When I started my blog back in 2010, I committed to be candid, to push myself to say more than might be strictly comfortable. Why? Because in most Christian circles I’d been in, we didn’t talk enough about the tough theology or practical steps or sensitive topics.
Beyond the sensitive topic of sex, I’ve been candid about body image and breast augmentation. Today, I’m going to keep that up by sharing why I took my implants out.
Sharing About My Augmentation
In 2011, I wrote two posts about my decision to get breast augmentation, then a follow-up months later, and a second follow-up (based on a reader question) in 2017. Those posts are not available right now, because I want to revisit them and see whether they should be given an introductory disclaimer, revised to include what I know now, or simply discarded. But back then, I wrote:
After living with a pubescent chest for almost thirty years, watching my breast disappear every time I raise my arm above my head, and putting 19 of every 20 outfits I try on back on the rack because they don’t fit my bodice, I started thinking the unthinkable. What if plastic surgery isn’t about how I appear to others or vanity? What if it’s about how I feel about myself? About feeling normal?Aiming for My Best Chest, Part 1
Some basic questions ran through my mind as I determined whether I could have plastic surgery and honor God through the process:
1. Am I being a good financial steward? Plenty of people spend the same amount of money on vacations, furniture, home renovations, etc. That’s okay, as long as we are taking care of our families’ needs and giving generously to our local church and those in need. I had to know that we had money to use for this event and weren’t taking it from another, essential area.
2. Am I seeking a vain, unrealistic ideal? God looks at the heart, not the outward appearance (1 Samuel 16:7). If we believe that our worth is driven by external beauty, we’ve missed the point. I get that. I’m not determining my worth based on that. You see, I don’t want to win a wet t-shirt contest, just shop in the women’s lingerie department.
3. Am I choosing a size consistent with the body God gave me? Women do lots of things to enhance their beauty–from make-up to Botox to liposuction. Where’s the line? I don’t know! But I’m pretty sure that a woman slapping in implants big enough to don an F-cup results in the wrong kind of attention. So I’ve done what I can to keep myself in check–choosing an implant that will take me to a reasonable bra size.
4. Am I able to help others in the future with this issue? I think so. Sure, there are times we’d all like an extreme makeover, but my experience might help others sort through the actual issues involved. You gotta ask yourself: Why am I doing this? Is it pure vanity or something else?Aiming for My Best Chest, Part 2
I took my sweet time considering this operation–making sure that I was sure.
Believe me, I did my homework! In answer to a reader’s question on how I felt about my implants six years later, I said:
Will you have any regrets? I don’t know. I can’t predict what anyone else will feel. For myself, I have none. But a good portion of why I don’t have regrets is that I carefully considered my decision, researched my options, discussed it fully with my husband, and prayed to make sure my motives were not selfish vanity.Q&A with J: “How Do You Feel about Your Implants Now?”
Many people had no idea I’d had the procedure done, because I had chosen implants proportionate to my body shape and size and didn’t flaunt them unnecessarily. (I did flaunt them at my husband, but he liked my chest being flaunted at him whatever its size!)
We Had a Good Run
As I said back in 2017, I had no regrets. I healed fine from the surgery, had no decrease in sensitivity (perhaps even an increase), and found it much easier to shop for clothes. My husband liked the result too, not in the sense of those breasts being better but different and allowing for new exploration.
But in October 2020, I got sick and my health problems persisted. You can read more at Are Breast Implants Bad for You? Essentially, I had severe fatigue, body aches, joint pain, weakness, headaches, mild dizziness, and my least favorite, brain fog.
What on earth was going on?!
Nine months later, I have a really good idea. Not because any one doctor had the diagnosis, but because I slowly but surely pieced together the puzzle.
The corner piece for me was menopause. Among other benefits, estrogen provides immune system support (very good for a potential or current mom to have!). Once that coverage went away, underlying health issues floated to the top. From October to now, I discovered:
- Mild rheumatoid arthritis, which explained some of the joint pain.
