Monday, 27 July 2020

My story - Breast Implant Illness - BII

Nothing is forever, and we shouldn’t take the opportunities we are given for granted. Right now, I’m facing a decision that will no doubt impact my life in more ways than I can consider at this moment. It’s emotional, I’m full of mixed feelings, but I know I’m blessed to have the support of the Fitcover Fit-Fam (which includes you) through this journey.

Almost ten years ago, I had breast augmentation surgery. Looking back, and knowing what I know about life now, I’m not sure that I’d make the same decision again. I actually had great natural breasts, but at the time I felt they would be better with more. Back then, I felt this need to be ‘sexy’ all of the time. And it’s definitely a feeling that a lot of women can relate to.

The thing is, I now have two beautiful children and plans to grow my family so I can’t help but think about the possible long-term consequences of leaving them in. My perspective on ‘sexy’ has changed too, and I’m confident in my relationships in different ways as well as seeing my body entirely differently after having babies.

I also have a type of implant that has been recalled due to health concerns and it’s been playing on my mind.

I’ve made the decision to have my breast implants removed. It's called an explant!

I know it’s going to be an emotional rollercoaster for me, so I want to share the experience with you and hope that hearing my story can help you tackle a difficult decision in your life. As today (July 28, 2020) is the day of my explant surgery, I’m probably already in recovery when you read this.

After you watch the first Vlog, please keep reading for more of the health and technical things that I didn’t squeeze into the video:

Breast implants - what are they?

“Fake boobs” are usually silicone or saline-filled pockets that are implanted into the breast to make them look fuller, higher and more symmetrical. They’re available in different shapes and sizes depending on the aesthetic goals. Breast implants don’t last forever and should be replaced every ten to twenty years (depending on the manufacturer).

What happens during breast implant surgery?

A plastic surgeon handles breast implant surgeries. This is usually done while you’re under a general anaesthetic and you’ll likely get to go home the same day.

The surgeon will make incisions below the lower curve of the breast and place the implant either underneath or just above the chest muscle. There are many reasons why each style will be used, but the most common reasons for the above-muscle type is either to achieve a more round and prominent shape or to reduce disruption to the chest muscle in athletes.

Other incisions are made around the areola (coloured area around the nipple) and in the armpit area to help sit the implant correctly and to make sure the nipples sit naturally (and symmetrically) after the surgery.

The cuts usually heal well and are barely noticeable because they sit in the natural crease under the breast, are hidden in the edge of the areola or are in a hidden area like the armpit.

What are the alternatives to breast implants?

If you want to change the appearance of your chest, there are other options besides getting a boob job, each with different pros and cons. Things like breast lift surgery and fat transplants; but, they don’t offer the kind of dramatic size increase that traditional implants do.

Exercise can also dramatically change your chest area but will usually result in smaller, firmer breasts as body fat reduces and muscle mass increases.

Why would someone choose to get a boob job?

I know from experience that the reasons many women decide to get a boob job are complex—maybe even more complicated than mine. These can range from wanting to create more symmetry between the breasts (if one is smaller or a different shape to the other or the upper body is less curvy than the lower) through to fixing up aesthetic issues from prior breast surgeries.

And I can confidently say that having them or not having them is a decision none of us takes lightly! Even though I’m having mine removed, I really want to stress that each and every one of us deserves respect to make that decision on our own terms.

Are you considering getting a boob job or having explant surgery?

If you’re at the beginning of your journey to making the decision, either way, my only advice is that you do your research, so you’re making a really informed decision. As with anything, consider the known risks, but also remember there are a lot of women who don’t have any issues and you have to make the decision that you’re most comfortable with and honours your body and who you are in the best way you can.

The possible complications of breast augmentation surgery.

Around six years ago, the area around my left implant started swelling up and felt really hot and started making me really sick. Any kind of side effects or illnesses after breast augmentation is called Breast Implant Illness, or BII.

My surgeon ended up taking the implant out, took a biopsy of the surrounded tissue, cleaned the area and put a new implant in. In the lab, he tested to see if anything would grow from the biopsy and came back with no results.

I got better with the new implant, but we were left really not knowing what had caused the BII symptoms to begin with.

The links between cancer and breast implants.

They’ve now established a link between the type of implants I have and lymphoma cancer. There are also other makes of implants that have been linked to similar issues.

Any breast implants that have shown to have a higher than the normal range of side effects end up being recalled, just like mine have. They stop being produced, and any women that has them are monitored and should undergo implant replacements at around the ten-year mark even if they’ve been perfectly healthy with them.

Lymphoma cancer doesn’t just go away, and despite my history of BII, I’ve tested 100% clear of the lymphoma. My surgeon, Dr Rodey Cooter, has confirmed that what I experienced, even if we aren’t sure what it was, it wasn’t related to cancer.

Breast implants can cause other issues.

My experience with BII is not isolated. Some estimate that at least 1% of women are experiencing complications linked to their implants at any given time. These complications can range from the incisions from the surgery not healing well, damage or rupture to the implants, through to severe issues like toxic shock syndrome (which can cause death).

All of the possible complications have symptoms that you should be on the lookout for and seek medical attention if you notice them; including:

- Lumps in the breast or armpit area
- Swelling or fluid retention
- Changes in the appearance, symmetry or shape
- Changes in the texture or firmness
- Skin rashes, discolouration and irritation

Many women have had no complications and may never experience any.

It's essential to make sure you’re listening to your body, taking care of yourself and seeking medical advice when things aren’t right. And that goes for all of us—get checked if something doesn’t seem right regardless of if you’ve had plastic surgery or not!

