Coming Out

I’ve hesitated to write this because I’ve been extremely ill (feeling as if I’m in survival mode) for a couple of months, and I like to share good news that focuses on the bright side of life.

My mother always told my sisters, and me, to never air our “dirty laundry in public,” and by that she meant sharing secrets. But one persons dirty little secret may just be another person’s revelation!

I thought I was fully recovered from last year’s strokes, that they were a blip on the radar, then everything fell apart at the end of July. I went to the hospital again because of stroke symptoms, extremely high blood pressure, and arrhythmia. Because of Covid-19 restrictions, my sweetie dropped me off at the ER entrance and waved goodbye. Everything afterwards felt like I’d walked onto a movie set…
It is odd being hospitalized in a dim and silent place. There was no hustle and bustle, with only a handful of emergency patients (myself included) for the mask-and-shield-clad nursing staff to care for. One night they played “Taps” over the loud speaker. The staff in the hallway froze in place. Intuitively I knew what had happened: a Veteran had passed away. I sat alone in my bed, hand over my heart and sobbed. Four days later, I went home.

These past twelve weeks have been spent adjusting to a new medicine routine and weekly virtual visits with all of my doctors, old and new. I’ve also had a LinQ heart monitor implanted in my chest right above my heart. It still hurts and makes we want to vomit when I think about it too much. It caused an auto-immune reaction, and I’ve been working to calm the resulting Fibromyalgia flare-up.

And rather than tell anyone about this, I’ve been crying it out in therapy.

My dirty laundry, the secret I’ve hidden, is that in November 2002 I had breast implants. After researching them, I chose the “new, improved, saline-filled, safe kind.”. My clothes fit beautifully. I felt womanly. It was the best birthday present to myself, ever. Or so I thought.

But, with my new breasts came insomnia, as if someone had flipped a switch, and weeks later, wired, exhausted, and almost hysterical, I was prescribed Ambien to sleep. A few years later I came down with flu-like symptoms, a UTI, intense kidney pain and gout-like symptoms. My feet and hands swelled so badly that I feared I’d never be able to wear my new engagement ring again. My Internist was shocked and immediately referred me to a kidney specialist and a rheumatologist for help. Thus it began. More illnesses, more doctors, more diagnoses.

Overcoming a laundry-list of chronic disorders became my “hero’s journey,” the years spent working my way back toward good health. I wrote the book, “Sick and Tired & Sexy… Living Beautifully with Chronic Illness,” about what I learned, the changes I made to my lifestyle, and the mindfulness practices that anchored my recovery. I felt that I had reclaimed my life… and it has been good for the better part of the last five years.

Then things went off the rails with the strokes, a TIA, and heart problems last April. I believed everything seemed well-managed again. I’d been doing everything right, and yet here I was back in the hospital. Why was this happening again?

A month or so ago I serendipitously discovered a group called Healing Breast Implant Illness . After reading the information, I immediately joined their group on Facebook “Breast Implant Illness and Healing by Nicole.” Thousands and thousands of women have banded together to support each other by sharing their journey!

It had never, not even once, occurred to me that my breast implants were making me ill.

After researching everything – and I mean everything – about BII (Breast Implant Illness) I realized that I cannot recover when my body is constantly fighting the toxicity caused by the silicone in the implants. There is hard evidence that mixed-connective-tissue disorder and a rare type of lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) a cancer, have finally been linked to implants by the FDA. The latter resulted in an Allergan textured implant being recalled. Another problem is that this isn’t just happening to women like me, who did it for vanity… but also to women who have chosen implants for reconstruction after mastectomies for breast cancer!

People Magazine featured an article on Breast Implant Illness in its October 6th issue. The Doctors did an episode on BII. It’s all beginning to come out in public now.

Heart problems, blood-pressure problems, neurologic issues, kidney problems, sudden food allergies and intolerances, neck and shoulder pain, unexplained skin rashes, insomnia, thyroid problems, Sjogren’s Sydrome, chronic fatigue, connective-tissue disorders, Lupus, RA, Grave’s Disease, Hashimoto’s, panic attacks, anxiety, and feeling like you are dying are all common complaints from the 127,000+ women in the group. And this is only a partial list.

“What I thought would make me feel better about myself [turned out to be] the gateway to Hell.”

Member of Breast Implant Illness group.

It’s good to know that how I feel isn’t indicative of a slow and unmanageable decline… my body is screaming to be heard. Healing will involve an Explant, a surgery much more complicated and specialized than getting the implants was. I’ve been speaking to all of my doctors, had an explant surgery consultation, and have another surgeon to interview.

I read a study just days ago that stated that 80% of the 700+ women involved in it felt better immediately after their explant, and their health continued to improve as months went by. That is very good news! The surgery is a risk, and an expense uncovered by insurance that I am willing to take. I love myself enough to know that good health is way sexier than boobs.

If you know of anyone with implants who is ill, please share this post with them. If you know anyone considering implants, please share this with them. If you have any questions for me, I’ll be more than happy to share any and all of my research and experience.

Thank you for reading.
XO Donna

22 thoughts on “Coming Out

  1. Joan McMullen

    I’m so sorry you’ve had to go all this illness – and cannot believe the drug manufacturers, the FAA, and the AMA would allow this to be done to women. Glad you can now heal and get rid of the boobs
    sooner rather than later. Nuf said.

  2. Deborah

    Donna: I am so sorry for every thing you have been through. Hopefully after your upcoming surgery you can reverse all of this. Thank you for being brave enough to share your story as I believe you have helped a multitude of women. Sending you prayers and all the good wishes to assist and comfort you through this journey.

    Deborah

  3. This could very well be one of the most helpful and beneficial posts you’ve shared. I admire you for sharing your very personal story, which will undoubtedly reach others who will benefit from reading this. I will hold you in my heart, my prayers, and thoughts of moving forward in healing for you—much love to you, my friend.

  4. Lorraine Dorsey

    Oh Donna. I really admire you and feel so connected with you but also angry. How could this happen. I will talk to you in person.
    Love, your friend Lorraine

  5. Lucy Wilson

    What a brave thing you’ve done by sharing your story. You’ll never know the number of people you’ve reached by this. Praying for a quick and complete recovery for you. I look forward to reading your next installment. God bless
    Lucy

  6. Laurie S Mahaffey

    Sending love and hugs! You’ve always been a role model to me when it comes to nutrition & self care. Take exquisite care of you; there’s only one Donna! Laurie M.

  7. Cambrey

    While I had not heard of BII before reading your article, Donna, it certainly makes sense to me now. I am a small chested woman and have wondered what it would be like to have bigger boobs. This is not a price worth paying—thank you for clarifying that even the saline “safer” versions of the implants are detrimental to a woman’s health. Hugs and healing to you!

    • It’s so nice to hear from you, Cambrey! It has been a very high price to pay – for both being (human) a little bit vain, and for the fact that neither the manufacturer$ or the doctor$ had women’s best interests at heart. Thank you for your well wishes, luv!
      XO Donna

  8. esthermzimmer2016

    Donna, I’m so sorry to read what you’ve been through. It’s truly brave of you to share your experience – you could save a life by doing so! Sending much love, Essie. xo

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