- Root canal infection, and retreatment made my headaches subside.
- Deviated septum and sinus issues as well as obstructive sleep apnea, which resulted in nose surgery and a CPAP respectively, both helping me to breathe and sleep better.
Yet the fatigue, aches, weakness, and brain fog continued. The most likely explanation I’d found was Breast Implant Illness (BII), a widespread immune system response triggered by the presence of that foreign body. It’s not an official diagnosis—and may never be, given healthcare industry incentives—but thousands of women have reported similar symptoms and relief when they got their implants explanted.
I still had no regrets for the decision I made back in 2010, because I’d done so as responsible and thoroughly as I could at the time. But now that there was a possibility that my implants were causing my health struggles? Well, we had a good run, but it was time to shut that show down.
Removing My Implants
I consulted three plastic surgeons—including my original one, who’d previously done a great job but denied the possibility of breast implant illness—before choosing one I trusted to perform my explant surgery. My doctor‘s practice is almost entirely breast implant removal these days, and he has a long track record of knowing how to remove the implants properly and completely. (For anyone looking for an explant surgeon, you can find a good list of options to start your search here.)
On the afternoon of June 10, I walked into the surgical room, laid down on the waiting gurney, and seconds later, the anesthesiologist had knocked me out. When I woke up, I was groggy and in a bit of pain, but my husband escorted me out and we made the hour-plus drive back home.
Fast forward through pain medication, propping up to sleep, and surgical drains, and we reach two weeks post-surgery. While I was still sore and recovering, it was like a cloud lifted and I had more strength, energy, and clear thinking. For those who read my post about no longer having my monkey circus brain, I felt confident that the chimps were coming back home.
Are all my issues resolved? I need more time to know for sure. But call me a believer that Breast Implant Illness is a real thing and removal of implants can help those who have it.
As for what’s left behind, I’m not concerned about the loss of size or the longer scars that come with this surgery. No one questions when a woman (or man) with breast cancer has her (his) original-issue breasts removed to get better. So why would I balk at taking out upgrades for the sake of my health? If it hadn’t worked, it was still no huge loss.
But it looks like it did work for me.
What Do I Think About Implants Now?
Are implants bad for you? I posed that question in a previous post, and my answer is … maybe but probably not. From what I gathered in my research, plenty of women get breast implants and never have any problems at all.
However, I’m also convinced that breast implant candidates should be screened for autoimmune issues. Moreover, patients should receive more complete information and thorough consent forms (explained in full) before undergoing surgery. (See Breast Implants – Certain Labeling Recommendations to Improve Patient Communication – Guidance for Industry and Food and Drug Administration Staff (fda.gov).) And finally, women with breast implants should receive FDA-recommended ultrasounds or MRIs at 5-6 years postoperatively and every 2-3 years thereafter.
A small percentage of women will have issues. If you think you might have Breast Implant Illness, head over to this post where I include more research information: Are Breast Implants Bad for You?
But do your homework about other possible health issues. It might not be your implants at all. Or maybe not the only issue. Had I jumped right onto BII, I might have resolved my primary issues, but I would still have the headaches and not know about my rheumatoid arthritis. Just look into the options before self-diagnosing BII or something else.
What I hope no one concludes from my story is that all plastic surgery is bad—that we can’t or shouldn’t mess with God’s creation. Yes, I fully believe in being grateful for the body we have that God knit together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13-14). However, plastic surgery has also done wonders for people with birth defects or recovering from a physical injury. And it has helped some deal with body image challenges in reasonably healthy ways.
I’m not opposed to plastic surgery. (See Should Christians Get Plastic Surgery?) Rather, I believe in being cautious and responsible in making such decisions, using the knowledge and insight we can gain from science and others, and seeking the counsel of God and trusted fellow Christians. As your fellow Christian, I hope my candid story can help.