Category Archives: Personal Stories

Kaylee Silcox: A Letter to My 20 Year-Old Self

Dear Kaylee,
You are one lucky young woman. You are the most vibrant, healthy and happy 20-year old. You have the world in the palm of your hand. You’re doing great in school, have a fun bar-tending job and a great social life. You’re a genuinely kind person, and just beautiful inside and out. If only you could see this, maybe you could learn to love yourself before it’s too late.

I know you’re struggling inside, but we all have body insecurities that we want to change. I understand that you’re most insecure about your flat chest, but I wish you could just embrace it and love yourself in your natural state. Now, let me warn you: implanting two foreign objects into your chest is going to change a whole lot more than your bra size.

I know how determined you are to achieve your idea of the “perfect body”. Even your plastic surgeon will tell you that a breast augmentation will only improve your quality of life and your self-esteem! It will make your decision to go under the knife that much easier. You will trust your plastic surgeon. Why wouldn’t you? He is a doctor, after all.  You’ll think he really has your best interest at heart. He will assure you that saline breast implants are the safest on the market.  He will silence any of your doubts. The only question he will leave in your mind is whether or not you should go bigger. He will tell you that most women wish they had, and that’s the only complaint he had ever heard from his former patients.

Your surgeon will forget to tell you one thing; you are just a guinea pig. He won’t tell you that there is a major lack of research regarding long-term effects of saline breast implants. It must have been lost in translation, as he will continue to rave about all the ways that breast implants will improve your life. He’s going to tell you that your implants will last a lifetime! Deep down, you’ll know it sounds too good to be true. That’s because it is. You will convince yourself that a one-time fee of $7,500 would be worth the money. It’s a lot of money, but he says that they will never have to be removed, and you will be one step closer to perfection. If you only knew the financial burden that awaits you.

That one-time fee of $7,500 will quickly turn to $25,000 over the next 6 years. You’ll have endless medical bills, treatments, medications, and you will ultimately need a second surgery. You will lose wages in the meantime, as you’ll be far too ill to hold down a job. Oh, and you can forget about being able to continue to bartend. Your arms and your legs will start to go numb randomly, and you’ll lose the strength in your arms and hands to even pour a drink. Besides, how are you going to be able to remember any of the customer’s orders with the memory loss and brain fog you’ll start to experience? Some days the extreme fatigue will the best of you. Just getting yourself ready and driving to work will be exhausting. Soon, you will be too sick and too tired to work at all. If your desire is to become extremely sick, broke, and depressed, then this is definitely the perfect procedure for you.

The new clothes and bathing suits you can’t wait to buy after surgery will end up going to waste. Going to the beach or on vacation will become a distant memory. The sun will be far too bright for your sensitive eyes and skin. Your joint pain will be too unbearable to lay in the sand on the beach or even on a cushioned lounge chair by the pool. The social life you once had and your motivation to get dressed up and ready to go out will become non-existent.  So there will be no need for a new wardrobe; sweat pants and t-shirts will become your new go-to outfit. Save that wardrobe money and get yourself a comfortable bed. You’re going to spend most of your time there.

You won’t have much energy at all at this point. You’ll spend what little you have left traveling from doctor to doctor, searching for an answer. You’ll almost always leave the office disappointed and in tears. You won’t even have the energy to convince your family that you’re not crazy or a hypochondriac anymore.

You will reach a place of desperation. You’ll start to hope that your doctors can find something, anything wrong. You need answers, and the years of suffering without any explanation will feel unbearable. You’ll constantly be asked what’s wrong, and you’ll barely be able to simply mutter “I’m sick”. With what? You won’t know. You will know you’re sick, but no one, including you, will know why for many years to come.

After 6 miserable years, you will learn about Breast Implant Illness (BII), and it’s all going to finally make sense. You may think back to your psychologist clearance appointment just before your surgery, which was a requirement of your trusty surgeon. You’ll wonder why he would send you to a psychologist, while supposedly having no idea that women with no mental health issues prior to implanting are still 12 times more likely to commit suicide versus women without implants. Your skepticism will continue to grow, and that high suicide rate among women with implants will come as no surprise to you by this point. Your depression and anxiety will take over your mind. You will struggle to the darkest depths, darker than you could have ever imagined possible. Some days, you will wish it could all just be over. You will have no quality of life, and some days just won’t feel worth living anymore. You will wonder how your life has completely deteriorated right before your eyes. You will feel fooled by the cosmetic surgery industry. You will wish that you could go back and just love yourself for who you are.

