On October 10 of 2018 I received a private message via Facebook from a friend, Erika, who thought I may be interested in reading a story shared by her friend Tammy Marshall. When I finished, I was in tears. You see, Tammy was not only on her own very painful journey with multiple surgeries, but she had also just lost her Mom weeks after I did. I think Erika was trying to connect us for more than one reason. (Thank you, Erika.)
I reached out to Tammy and immediately felt like we a lot in common. My heart breaks for her and I think about her daily, but I also think about her strength and the guts it must take to do what she is doing here. Tammy assured me she wants to share her story with other women, lots of other women, and I am humbled and grateful she has chosen me to do this.
Tammy has Breast Implant Illness (BII).
This illness is characterized by chronic negative health effects resulting from implantation of silicone or saline breast implants. Symptoms of breast implant illness vary from person to person due to genetics (MTHFR, HLA-B27, HLA-DR52, and HLA-DR53), pre-existing autoimmune disease, type of implants, progression of illness, use of mammograms, and trauma. --breastplantillness.com
Her words are her own, though I have edited for simplicity, clarification, or added a definition where I thought needed. Tammy owns all photos except where noted.
This is Tammy's journey with BII.
I am writing this now with the understanding that at the time, I had no idea what I was going through, what was happening to me. I never thought for a moment my symptoms and negative side-effects came from my silicone breast implants. This is my story and how I recall it.
In October 2002 at the age of 38 I elected to get silicone breast implants. I thought long and hard about it. I realized there was some controversy but after consideration, I didn’t believe Dow Corning would release anything that would harm people. As a matter of fact, my father worked for Dow Corning.
In hindsight, I had signs of Breast Implant Illness (BII) within months of my implant surgery. By the summer of 2003 my immune system was compromised to the point I was unable to spend any time in the sun, I had chronic cold sores in my nose, and I had a rash that never seemed to go away and got worse when I was put under stress.
In my head I kept thinking how selfish it would be if my loved ones had to care for me during my final days like I was caring for my mother – over breast implants.
In July of 2003 my family moved from Texas to Canada. Healthcare was a bit different there since we were still US citizens and within a year we packed up and headed back to the United States. The following year is a blur but it included rashes, migraines, cold sores, and so much more.
In 2006 I moved into my current home and established a Primary Care Physician (PCP). With my constant complaints of ailments, I was referred to dermatologists, infectious disease doctors, and gastro and rheumatoid arthritis experts. Long story short, I endured years of unanswered questions about numerous ailments only to be prescribed countless medications. My symptoms were:
Chronic nasal cold sores
Elevated inflammation markers
Elevated liver levels
Between 2012 and 2014 my husband and I visited plastic surgeons about removing my implants only to be told: If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. I left confused knowing I was told the implants needed to be removed/replaced in about ten years from the date they were implanted. My symptoms continued for years.
In November of 2017, my mother was diagnosed with late stage 4b endometrial adenocarcinoma and she passed away on August 9, 2018. During this time both my adult daughters bombarded me with information about BII. Being my Mom’s caretaker allowed me time to read the information my children sent to me. With everything I read, it was easy to compare myself to these women in some form or fashion. I did not go into this looking for a label to a disease. I was wholeheartedly living my life and taking the medications I was given to treat my multiple symptoms.
I will share that I often would say to close friends and family: If my skin is so bad on the outside, what is going on the inside? Never once did I think it was my implants.
He said: It is time. It is time for you to remove the two toxic bags that are sitting on your chest affecting every organ in your body.
During my mother’s Hospice days, I shared with her that I felt I needed to have my breast implants removed. While I did not share all my findings with her, I did share quite a bit. Our thought was that life was meant to be lived. If in fact it was my implants causing all my health issues – take them out. In my head I kept thinking how selfish it would be if my loved ones had to help me during my final days like I was caring for my mother – over breast implants.
At the end of August, I scheduled a consultation with a plastic surgeon who firmly believes in Breast Implant Illness and performs the capsulectomy/enbloc. I also scheduled a mammogram. It was during my consult that my doctor said two things that really made me think. He said: It is time. It is time for you to remove the two toxic bags that are sitting on your chest affecting every organ in your body. He also said that if I didn’t choose him as my surgeon, to make sure I lined up someone soon because they needed to come out. I knew it was time. No questions asked.
When the doctor left my husband and me in the room so I could get dressed, I looked at Bryon and said this is where we need to decide if we want another consultation or if we want to schedule surgery. Bryon said we were scheduling the next available surgery date. We left the office booked for September 28th.
On September 14th I had my mammogram and a week later I got my results. The scan showed my implants were intact and my elective surgery to have a breast explant was unwarranted. The report was also faxed to my plastic surgeon but we moved forward anyway.
On September 28th we arrived at the surgery center at 10:30am and were home by 5:00pm. Once home I took to the recliner to begin my healing process. At around 8:30pm, my doctor B called to check on me and I told him I was feeling okay. It was then he told me that I should start feeling better because BOTH implants had ruptured.
The left implant was disintegrating within the capsule the body makes to protect us from foreign objects. The right was so fragile that once he took it out of the capsule and squeezed it, it cracked in multiple places and silicone oozed out. Hearing this after being told my implants were intact and my surgery was unwarranted was shocking.
Mainstream medical doctors do NOT correlate symptoms women have with the breast implants in their bodies. Our current medical system does not seek to determine the underlying causes of disease. They treat symptoms which is why women with implants can go to countless numbers of doctors in various specialties (endocrinologists, rheumatologists, cardiologists, pulmonologists, neurologists, ophthalmologists etc.). We get tested and treated with drugs, but never find out what caused our illnesses. In other words, the goal is not to return women to a state of vibrant health, it's to drug them in order to mask symptoms.
Our medical system is one of sick care, not health care.
Breast implants are manufactured with toxic chemicals and heavy metals which trigger an immune system response. The scar tissue (capsules) that form around all implants is your body's natural response to any foreign object. Your body was designed to defend itself against foreign invaders but it can't fight off two bags of poison surgically implanted inside your body.
When saline and silicone breast implants remain in the body, they overwhelm the immune system allowing various infections to gain a foothold causing many debilitating symptoms. Eventually the immune system can become dysfunctional and start to "over react" and attack healthy tissue leading to autoimmune conditions. If you research symptoms of autoimmune conditions and other illnesses, you will find all the symptoms that women with breast implants report.
Below is one of thousands of FDA documents with information about breast implants. Please take a look at the information presented. Keep on reading. Does it sound like you're reading about safe, cosmetic devices? Hardly. Unless using the word 'safe' in the same sentence as gel bleed, implant rupture, toxic shock syndrome, necrosis, seroma, extrusion, lymphadenopathy, methyl butanoate, acetone, benzaldehyde, cyclohexanone, toxicology data, cytotoxicity, genotoxicity or carcinogenicity makes sense to you, and you "trust" the FDA's definition of no significant side-effects.
It couldn't be more clear that implants are toxic and until they're removed there is no way for a woman to regain her health. The likelihood of finding a doctor who will unequivocally state your implants caused your illnesses is extremely remote. The choice is yours. Wait for a doctor to tell you your implants are making you sick, or make an intelligent decision and have them removed as soon as possible.
This imagine is what a physician “should” remove when performing an explant.
Leaving the toxic capsule that our body forms around the implant inside “the patient” is NOT removing the whole problem.
Note from Heather (GGS): Tammy, thank you for sharing your experience. I think you are so brave, and to go through all of this while taking care of your Mom had to be so difficult. I admire your strength, even if you don't feel strong. I'm so very sorry for your loss.