a daily basis while doctors insisted that because all my blood work was normal, all of this "must be in your head."
Eventually, I went to an integrative clinic to get more thorough testing.
I finally got a diagnosis of heavy metal toxicity (high levels of mercury, lead, arsenic, thallium), small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (aka SIBO), irritable bowel syndrome, adrenal fatigue, and hormonal imbalance.
I cut out carbs, sugar, gluten, dairy, soy—and anything else that was fun—from my diet. With lots of restrictions and a focus on healing, I was able to feel somewhat better. But every month or so, I would get another weird and unexplained symptom, which continued to raise a nagging series of questions: Why had I gone from being perfectly healthy to having so many autoimmune symptoms in such a short period of time? And how had I gotten all of those heavy metals into my body?
I kept on wondering until I saw a post from a friend of mine about her battle with breast implant illness. She listed her symptoms, which sounded weirdly like mine, and shared a Facebook group called Breast Implant Illness and Healing by Nicole. The group had over 46,000 women in it. I joined the group, and for the next week or so I was obsessed—I lost sleep reading story after story from countless women (some still very young, in their 20s) suffering from the same symptoms as me plus so, so many more.
They all had one thing in common: At some point in their lives, they had succumbed to mainstream beauty ideals and gotten breast implants. And now, they were taking back their lives and removing the implants, and most were reporting a significant improvement of symptoms. While reading all of their stories, I kept remembering how I had been told that implants were harmless and silicone was inert in our bodies.
I ate organic food, did yoga, meditated, took care of myself, yes. Was it possible that I had the worst toxic soup planted right on top of my most crucial organs?
Having a law and journalism background, I dug deep into research, and with every study I read, my heart got heavier and heavier. The symptoms of breast implant illness are sneaky and disguise themselves as other diseases. Apparently, silicone is not inert1 as some doctors and implant companies have claimed. It sweats and bleeds2 from the insertion. One of the studies I read showed that approximately 74 percent of women with implants had silicone migration3 to their lymph nodes. Another paper describes a particularly gruesome account of a woman coughing up silicone that matched the composition of her calf implant.
Silicone is made of a mixture of approximately 40 known toxic substances and heavy metals. They displace minerals crucial to our body functions and get deposited in fatty tissue, bones, and the brain, altering major systems to negative effect—all of which disrupts endocrine systems, nervous systems, GI activity, and damages liver and kidneys since they have to work extra hard to detox the body. Most importantly, they create a perfect breeding ground for viruses and parasites that, in turn, overload the immune system even further and provoke it to overreact, hence all of the autoimmune issues4 I had.
The body tries to protect itself from the implant by building a capsule of scar tissue around it. As a matter of fact, up to 20 percent of all primary augmentations5 end up with capsular contracture. "The substantial incidence of encapsulations speaks greatly to the fact that the female immune system often vigorously rebels against this foreign body, working hard to wall it off from the rest of the body,” said Felice Gersh, M.D., an OB/GYN and functional medicine leader who has a long history of successfully treating breast implant illness and other environmental illnesses.
Silicone also depletes your body’s collagen stores6. That’s why a lot of women with breast implants suffer from premature aging and joint pain. D4 (also known as octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane from silicone) has a proven impact on levels of LH and FSH7—hormones that you need to ovulate. That points to why many women in that group report irregular periods, fertility struggles, and early menopause, some as early as their mid-20s.
The majority of studies that the FDA used to approve implants were conducted by the manufacturers themselves and over short periods of time, some as short as seven days (for reference, it took me six years to develop symptoms). Thankfully for me and other women who suffer from breast implant illness, there is a growing group of doctors that have been publishing their own studies and observations clearly showing the relationship between silicone toxicity and autoimmune, endocrine, and hormonal system disruptions.
Most importantly, there are tens of thousands of women who are reporting either complete healing or significant reduction of symptoms after removing the implants.
After doing my research, I knew what I had to do.
I had my explant surgery in March of 2018. A day after the surgery, two of my most persistent symptoms disappeared. A week after surgery, I started feeling more and more myself again; my eyes cleared, and my skin started to return to its normal color. Today, I’m four months post-surgery and celebrating the fact that most of this seems to be behind me.
I still have waves of detox sometimes, which most women report for up to a year after the surgery. But my energy levels are back, joint pain and anxiety are gone, hair is regrowing, and even my skin is looking younger. I feel like I have myself back. And I can’t thank Nicole Daruda, who started the Breast Implant Illness and Healing movement, enough. She's helped so many women—myself included—to find the reasons behind their seemingly unexplainable illnesses and their way to healing.
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Nadia Dara Diskavets is a photographer and owner of 7 Line Studio, a photography studio in Long Island City, New York. She's sharing her story of breast implant illness, a condition many women with implants have discovered through Breast Implant Illness by Nicole, a online community that has spread awareness and information about the disease, its symptoms, and potential treatments.