In your own studies, you will find that there is little to no research linking your symptoms to your implants. Adverse effects of your “safe” saline implants will be especially difficult to research as they are approved by the FDA and have been for many years. You will wonder how your own providers could promise you that your implants are not the cause of your illness. How is it even possible for doctors to come to this conclusion with such certainty? Sure, there’s no research that proves that implants make you sick, but there’s also no research that proves they don’t. These surgeons know the risks that their young, vulnerable patients are signing up for, and they will do a great disservice to many other women like you. They will operate on unsuspecting patients like yourself. They will continue to promote what will make you “beautiful”, and you will never have the opportunity to make an informed decision.

This illness is going to leave a debilitating scar on your body and your health. It will scar you emotionally as well. It will affect your ability to maintain a good relationship with your family and boyfriend. It will destroy your financial state and obliterate any career goals. In essence, it is going to ruin your life and you’re going to have to start all over, rebuilding your life piece by piece. This is why, Kaylee, I am urging you to learn to love yourself. Embrace your beauty and your perceived flaws. You are worth so much to so many people and we love you exactly as you are.

Love, Kaylee

See her story on CBS here.

Karen McDougal

karen mcdougalI had my implants put in March 1996 and removed almost 21 years later on January 31, 2017.   I was a Playmate of the year and a successful model, so the decision to have my implants removed was not an easy one.
I had smooth saline on top of the muscle.  I thought I had 350 cc but they were much larger – so large that my explanting surgeon, Dr. Rankin, said they were crammed up under my arms.  I drafted this only 3 weeks after my explant surgery, but I already felt better — my vision wasn’t blurred, my severe knee pain was gone, migraines were gone, dizziness gone.  It’s now 7 weeks after my explant surgery and I’m feeling even better — better than I have in over a year!

I got the implants put in because I wanted a larger bust.   I thought it would make me feel more like a woman, and I guess it did in a superficial way! I did love having them, to be honest.  If I knew then what I know now, though, I would have NEVER gotten implanted!

By the time I decided to have the implants removed, I felt like I was slowly dying.  All I could do was lay in bed, cry and pray to God, asking him to please “don’t take me yet..give me one more day”!
Here’s my story.

Around January 2016 I started getting ‘sick,’ but as I look back, many symptoms began around 7-8 years after getting the implants.  For example, my hormones were disrupted, I had fatigue and thyroid issues, I developed allergies to everything, my eyes were consistently red/sick looking.  In fact, I got sick so much that it became a joke to those around me, “You are the sickest healthy person I know”! I would get sick every few months, and the worst part was, each sickness lasted 6-8 weeks at a time, and I’d have to spend my days in bed when that happened.  I couldn’t understand how someone so healthy and fit could get so sick all the time! Then the headaches became more frequent.

Fast forward to around July 2016: I was getting worse.  My vision was blurred and I was dizzy most of the time –blacking out or almost passing out many times a day, hard to breathe, having trouble swallowing or a choking feeling, chronic fatigue, memory issues, heart palpitations.  Even on my ‘good days’ I was at 50% — but I really looked forward to those days.  I’d have between 3-5 good days and I would try to do as much as I could because I knew the bad days were coming again.  I would get my errands done, work done, play with my animals a lot as I couldn’t do much when ‘down’, I’d work out (even though I had no strength to work out, because I figured a  light workout was better than nothing, especially mentally).  On good days I’d also have nail and hair appointments, take my selfies for my social media, etc.

I was seriously worried about my health and my life! I went to the doctor, neurologist, hormone doctor – but they all said “There’s nothing wrong, you are healthy, maybe you are depressed.”  I mentioned breast implant Illness to them and none really believed in it.  So I stopped wasting money for NO answers.

I prayed and prayed and GOD led me to do what was necessary to regain my health.  It was October 2016.  I had to stop driving because I would have such severe panic attacks, and my vision was blurry consistently now.  The dizziness/blacking out was most of the day, the headaches became severe migraines that were so bad that prescription migraine meds wouldn’t even touch them.  My hearing sensitivity was so bad that  couldn’t handle any noise –not the TV, radio, or even people talking.  Hearing my own voice hurt me!  I also had light sensitivity, which made it hard to even look outside — and when I did, I felt dizzier.

