My name is Chandra DeAlessandro. My 27-year struggle with “Last a Lifetime” implants has been a long journey. It started in 1989, when I was pressured into implants because of my profession. I believed that I would work more as an actress, stuntwoman and fitness clinician if I got implants. (I am a member of the Stuntwomen’s Association of Motion Pictures, Screen Actors Guild, and a 2nd degree black belt. I have numerous film, TV and commercial credits as well as fitness videos.)
My first breast augmentation involved a polyurethane textured implant called the Meme (made by Surgitek/Bristol-Myers Squibb) which was banned within months of my surgery. Shortly after surgery, my lymph nodes were swollen and tender all the time. I had to have a tonsillectomy, and antibiotics for reoccurring infections in my breast and lymph nodes. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and later developed a very painful Baker IV capsular contracture. Without social media and internet, I really could not get the information I needed – and my plastic surgeon did not notify me when the Meme implants were banned because research showed that the polyurethane used had not been designed to be in the human body, and broke down in the body to a chemical called 2-toluene (TDA), which is known to cause cancer.
In 2000, due to the capsular contracture, I had a capsuletomy (the implants and capsule removed) and replaced the implants. To ease my worries, I was told by my California surgeon that I could get silicone breast implants again if I agreed to participate in a 10-year “Core Study.” He told me that he and the implant company McGhan would closely monitor my health. Again, he did not inform me of any risks. As soon as the surgery was over, I was never contacted to be part of the study. If I had, the following 16 years of pain and suffering could have been avoided.
Instead, my health declined. I had 6 surgeries because of the implants, including a hysterectomy. My mind and body was screaming “IMPLANTS” as Doctors would tell me “NO WAY” – assuring me they are safe and FDA approved. The list of my symptoms was long and complicated: hormonal imbalances, depression, Hashimoto’s, Sjogren’s, adrenal fatigue, mystery rashes, brain fog, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, connective tissue disorder, digestive issues, kidney & liver dysfunction, reoccurring sinus infections, bronchitis, scarring on my lungs, breast pain/infections, lymph node swelling and discomfort, peripheral neuropathy, food allergies and more.
As my health declined, my career was also harmed. I had to be more selective in the stunt/acting jobs I accepted.
In October 2015, a routine mammogram ruptured my right implant, sending all the unidentified chemicals in my implants to wreak havoc on my already weakened body. I was finally explanted in March 2016, removing ALL the capsules (including those from previous implants, as well as a mass and 5 lymph nodes). Silicone had migrated all through my chest and clavicle area.
I have been diagnosed with two autoimmune disorders, Sjogren’s and Hashimoto’s, and was tested for implant related lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), a cancer of the immune system, in September 2016. In October 2016 another ultrasound was performed and another mass was detected. The mass was removed, and I am now waiting for additional test results.
I share my story as a mom of two beautiful girls. I never want them to go through the nightmare I have. I want them to love and accept their natural body. My oldest daughter is being tested for autoimmune disorders and has a very weakened immune system.
I advocate so other women can be informed of the risks of breast implants, including autoimmune diseases, capsular contracture, and BIA-ALCL. I want them to be warned that implants can interfere with breastfeeding, and can make mammograms dangerous since the pressure can cause rupture and leakage. The FDA, manufacturers, doctors, and Insurance providers need to be held accountable for the pain and suffering of millions of women. More studies need to be done to prove the safety and efficacy. Women need to be told the truth, so that they can provide informed consent for all the risks, including the financial and emotional costs. The FDA allowed the companies’ “studies” to drop most of their patients – in other words, they were not real studies. The FDA needs to require studies of all the women with implants and require accurate reporting by physicians who know their implant patients are harmed but aren’t notifying the FDA. Insurance companies need to pay for implant removal when it is medically necessary. Although my surgery certainly was medically necessary, I had to pay over $20,000.00. The illness has left a debilitating scar on my health but also my family, marriage, finances and career. No wonder so many women with implants suffer from depression and even turn to suicide.
I co-founded The Breast Implant Victim’s Advocacy. It is a group of women with a VOICE, working hard to change the flawed regulation of implants. We at BIVA stand up for those harmed by silicone and saline breast implants. We are currently lobbying in Washington, D.C. for Ariel Grace’s Law (HR5403) with women from the EssureProblems Facebook page, and others harmed by inadequately tested medical devices.
Although the damage is done on my body, I do feel better since the explant surgery. I have hope that we are making a strong impact and so thankful for Diana Zuckerman and NCHR for all you have done.
Be your own health advocate, fight to be heard and never give up!
Breast Implant Victim Advocacy