By: Chelsie Brooke
I’ll begin with talking about symptoms which is something I feel women don’t really recognize until health complications become more serious. More so after explanting and being able to look back and “connect the dots”.
I had breast implants surgery in December 2012. It’s hard to pinpoint what “symptoms” started coming up because when something was going on with my health, I always contributed it to genetics or maybe taking on a little too much. I was hospitalized for about a week a year after getting implants because of unexplained heart rate drops and fainting. Looking back, there’s no doubt that the implants were the main reason for that.
Fast forward to December 2015, one year after separating from a 10 year relationship, I was diagnosed with Bell's Palsy and Trigeminal Neuralgia. Half my face was paralyzed and it kept me in extreme pain, all day, every day. I was a single mom of two and had legal custody of my younger brother. Working as a Nanny, I fell into the unfortunate category of not making enough money to afford insurance and making too much to qualify for government assistance (Medicaid).
I eventually found a holistic wellness Chiropractor who told me at my first appointment that he believed we could heal me, together. He would do his part, but I would have to do mine. Everything I ate, how much I exercised, my stress levels— all of it would play a part in my healing. I walked out of that office and completely changed my life that day.
5 weeks later, I was almost completely healed. My chiropractor to this day uses my case as an “ideal client” in case studies on how powerful adjustments and lifestyle changes can deeply affect our health. I went 3 times a week for 7 months until I became pregnant with my third child. After the birth in March 2017, my health began to rapidly decline again. I started to notice that no matter how clean I ate or other beneficial self-care actions I took, it’s like I didn’t have control over what was happening to me. At first, I attributed it to post- partum, but as time went on, I knew it was something deeper.
My symptom list was long and ranged from my hair falling out in chunks, heart palpitations, irregular periods, uncontrollable left side body trimmers, painful bumps that covered the top half of my body that felt like electric shock, and insomnia. My brain fog became foggier and I realized that I no longer felt I had full control over the way my brain functioned. My body ached to the point where it was my normal. I had heating pads in every part of the house because I would use them so often. I was having 10+ bowel movements before noon daily. 39+ symptoms total. The best way that I can explain it is living a healthy lifestyle in my mid 20s but feeling like a 95-year-old who just got hit by a truck.
I’m not a hypochondriac and knew that there was something going on that I couldn’t heal simply by eating more greens or doing a cleanse. I finally made an appointment with my family physician and that began the next chapter of this story.
I walked into my first appointment weighing 68 lbs. with a baby carrier and a paper that listed everything I had been experiencing. They started by running the basic tests which all seemed to come back pretty normal. They came to the conclusion that everything was happening because I was depressed and tried to prescribe me anti-depressants. I politely refused to accept it and told them, “I know it seems like I have a lot on my plate being a mom of 3 (plus my brother, 4) and being in school, but I know my body and I am not depressed. Something else is going on, I can feel it”. They wrote in my medical paperwork “patient refuses treatment”......but I wasn’t refusing, I just wasn’t giving up. Puzzled by the results but clearly seeing my body frail and wanting answers, they began referring me to different specialists.
First was a therapist, they thought maybe I was in denial about the possibility of postpartum depression. After many appointments, she wrote to my physician that I am not depressed and felt what I was experiencing was not the result of my mental health.
They then sent me to a Nutritionist that I worked with for a few weeks, who had no recommendations for my nutrition. (After the Bells and Trigeminal diagnosis, I went plant based and eventually went to school to become a certified holistic nutritionist.)
Then came the GI specialist and Heart doctor, both who were equally confused to what was going on. Each time I walked out of an appointment with a mix of feeling like it was another dead end and the feeling of “I’m another step closer”.
Fast forward to finding out about Breast Implant Illness, I knew with every part of my being that this is the answer I had been looking for. 1 year of research, talking with different women, finding a surgeon (this is a whole other chapter on its own) and the finances, I was ready to trust my intuition.
Because of my weight (I was 75 lbs on explant day) and health concerns, the plastic surgeon wanted me to get cleared by my primary physician for surgery. At that appointment, I was lucky to have one of the sweetest women who had been part of trying to help me and when I told her what I was doing she was 100% intrigued and supportive. I had to also get cleared by a heart doctor after wearing a monitor for a week. The staff at that office were equally supportive and curious after hearing what I was doing.
Suddenly, after years of medical professionals being stumped and trying to make me feel crazy, I felt supported. I was cleared for surgery and on 2/28/2019. After that, my life changed forever for the better.
Immediately after waking up from surgery, breathing felt easy. It’s as if my lungs were able to expand without restrictions. It’s something I didn’t realize just how much I was struggling with until it improved. (That’s the story with most of the symptoms.)
I sat for the first week in my living room without the tv or music on, the world felt so new. I sat in a state of awe as the colors seemed brighter and I was noticing things I hadn’t before, it’s as if the clouds were clearing from my state of being. On day 4 my husband turned on the TV and I was able to read the guide! I shouted, “Praise God, holy shit! I can see!” Before the explant surgery, my vision started to get bad, I couldn’t read the TV or drive at night anymore. Today, my vision is completely back!
Every woman has a different experience, I went into surgery with zero expectations aside from the goal of feeling happier and healthier. Having that mind state has helped me along the healing journey because it’s important to know that we all heal on different timelines.
For the first month after surgery, I gave my body the comfort care that it desperately needed while noticing the subtle changes that radically shifted my life. I remember right before the explant surgery, when my hair was falling out a lot, I went to the salon hoping to get bangs thinking they would hide the bald spots on my head. I left crying when the hairdresser told me that it would only make it worse and it’s best to leave it alone with the way it was falling out. 3 months after my explant, I went back to the salon and left crying again, only this time it was because my hair was healthy and I was able to get bangs!
It’s been a little over a year since explanting and I know that it saved my life. It can take years for a woman’s body to heal after this and I am grateful for the shifts that have already happened and excited for what’s to come. My body is finally holding onto nutrients, I’m gaining weight again. I can see. I can focus. I can be present. I can breathe. I can move. I can sleep. I feel like myself. Most importantly, I can share my story and help other women follow their intuition to live a happier and healthier life while knowing there is someone out there who understands.
During this process, I spend the first year just connecting and learning from other women and this last year sharing my story to educate, spread awareness, and be a voice to help other women know they are not alone. Because that’s something that most women who live with BII feel, alone. But we never are. We all live through different circumstances, but we are more alike than we think. We are making history by standing together and creating change in our society and it’s a beautiful thing to be part of.