I had NO life!! People just didn’t understand.  I had friends say “you’re always sick” or thinking I was just lazy or just ignoring them.  Nobody had heard of breast implants causing illness, but in their defense, I have to admit I had rolled my eyes when my friend brought it up to me a year before when he told me his wife went through it.  At the time, I had thought “I’ve had mine for years, and I’m fine”.

So I stopped talking about it to anyone.  It became my ‘silent’ misery, my nightmare. Lying in bed for 4 months (with fewer “good days” now), I was just praying to live and get healthy again! It was at that point, after a year of researching breast implant illness and doctors who are experts in explanting, that I knew that I desperately needed these toxic bags out of me immediately. I truly think I would have not made it another few months had I kept them.  Or if I had, it would have been pure hell.
Ironically, I had a fitness cover shoot (Muscle and Fitness Hers) in early January 2017.  I was sick (again) with a nasty flu for 6 weeks, and on top of my other symptoms, trying to do a photo shoot – I was an emotional and physical mess. But, I’m a ‘warrior’ as so many of the women are who have been ill because of their breast implants, so I got it done.  The crew that day was amazing — they helped me through the day.  I appreciated their compassion.  That cover came out February 21, 2017, and I dedicate it to all the beautiful women who have suffered from breast implant illness.  Stay the brave warriors you are !

For my explant surgery, I choose Dr. David Rankin, who practices in Jupiter, Florida.  He knows the importance of removing the entire capsule (as a lot of times it grows into our breast tissue, ribs, etc and has to be scrapped off) –not fun, trust me.  And for me, the cosmetic results were still important, and I felt he was the best choice for me as a healer and an artist.

You can read other stories about me in USA Today and People Magazine. But the most important thing for you to know is that, like many other women, I got sicker and sicker for years before I finally realized that there was one solution: getting my implants removed by a plastic surgeon who was an explant expert.  I am making my story public because I hope that other women can be helped.

Tammi H.

I was born with a congenital defect of small, tuberous breasts.  In 2004, when I was 32 years old, I made a decision to get saline breast implants.  I  had always been self-conscious of the way I looked, especially in swimwear, since I was a teen.

The breast implants did wonders for my self-esteem and made me feel that my breasts were more normal.  I was told that it was advisable to get them removed in 8-10 years, if I was experiencing any problems, but that some women are able to keep them for a life-time.

Fast forward 3 years and I am pregnant with my third child  (only pregnancy with implants) and I had so many issues with my pregnancy….morning
sickness all day long for 4 months straight, issues with urinary retention that my doctors could not explain.  After having my child and feeling like I just couldn’t bounce back with my energy level, I had a physical.  I was told I had an enlarged thyroid and might have rheumatoid arthritis.  I was sent to an endocrinologist and a rheumatologist.  They told me I had Hashimoto’s and possibly the beginnings of arthritis.  After several years of being on thyroid meds with no improvement, I took myself off.  By that time, my hair was falling out, I was low in iron, I had no energy, I had strange rashes on my scalp and neck, I was gaining weight, I was freezing cold all the time, my vision got worse, and I had trouble concentrating (brain fog).

In 2013, I began having severe cramp-like sharp pains under my left breast that would literally take my breath away.  Two different doctors told me it was probably just scar tissue from my surgery.  I really just gave up trying to figure out what was wrong with me.
In 2016, one week after a mammogram, I began having severe pain in my right jaw and right side of neck.  I went to the chiropractor for 3 months, who could not help me but suggested I might have TMJ (jaw joint) disorder.  I also went to an orthodontist, who confirmed that I did not have TMJ.  I saw an article on Facebook about Hugh Hefner’s wife having implants removed because they were causing health issues and she referenced a Facebook group she had joined about Breast Implant Illness.  I wondered if the mammogram had caused a leak in my implants.  I immediately checked out the Facebook page and had a light bulb moment — literally thousands of women were experiencing the same exact symptoms as myself!  I spent the next 3 months having consultations and getting my insurance to approve this surgery, which was pretty easy once I was diagnosed with Grade III capsular contracture and severe pain which was documented on my medical record by 2 doctors.  Insurance did deny covering implant removal the first time, but with the encouragement of the National Center for Health Research, I tried again– my surgeon appealed for me and coverage was approved the second time.