What to do when you experience BII symptoms.

The first thing is you should do is try and keep calm and not panic. There are so many possibilities that are not life-threatening. Also, even if it’s lymphoma, it’s typically a very treatable condition, especially if it’s caught early (because you’re taking care of yourself).

You shouldn’t ever feel you have to tackle these things alone! Seek the love and support from your friends and family- even those that weren’t supportive of your surgery in the beginning because they probably only felt that way because they care about you.

And this goes without saying, but I’m going to say it! You need to make an appointment with your surgeon to find out what’s going on and get the best recommendations for you.
Options women have when they experience breast implant complications.

It’s so important to talk to your doctor because you might only need antibiotics and rest to help the healing process. But, if it does turn out to be something more severe or persistent and you’re considering surgery again, you do have options that you can discuss with your surgeon.

While I’ve chosen to have mine removed and not replaced, it’s not the only option. Depending on your situation, your doctor might suggest:

- Replacing your implants with a lower risk alternative
- Breast lift with implant replacement
- Breast lift with implant removal
- Removal with natural fat transplant (from available fat on other parts of your body)

The point is, you’ve got choices. And, if you make a choice and then later down the track it doesn’t feel right for you, you CAN change your mind and try something else.

My story moving forward - breast explant surgery.

It’s been almost ten years, and I’m due to have my current implants are at the end of their lifespan. I have considered having them replaced with new implants that have no known risks. But, my life-perspective has changed in the past decade, and the possible dangers of having foreign items permanently in my body outweigh the benefits of keeping my chest augmented.

If you’re facing this decision, there are two ways breast implant removal can be done- either removing just the implant and leaving the capsule in or removing the capsule with the implant.

The capsule is a shell of scar tissue that forms around the implant. This is often the tissue that complications can originate.

For some women, removing the capsule must be done to reduce/eliminate the risk of further complications. The trade-off is that this can cause the natural breast left behind to collapse and look hollow. However, if the capsule is left in, it can help the chest to remain more full and shapely, even though the implant is gone.

For me, there isn’t any evidence of lymphoma present in the tissues surrounding my implants, so I’ll be able to leave the capsule in, but my implants are going!

There is some risk that the capsule contains leeched chemicals from my implants, but under the circumstances, I feel comfortable about leaving the capsule in as long as the implants are removed.

Another really important thing to consider is your age and the condition of your body. I’m lucky that the prognosis for me is that in my natural state, the appearance of my breasts should still be what I think is beautiful. My doctor has confirmed that I haven’t lost tone and elasticity despite having two children and breastfeeding.

But, every woman is different, so you really do need to talk to your surgeon about what your options are and consider their advice when deciding what’s best for you.

Will my body feel like it belongs to a stranger?

This has been such a tough decision to make, and I am keeping an open mind. I know it’s possible that since I’ve known my body as an adult with implants, that I may feel differently about it after the surgery. I’m not ruling out having implants ever again If it’s a year or more down the track and things just don’t feel right my doctor has assured me that I have the option to have implants again.

For now, I promised myself I’d take it day by day and really monitor how I’m feeling and listen to myself, value my thoughts and feelings and act in a way that is best for my family and me.

I’ll definitely keep you updated on my progress through my vlogs. If you have any questions, there’s anything you’d really like to ask about the surgery, any advice you need if you’re going through something similar, please just comment below, follow my vlogs, or DM me on IG, @NovaJaneFit_.

Love ya babes, and thank you for letting me share my journey with you!


Nova Jane


  1. I have implants, silicone was recommended for me to replace natural breast due to double mastectomy as part of breast cancer treatment. It’s been 11 years 1 looks good the other does not. On my right side the covering surrounding the implant was attached to the scar tissue which was removed but left that side even more misshapen than it was with original implant surgery. I have to have them replaced or do something else and honestly with the itching I frequently experience with the implants that no one seems to able to tell me the cause of; I don’t want to replace them. I’m looking at other options but still want something that is going to look good as my body image has been completely ruined in part because the right implant has never looked good at all. My original surgeon said “ let it get worse and then we’ll see what to do. That was 9 years ago. I’m going to a new surgeon obviously, but I’m nervous as to additional scaring that might be caused by an alternative treatment like fat grafting. I’m also worried that like now I’ll have lumpiness under the skin a cellulite like texture in both rather than just the one. In addition to that the entirety of both breasts was removed with no ability to save nipples which will have to be tattooed. Sigh, although it’s a personal decision I suggest to anyone wanting implants for aesthetic reasons to explore all options before making a decision. I didn’t have that option but if you do please know that implants can have serious issues and may not be a simple 1 shot procedure that needs redoing about every ten years. You could like I did have a variety of issues that will require additional money, time and recovery as not everyone’s body reacts the same. I am happy for you Nova that you’ve found what will make you feel and look good. Thank you for sharing your story as it reminds me of a lot of questions I need to ask on the 7/30/20 when I see the new surgeon.

  2. Hi Alix,

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience. This will really help open readers minds to thinking twice on getting breast implants. I am so lucky i had my eyes open when scrolling through social and seeing so many stories on Breast implant illness. It made me go down into a massively deep rabbit hole of research. If only i have this information at my finger tips when i was going in to get my implants put into my body. Our scares are our battles wounds and they are a symbol of our growth and journey in life. I don't even need to meet you to know how brave of a woman you are. Going through what you already have is incredible and a real story to tell.
    I believe we all go through what we do so that we can share it with others to be able to help them. So much love for you. Nova Janexxx


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