Breast Implant Illness: A Survivor’s Story
I’m excited to have a first-time guest featured on my page. Kaye McClaren is a client of mine that has survived and is now a warrior for breast implant illness. Her story is quite amazing and her pictures are more than you can imagine (and likely want to remember). But once I saw her pictures, I knew I had to share her story.
If you have breast implants or considering them, this is a must-read.
If you want to see my interview with Kaye, you can watch it here. You can listen to the podcast format, here.
Thank you, Kaye, for being brave and sharing your story. I know this will help so many. ❤️
PS. I decided to include all pictures at the end of the post as some of them are a bit raw. If you don’t think you can stomach seeing a bit of blood or Kaye’s capsules, you may want to read the text and then move on.
But trust me, it’s worth seeing.
In Kaye’s Words
In October of 2016, I had 150cc under-the-muscle breast implants installed in my body. The same story as many, I breastfed four children, two of them at age 40, I was left with deflated meh and wanted a little upgrade. I went to the local guy everyone here goes to and walked out with sweet new body parts. At the time I thought they were pretty great; small enough you couldn’t really tell and big enough that I could.
Fast forward 3 years I started to feel like something was off and sliding quickly. I had always been uber focused on fitness, with an admitted emphasis on the vanity side of it yet being an avid runner and lifter I was quite fit. At 49 I figured my setback was tanking hormones. So I started researching and hired a private naturopath who was also a board-certified OBGYN.
She ordered several tests and we noticed my autoimmune issue of hypothyroidism had returned even though I had managed it successfully without meds for years, my liver wasn’t methylating properly and my gut was a mess with Candida, H. Pylori, and a slew of parasites.
“No wonder,” I thought.
The microbiome is primarily responsible for synthesizing serotonin and dopamine and if this brain-gut axis isn’t communicating because of infections it has to be the cause of my lethargy.
DING! DING! DING!, we have an answer.
Let’s just clean this up, the neurotransmitters can start talking again, and I’ll be good to go.
Yet for months we’d try to fix me with an aggressive gut protocol and self-care but I kept deteriorating. The symptoms were very non-specific: extreme brain fog and exhaustion, drowning in night sweats, weird food sensitivities, cravings, and achy joints.
I couldn’t lift heavy or run anymore, I had sandpaper burning eyes, and inflammation to the point it looked and felt like I had just gone on a bourbon and burrito bender. But I wasn’t drinking alcohol and had eliminated most standard American foods, because I thought it was my diet causing me all this sickness.
Doc upped the supplements trying to address all my microbiome issues and it moved things around so forcefully, I landed in the ER with the dreadful C.Diff infection. Recovering from that alone took months.
Desperate at that point I searched for anything and everything, I was convinced it had to be my diet because all the labs I had done were coming back without outliers, I left that doctor and started working with Judy.
We focused even more on my gut because it was clear that I was not absorbing nutrients from my food. They would leak through my weakened intestines. I was basically peeing out expensive supplements which left my body still craving nutrients. I was starving even when I was full. My gut was exceedingly bloated and gurgling constantly, like LOUDLY. (Just add that to a quickly growing list of totally-uncool-mom things my kids may have been vocal about…).
Judy’s gut and carnivore protocol calmed the bloat and inflammation some, but not enough. Both of us were frustrated with my lack of improvement and knew there had to be more. My diet was impeccable, so what really was the root cause? Why Candida? Why H. Pylori? Why now? Eating carnivore is the ideal healing diet for probably every inflammation-based chronic disease, but I was still puffy, bloodshot, exhausted, and foggy.
I had been injected with stupid sauce.
I kept on reminding myself, “you have a Master’s degree, you love vocabulary.” But when it came time to speak words articulately, I floundered and froze. It was maddening, I wanted to tear my skin off and get out of my body. I felt sick and vapid, stuck in a cycle of noxious shame.
Somehow, however, a little whisper of a memory came back to me. I remembered a Facebook post by a soccer mom friend of mine from almost three years ago. Her breast implants were making her sick. Her autoimmune issues had flared. She couldn’t work out, and a dozen other issues left her semi-functioning.
After she explanted she immediately saw changes.
At the time I, like most women with implants said, “Nahhh, not me”, but something deeply intuitive opened in me to hear it now. I met her for coffee.
Afterward, it was absolutely clear to me I had Breast Implant Illness (BII). BII is such a generalized term encompassing vague and chronic symptoms which develop after breast augmentation.
When you plant foreign items in your own body, amazing things happen to protect you from them. In trying to fight off these foreign parts, your body gets to work creating a capsule, like a gestational membrane, around the implant. This capsule then fuses to the body parts around it, in this case to ribs, chest muscles, and breast tissue.
Imagine being your immune system; “all of the sudden there are these NEW THINGS IN HERE, like seriously Ma’am??? I’m working so hard for you being bombarded by everyday toxins and bacterias and what the actual mother are these now???“
Utter confusion and chaos for your immune system as it tries to prioritize areas to undertake. There is a saying in the BII community, “It’s not if, it’s when”. This is why; our stunning machines carrying us through life can only handle so much at a time before they burn out.
Some sick BII women go literally decades from doctor to doctor who tell them, “your labs are fine, there, there, nothing is wrong with you lady except for being another hysterical female.”
Not being seen or heard like this piles on massively to the anxiety-trauma pattern of BII. This stress cycle is only in part due to the physicality of our immune system being maxed out. There is a general cortisol/adrenal response to the stress of the foreign bodies with which your immune system now has to contend. Mental and physical stress makes cortisol which sends messages to the adrenals and so on down the line.