I am pleased to report that 3 weeks post-surgery, 90% of neck and jaw pain is gone, my hair has stopped falling out, I’ve lost 10 lbs without trying, and the brain fog is almost gone.  The surgeon told me that the pain I was having was where the capsule had become adhered to my chest wall.  I am still having a lot of soreness/pain in the area he had to cut and scrape more.  But getting my implants removed was the best decision I ever made.  My worst decision was getting them in the first place.  My body apparently has been fighting these foreign objects for at least 10 of the 12 years that I had them, causing a major autoimmune response.

Dollie Voyles

image1My name is Dollie Voyles and I am 48 years old. I’ve had  3 sets of breast implants over the past 21 years, starting in 1995.

I later learned that my plastic surgeon was originally an Ears, Nose, and Throat doctor . When I arrived at his office I was given a form to fill out for my basic health information. I went back to meet the doctor and he told me I would be in pain for a while and wouldn’t be able to move or lift my arms. That is all he told me about any possible risks .

I had smooth saline implants put under the muscle.  Initially, everything seemed fine. However, less than three years later, my right breast implant ruptured. I woke up flat . I called my plastic surgeon frantic and he said it’s ok because it’s just salty water. He had me come back for surgery 2 weeks later . I asked him why and how this happened. He  said he’s never had this happen in his practice and I believed him.

My second set of breast implants, which replaced the ruptured ones, were  textured saline implants . My plastic surgeon said he’s using this style because he thought my body didn’t take to the last kind, and by putting in textured saline it would have something to grab on to. I trusted him. He never talked about risks at this meeting either. Over the next 7 years they became  so misshapen and physically unappealing that I was so embarrassed and felt so self-conscious.

I decided I needed to change doctors and get a new opinion so I went to a more experienced doctor. This doc seemed very confident and I wasn’t going to let him do anything to my body until I get some answers. This plastic surgeon said I needed silicone gel implants instead. He said they feel more real and they don’t change shape. I was immediately conflicted because I did hear somewhere where silicone was bad for your body. He assured me that the gummy bear silicone that he’s going to use  was the best thing for me, especially with all the FDA approvals! I asked him about ruptures and he said if they did it’s just like a gummy bear, it will stay in place. He said they hold their form. I thought well, he’s the professional. Again , I wasn’t given any information about implants and definitely I wasn’t given information about silicone implants .

For over 6 years these ” safe silicone gummy bear implants – FDA approved ”  changed shape and became  painful to touch.  And they burned. I was diagnosed with severe allergies,autoimmune reactions that caused pain in my joints and legs , itchy breasts, shooting pain in my breasts, headaches, anxiety,depression, brain fog and finally fatigue. In 2012 , three years after my silicone breast implants, I suffered a stroke. I was told that the reason for my stroke was that I have low potassium and I’m anemic. These findings was startling since I was completely healthy prior to my last set of implants .

With all my pain in my breast and how crappy I was feeling I finally had an MRI and its showed that I had intracapsular rupture in my right breast. I knew something was wrong. When my explant doc opened me up my breast gushed of silicone and apparently he had to scoop silicone off my chest wall. This was nothing like a gummy bear that keeps its shape.

And it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I learned that gummy bear implants were not FDA-approved in the U.S. in 2009!  Was I in a clinical trial that my doctor never told me about?  I certainly never gave my doctor permission to put experimental implants in my body.

Jamee Cook

unnamed   In 1998, I made a decision that changed my life forever: to get breast implants. It wasn’t anyone’s decision but mine. I was a confident young woman, but I guess felt like my femininity was lacking due to my AA breasts. Hindsight sure changes our perspectives, though.

    My Dallas plastic surgeon chose textured, saline implants above the muscle. The surgery went great and it was definitely a confidence booster for me. I liked the way that they looked.

    My husband and I had our first son in 2000. I had some difficulty breastfeeding. Shortly after birth, I noticed that my breasts looked weird. After some research, I realized that I had developed symmastia. This is sometimes referred to as “breadloafing” or “uniboob”. So, I went back to my original surgeon. He wasn’t concerned, saying that my breasts look similar to his wife’s. This wasn’t reassuring. I consulted with another Dallas plastic surgeon. He said that surgery to fix the problem would cost $7500.  I knew that would have to wait.

    In early 2002, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and given medication. I then became pregnant with our second son. I again had difficulty breastfeeding. He was healthy when he was born, but two weeks later he was hospitalized, endured a spinal tap, developed hypoxia (lack of oxygen), and failure to thrive. He was hospitalized several times during his first few years and diagnosed with immune dysfunction. If weird things could develop, it would happen to him.

