When my mind first considered getting breast implants to restore my post-nursing breasts, the scientist in me protested—loudly. That part of my mind knew my body wouldn’t welcome two objects being placed inside it. After all, our immune system’s primary mission is to guard against foreign invaders. Nevertheless, I rationalized that breast implants must be safe because doctors—who take oaths to do no harm—put them into our bodies, and I thought they were appropriately studied and FDA approved.
To appease the scientist in me, I enrolled in a clinical study for the new-on-the-market gummy-bear implant. I vividly recall alerting the staff that the survey questions were leading, subjective, and not capturing my full experience with breast implants. Ultimately, that clinical study prematurely stopped with no explanation. By doing so, it failed to provide its promised multi-year follow-up. Its overly brief window was grossly insufficient to meaningfully track how the human body reacts to breast implants over time.
For example, the human body creates a fibrous capsule around every breast implant. Sometimes these capsules constrict around the implant as if the body is smothering its invader, hoping to snuff it out completely. This condition is known as capsular contracture. My body formed thick capsules around my implants. Because it took its job of protecting me rather seriously, the capsules not only tried snuffing out the implants, but they also calcified over time. As a result, my breasts were stiff, unmoving, and hypersensitive. The left scar capsule entangled nerves along the ribs under my bra. Though I developed capsular contraction early in my journey with breast implants, the study failed to track its worsening effects.
The implant manufacturer’s study also failed to track how breast implants affected my life.
- Every single hug was compromised as I wondered how unnatural my unyielding breasts felt to the person hugging me and feared the painful discomfort of an overly tight or long embrace.
- I felt self-conscious about my augmented cleavage.
- My breast cancer screening—already compromised by extremely dense breast tissue—was further compromised by the implants.
- My breasts were perpetually cold.
- I worried that my breast implants reinforced to our daughters the same toxic messaging about women, breasts, and belonging that propelled me onto the implant table.
- I didn’t want to age with implants in my body but was terrified of the surgery to remove them (explant).
- I felt fraudulent helping women reclaim their bodies, minds, and hearts from things that harm them while sitting behind two problematic breast implants.
I was told I could keep my breast implants for life. But when I noticed a sudden shape change in one of my breasts, I intuitively suspected one of my 12-year-old implants ruptured after my routine mammogram.
That was the change catalyst I needed.
Several weeks later, I removed my breast implants (one was indeed ruptured). Several months later, as I marveled at my restored vitality and lack of chronic, disabling pain, I realized just how severely my health and well-being were impacted by my body’s battle against the bags.
While that sounds straightforward, it absolutely was not easy.
On the surgical consults, I was:
- gaslit over breast implant illness (BII), though I didn’t know anything about it. (Spoiler alert: though I didn’t explant because of BII, explant revealed that BII was the unrecognized root cause of all my other health-related suffering including a worsening disability misdiagnosed as peripheral neuropathy).
- urged to replace my implants and warned that I would be very unhappy without them.
- asked if I had my husband’s permission to explant.
And because of my old, unhelpful, socially-derived beliefs about women and breasts, my nervous system interpreted explant as a threat. It moved into flight, fight, and freeze mode. Thankfully, I knew how to steady myself and to use my values as guides rather than allowing fear to sit in the driver’s seat.
My recovery was shockingly painful, and my post-explant breasts defy society’s rules about women and breasts, but I’ve never once regretted my decision to explant.
Through my explant journey, I not only reclaimed my body from inappropriately studied devices that were harming my health and well-being, but I used the same inner skills that I teach my clients to reclaim my mind and heart from the quest for “better” breasts. I forged an unshakable self-acceptance practice that will serve me for the remainder of my life. And although those capsules caused me a lot of pain, I now thank my body daily for its hyperaggressive efforts to maintain a barrier between me and the implants. In fact, my entire relationship with my body has changed. I see it as something to protect and honor rather than something to “fix.”
While on my explant journey, I witnessed tremendous psychosocial suffering among countless other women living with problematic breast implants, considering explant, or adjusting to their post-explant chest. So I now empower other women whose life journeys include breast implants to overcome the mental, emotional, and relationship challenges that are part of these journeys.
I’m not here to tell anyone what to do with her body, but I believe women with aging or problematic breast implants deserve inner skills that put her in charge of her journey rather than toxic social standards.
To help as many women as possible, I developed a science-based approach to inner healing from breast implants. It’s the foundation of Busting Free, the award-winning and first-of-its-kind self-help book for women considering or recovering from explant. Readers of Busting Free emerge knowing how to step back from their breast-related self-concept, care for internalized breast shame, and live life on their terms no matter how their breasts or body change over time.