We need cortisol, but if there’s too much we know that feeling; wired and tired. Adrenals then talk to the thyroid, pituitary, hypothalamus, sex organs and so many other systems in the body. So when adrenals are stressed out and need to triage, the rest of the interconnected networks are not getting clear signals. So then those parts of the chain overwork and breakdown resulting in autoimmune dysregulation and major microbiome disturbances.
Yes, this cascade effect of the bodies’ chemical and hormone feedback loops being messed with is at the root of the anxiety which accompanies BII.
However, the mental angst of not being able to carry on a conversation, recall a simple word, finish a sentence or ask “Was I supposed to drive to soccer today? Or pick up?” for like the seventh time adds an even worse burden to this parasympathetic/sympathetic balance. It was ceaseless fight/flight/freeze.
If I’m honest, there were several times I was so incapacitated that I literally should not have been driving. The anxiety of seeing people I hadn’t spoken to in a while and sounding inept, anxiety of not knowing when this would end, I mean, what if I never find out what’s wrong? How long can I keep this up? There was the anxiety of feeling worse every single day and how to not show it to your kids. The anxiety of the deep knowing how off I felt but each time you check with a “professional” you are seemingly reprimanded for complaining because all your labs look “fine”. The anxiety of trying every supplement, every test, and doctor and walking away demoralized and helpless.
Removing Implants Is Not Enough
Removing just the implants is not enough to truly heal. The entire implant needs to be extracted with this capsule STILL INTACT (en bloc) and encased around the implant so as not to spill the poisons that have leached out from the implant into your body.
The shells of implants (both saline and silicone) are silicone-based and made up of over 40 chemicals like heavy metals, polyurethanes, and other neurotoxins, not one of which you would ever drink a drop of but for some reason, it was ok to open my body up and insert them all in?…SO many women do right? They’re approved by that brilliant FDA right?
I mean, the FDA is the gold science-backed standard, is it not? My surgeon never informed me this might happen, He didn’t ask if I had an autoimmune disease. My other doctors over the years never even inquired as to whether I had them so how could this BII be a legit thing?
In 2019 the FDA finally put a Black Box warning on breast implants, even still, it is 100% the doctor’s responsibility to initiate the discussion as to how this could manifest physically with their patients.
Turns out there are countless Facebook BII groups, some with over 130K women telling their stories of Breast Implant Illness. I found a surgeon who not only does the full en bloc capsulectomy, he has seen so many women sick from their implants he will not put them in anymore.
The number one complaint he sees in his practice is brain fog, followed by fatigue, anxiety, memory loss, autoimmune flare-ups, gut dysbiosis, and joint pain. Check, check, check and double-check.
I needed them O-U-T, like yesterday.
While I totally motored on finding the right surgeon, my procedure was not scheduled for mid-September as there are long waiting lists for en bloc explant surgeons.
I literally didn’t think I’d make it until then and the universe answered and I was able to explant on July 13, 2021. My capsules were quite thin, thus my surgeon had to scrape and cauterize a lot of my rib muscle and breast tissue to remove the capsules en bloc. Upon removing the capsules, they were cut open to retrieve the implants and it was then we surprisingly found my right implant had ruptured and was leaking silicone.
Allergan maintains its’ implants stay intact 90% of the time for ten years. Mine was less than five years old. Based on the discoloration of the gel, it had been ruptured for a decent amount of time. Of course, I had no clue.
While the rupture explains the rapid exacerbation of my symptoms as silicone is sticky and attracts to lymph, it mucks up all your detox pathways then it is deposited in your brain and organs, it is not solely responsible for my BII. Just having the toxin-loaded silicone outer shell sitting in there at 98.6 degrees is enough to have them degrade and the shell contents seep out.
In a way? I was lucky for the rupture as my stint with BII was so aggressive it forced me to take action. BII is usually a painfully slow and insidious creep for most women.
Night before explant
5 weeks post-explant
I am so relieved to have every morsel of them out of my body. Just a few days after the explant my eyes were whiter, my face wasn’t swollen anymore and my thoughts were markedly clearer. Systematically detoxing the heavy metals, silicone, and sludge of poisons left in me is a daily practice and from what I’ve read might actually take years. My itty breasts which fed four itty humans and the rest of my body have been in hell, but the only way out is through.
I am only hopeful that if you’ve read this far, you may know a friend who has breast implants who might not even know they could be making her sick. Or a niece or daughter who might want implants one day. Please tell them, share the resources below.
If this post can help even one woman become aware that this illness is so real, and can be serious, it was worth it.
While this writing is primarily focused on the physical journey of BII, the real story here is about mindset.
It is time for women to quietly drop into themselves and ask what is behind this carve-to-order mentality. What lack are we really trying to compensate for here? How can we fill ourselves up with our own flawed authenticity that we don’t look externally for fake surrogates?
I want to create a new hashtag #authenticisthenewsexy.
There is simply nothing sexier than a woman who is confident in her own skin, regardless of how that skin is scarred and baggy and not IG ready.
I am so grateful for this journey. It has served as a springboard for the profound awareness that explanting those toxic bags was just the start. This healing journey requires grace, patience, and self-compassion in explanting old attachments, ideals, and patterns which have stood in the way of pure authenticity.
I am my own surgeon on this one.
Capsules removed en bloc
Ruptured implant after opening capsule
En bloc capsulectomy
Empty chest cavity
Breast Implant Illness Resources
Explant/Silicone Detox Experts:
Sarah Phillipe, Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner: https://go.reversingbreastimplantillness.com/detox
Diane Kazer, Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner, Author of Killer Breasts: https://dianekazer.com
Breast Implant Illness Information:
HelenJanuary 30, 2022 at 10:28 pm
I am suffering from BII and am preparing for my explant. How should I eat and what things can I do to detox?
Nutrition with JudyJanuary 31, 2022 at 11:35 pm
Hi Helen, I will email you some info.