    Over the next few years, my health declined. I began to develop fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and a low grade fever. I was employed as a paramedic in an emergency room so I attributed my symptoms to job exposure. I knew that I didn’t feel good but I didn’t really know what was going on. Most lab tests were normal. I was treated for chronic sinus infections. My anxiety worsened and brain fog began. My home life suffered because I couldn’t keep things organized. It was a big mess. I was eventually diagnosed with ADD and treated for that and depression.

    I left my ER job to work at a pediatric clinic.  I was still sick. I had surgery in 2009 surgery to try and correct my sinus problems, but they continued.  In 2010, I began to have very painful nodules in my neck and chest. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease. I also was diagnosed with CMV (Cytomegalovirus) and Chronic EBV (Epstein-Barr). They are both very common but my body just didn’t seem to fight them off. The combination of chronic viruses and autoimmune illness resulted in a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

    I quit my job.  At some point we could no longer afford insurance so I couldn’t even try to solve my medical problems.  My fatigue was ridiculous. I was way too young to feel the way that I did.

Over time, the implants decreased in size. In March of 2012, I woke up to find that my left implant had ruptured. I was completely distraught and embarrassed, but we weren’t in any financial shape to have them replaced.  For three years I made my breasts look even by inserting a silicone insert into my bra. The implant slowly leaked more and more. My husband said it didn’t bother him but it was very awkward for me. I couldn’t act appealing when I didn’t feel that way. Intimacy suffered. It was horrible to know that I was causing that much distress to my husband and marriage but didn’t have an answer to fix it.

        As a former paramedic, I looked for answers in medical journals and scientific publications and realized that my implants could be making me sick. I found a Dallas Explant surgeon, Dr. Edward Melmed, who no longer performs breast augmentation surgeries because he has seen too many sick women. He has now performed approximately 5,000 breast implant removal surgeries. He would eventually be the surgeon to remove my toxic bags.

    While saving money for explant, my life was chaotic. I couldn’t think straight or keep organized. My patience was very thin. My family life suffered. It took everything in my power just to get up and perform basic duties. My body felt like it was in a constant battle with itself. I needed to see specialists but didn’t have insurance and I couldn’t afford it. I felt like a complete failure. I had failed myself and my family.

    In August of 2015, Dr. Melmed removed my 17-year-old PIP implants and my capsules. It was a new beginning.

    I never tell any woman that all of their symptoms are from their implants. They most likely aren’t. I never tell any woman that explant is the answer to all of their problems. It isn’t. But, many of my unexplained symptoms went away immediately. The migraines, the low grade fever, the swollen lymph nodes, the arm and hand numbness, the brain fog – GONE. The burning sensation in my left breast after rupture – GONE. I still have viral illness I battle. I still have autoimmune Hashimoto’s. My health overall has greatly improved, though. My patience is better. My libido is better. The fatigue is still a battle but it is improved. I am able to interact with my children more. I was able to care for my papaw in the last year of his life.

And, I became an advocate.

  • I started a public Facebook group called Pursuing Explantation. This is where I first shared my journey and where I now share all of the publications I come across. It has videos and photos that the public can view.
  • I’ve joined forces with two fantastic women who have been diagnosed with breast implant-associated lymphoma (ALCL), and created a Facebook group for women to learn more about it. We work closely with Dr. Suzanne Turner, pathologist at the University of Cambridge, and with Dr. Mark Clemens, at MD Anderson in Houston. They have both been extremely helpful in helping us to advocate and to educate ourselves and the public on this rare disease.
  • I’ve joined with several other women to create an informal group called Breast Implant Victim Advocacy. We have joined forces with device victims, such as women harmed by Essure, to raise awareness about the larger picture. People are being harmed by medical devices because they aren’t help to the same safety standards as other medical products.
  • I’m a member of the new USA Patient Network and working with Consumer Union’s Safe Patient Project, to help raise awareness and to be a stronger advocate for safer medical products.

The same stories have been told by women with breast implants for more than two decades and their voices are not being heard. Many women have led the way for us. Social media helps today’s women combine their efforts to raise awareness. We need to be heard. Laws need to change. Surgeons and physicians need more awareness and more accountability. Patients need to be taken more seriously. The media needs to publicize these issues more. Momentum is building. Please help share our stories. If you are a victim and haven’t told your story, please do. Every story makes an impact.

