I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a radical mastectomy in 1978. I was just 25 years old at the time.
I waited 5 years before I decided to have reconstructive surgery. I led an active lifestyle. I played tennis, jogged, and taught aerobics. I had grown tired of the inconvenience of the prosthesis shifting and falling out of my bra when I perspired.
I consider myself a well-educated woman, and I thought that I had done my homework on breast implants prior to choosing the plastic surgeon to perform my reconstructive surgery. However, I was never advised of any health risks associated with the silicone gel breast implants. In fact, I was told that they would “last a lifetime” and “complication were rare”.
Within 3 months of the initial reconstruction, I was back on the operating table. My body had formed a capsule around the implant and the implant had shifted up under my collarbone. The searing pain at that time was causing my shoulder to become immobile.
My symptoms of physical illness began slowly. At first I contributed the fatigue, aches, and pains to just getting older. (I was only 36 years old!) This was the summer of 1990…6 years after I had been implanted.
In July 1992 I had a severe case of the flu, and 6 weeks later I was still so fatigued that my life was being drastically effected. I continue to live with GI problems, sleep disorders, night sweats, chronic fatigue, myalgias, and joint pain.
I have gone to various doctors and specialists and have been given a list of various possible diagnoses. Atypical Connective Tissue Disease is number one.
Before I had the implant removed in June of 1994 (10 years after the initial reconstruction), I was again wearing a partial prosthesis over the implant. Capsular contracture had again become a problem and I was misshapen and lopsided. The explantation was the 5th surgery at my breast site.
To date, my out of pocket medical expenses total close to $40,000. My husband and I are self-insured. The insurance policy that we took out in 1990 carried an exclusion. I was not covered for any illness or disability related to the reconstructive surgery. Apparently the insurance companies understood that there are health risks associated with breast implants and they are not willing to bear the financial costs.
I have come to realize that there is not a miracle cure for me. I have developed a life routine that works for me and allows me to share a productive life with my family. I continue to share my story with anyone willing to listen, hoping that I can spare just one woman from experiencing what I went through with breast implants.