Hero Spotlight: Lisa "I'm So Grateful to Be Alive"

From a young age, I believed that you could always be better and do more.  I wasn't necessarily critical of myself, but I always looked for things I could improve in all areas of my life.  When I was a teenager, society viewed Kate Moss as the physical ideal, then Pamela Anderson was the ideal, and this became my ideal.  I know now that these are ridiculous extremes of unattainable female physiques.  I grew up in Long Island and breast implants were very common there.  

I got my first breast implants at 19 years old, they were saline.  They quickly mutated in shape due to capsular contracture and became painful.  Two years later in 2001, my plastic surgeon offered to exchange them for silicone gel implants and enroll me in a study.  The way he presented it, it sounded like I was lucky to have the option so I scheduled the surgery.  I didn't understand the study and I didn't understand the risks.  After the silicone gel implants, I was chronically ill for many years and went to every kind of doctor over and over again.  In 2015, I had the implants removed and one of them had ruptured, unbeknownst to me.  There was silicone gel spillage on explant and my doctor told me he "cleaned it up." I went from a large D to a small A cup.  Some of my symptoms lessened but I never got better.  I now understand that it was due to the silicone gel leakage, which I will talk about more below.  

In 2016, I met an amazing man. We traveled a lot, went to a lot of beautiful places and I bought beautiful swimwear and dresses.  I could not get used to my "new" body.  I met a new plastic surgeon and he told me that the "gummy bear" silicone implants are improved and that they didn't rupture like the old silicone gel implants.  This sounds SO foolish to me now, but I had large breasts my whole adult life (from age 19-36), and in my mind, it was the way I was "supposed" to look.  I decided to get the "improved" implants.  He sent me for a mammogram pre-surgery and the mammogram detected an oily cyst.  He told me he would remove it when he did the implant surgery.  A few weeks after my implant surgery, he called me and told me that it wasn't an oily cyst, it was silicone from my old implants.  I had not been “cleaned up” as I was told.    

I loved the way I looked with the new implants, I looked like "me" again.  Then the illness came on fast.  I used to be good at pushing myself (not a good thing) and didn't let it interfere with my life until I couldn't do it anymore--it started to shut me down.  Most of my hair had fallen out and it had completely stopped growing on my crown and on the front and sides of my head.  I started wearing full wigs in 2017.  In October 2019, I was diagnosed with Lichen Planopilaris by scalp biopsy and told my hair would never grow back.  By January 2020 I couldn't stand up without seeing stars and had to sit down to cut vegetables and prep meals because I was always very faint and worried about falling. 

These were the worst symptoms that I experienced:

Hair loss

Brain fog

Cellulitis infections in my face

Rough, chronically dry, and red face  

Strange welts behind my ears 

Eczema on my ears 

Chronic dry eyes

Puffy face

Difficulty breathing

Scalloped tongue 

Sebum overproduction-scalp and face

Chronic swollen glands in my neck

Visual migraines followed by temporary vision loss

Chronic bursitis in both shoulders

Chronic dizziness

Debilitating vertigo

Chronic Nausea

Food intolerances 

Wrist pain and weakness

Insomnia the last few months before explant

Body rashes

Burping

Pitted nails covered in calcium spots 

At this point, I knew the implants were making me sick and I wanted them out. I had moved to California from New York in 2019 and didn't know any plastic surgeons here.  I did my research and quickly found Dr. Jae Chun.  I spoke with him on the phone after he had reviewed my medical records and he explained to me that when my doctor removed my implants in 2015, silicone gel spilled and went into my tissue.  He explained "toxic load" to me and told me that I might not get better after explant.  I appreciated his brutal honesty and scheduled the surgery for the soonest date available, which was September 2020.  I live local to his office and told them I was available at short notice, in case he received any cancellations.  Coronavirus hit, he had a cancellation, and I received a phone call on May 6th asking if I wanted to explant on May 12th.  I said yes, cried on the phone, and thanked God because I truly believe that I wouldn't have lived until September.  I had my pre-operative appointment with Dr. Chun on my 42nd birthday.  He was so serious and confident.  I knew he was my best chance at regaining my health.  I explanted the next day on May 12th, 2020 and the healing began immediately. 
As I write this, I'm about 10 months post explant and I have a couple of inches of hair!  I'm physically strong, my neurological and many other symptoms are gone.  I'm so grateful to be alive and to be able to do everything I want and need to do.  I’m very happy with my body exactly the way it is.  I know what it’s like to lose your health and abilities.  I'm so lucky that my body is forgiving me for putting it through hell with three sets of breast implants. I no longer believe that more is better and I no longer believe that everything needs to be improved. I am perfect as I am.