Raylene Hollrah – I HAVE SOMETHING TO GET OFF MY CHEST…

I am Raylene Hollrah, a 2-time cancer survivor by the age of 40. Here is my story.

In March 2013, I was living a wonderrayleneful life.  I was the mother of a beautiful three- year-old little girl named Allyson.  I was a loving wife, a successful business owner, and I was heavily involved in my community.   I had no idea my life as I knew it was about to drastically change.

I was at an appointment to start the fertility process again for another child, when my OB/GYN suggested doing a clinical breast exam.  My doctor felt a lump during the exam and ordered a mammogram immediately, followed by ultrasound. Then a breast surgeon did a biopsy.   When I saw the look in my surgeon’s eye and her demeanor changed, I knew that I had been dealt the card of breast cancer.

I was 33-years-old and no family history of cancer. On April 20, 2007 I chose to undergo a bilateral mastectomy without reconstruction, followed by a summer full of chemo. I lost all my hair, I lost my chest, but I never lost faith. My oncology group was incredible and my medical team was amazing. They were there to take care of me physically and mentally. My 3-year old daughter used to tell me, “Mommy, please take off your hair and show everybody your beautiful bald head.”  My amazing husband knew just what to tell me and has been an inspiration ever since. He took one look at my chest and said, “The only thing I see missing … is cancer.”

Reconstruction was constantly on my mind — I was 34- years-old and I had lost my female identity.  I went to 3 plastic surgeons trying to find answers, trying to find out if I wanted to move forward and what my options were. All 3 doctors agreed that implants would be the way to go.  I chose Allergan cohesive silicone implants, I was also part of a study to follow patients that received those implants for 3 years.  In 2008 I started my reconstruction journey.

I had been doing everything to keep cancer away, I didn’t realize my next decision would lead to my next diagnosis.

The next several years went smoothly. Jayson and I welcomed Ryan, our next child, into our lives. Ryan had lost his mother to cancer when he was 5 and around age 12 was informed that his step-father had cancer as well. He had been moved into foster care, but we officially became guardians in 2012.

Life stayed normal for a while, but one day I noticed that one of my implants was slightly swollen. As the days went by, it became exponentially worse.  My chest tripled in size in 4 days.  After a CT scan at my local hospital I was advised to go to my plastic surgeon’s office immediately. After testing and draining, he assured me that I did not have cancer but suggested that my right implant needed to be removed and replaced.

On my 40th birthday I underwent an implant exchange. My plastic surgeon told me while in surgery he have a pathologist check for breast cancer and a very rare lymphoma.  I wasn’t worried since the previous test had said I was fine.

On June 21st, 2013 my plastic surgeon told me I had Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma, ALCL. I was the 25th documented case in the US and 61st in the world.

The days following were a blur, an immediate trip to Houston, TX to MD Anderson Cancer Center. Because of the rarity at the time of this diagnosis they were one of the leading hospitals with knowledge of this rare cancer.

The next 5 months of my life were mainly spent in Houston.  The first line of treatment was the complete removal of the implants and second bi-lateral mastectomy. It was to be followed by CHOP chemotherapy and then radiation, but when they realized that the cancer was contained in the scar tissue and capsule, they said there was no need for additional treatment.

For the past 3 years I have been traveling to Houston for cancer scans. My health has been good.

When I was diagnosed with breast implant associated ALCL, I was told the condition happened to 1 in 3,000,000 women, but it soon became clear from talking to my medical team at MD Anderson that this disease was being under diagnosed. Just three years later, they are saying the odds are 1 in 30,000.

I have started a non-for profit organization, Just Call Me Ray, to educate women about the importance of the early detection of breast cancer, the dangers of implants, and rising up when cancer happens. I have also traveled around the U.S. and spoken to different groups about the need for informed consent with breast reconstruction or augmentation. Our social media has exploded in the past year, with thousands of women that have been struggling with illness because of their implants. And my biggest concern is the growing number of women that have been diagnosed with BIA-ALCL.

I might have lost my chest, but I have not lost my voice. I will continue to share my story and educate women and the public. IMPLANTS DO CAUSE CANCER!

Follow me on
Twitter:  @biaalcl_Raylene
Facebook:  Just Call Me Ray
Email:  justcallmerayinfo@gmail.com

Chandra DeAlessandro

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.)

chandra

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!

Chandra DeAlessandro
Breast Implant Victim Advocacy