“BII Warriors”

Hear from women who have questions about whether to explant and women who are recovering from breast explantation and how they are managing their physical and mental healing. We will also hear from those who are championing the movement to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

 

Lacole Foster,

Hi, I’m Lacole and I would like to share life on the sidelines with you. I first got saline breast implants in 1998 at the age of 24 to attain B-cup sized breasts. In 2007, when I was 33 years old, I decided to get my second set of saline implants to achieve a size C. A year later, in 2008, due to a rupture in my left breast implant, I received my third set of saline implants, even though my doctor at the time attempted to convince me to get silicone for a more aesthetically pleasing effect.

After my third implant surgery, I immediately became sick. I was hospitalized with heart issues of unknown origin. No one on my medical team – which included a neurologist, an endocrinologist, a cardiologist, a rheumatologist, and an orthopedic surgeon – just to name a few – could explain why my heart was functioning abnormally. At times, I was in critical condition and thought I would die. My medical team diagnosed me with the auto-immune diseases Myasthenia Gravis, Sjogren’s, Myositis, and possible Myopathy.

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That next year, on June 25, 2009, my husband-to-be and I traveled to beautiful Santorini, Greece to get married on a 10-day trip filled with romance, and culture – the fulfillment of my lifelong dream to get married under the most beautiful sunset in the world in the little town of Oia, Santorini, Greece. The sunsets there are the most sought-after phenomena in the world. Unfortunately for me, my dream turned into a nightmare on our second day, when I became sick for unknown reasons.

I experienced severe muscle weakness and could not get out of bed. I spent the next six days on the Island of Santorini, Greece bedbound in the hotel while my significant other jogged the mountainside and explored the island. As for my marriage ceremony under the sunset? We had to postpone it twice. I remember being so sick on the flight home, I literally thought I was not going to make it home alive.

 

This is life on the sidelines.

Over the next 10 years, I prayed for an answer to all my medical problems. Then in October 2018, at the age of 45, my left breast implant device ruptured. At this point, I had wanted my implants out for a few years prior to this event, but I never made it a priority.  I had no idea my symptoms aligned with Breast Implant Illness. Prior to October 25, 2018, I had never even heard of Breast Implant Illness.

Before I made the decision to have surgery, I met with a fantastic licensed mental health counselor a few times because I needed emotional support to cope with the changes happening to my body. It was all taking a huge mental toll on me. I’m a petite woman of 4 feet, 11 inches whose normal healthy weight was 115 pounds. Well, I gained 40 pounds and my weight shot up to 155 pounds. If that wasn’t bad enough, one of my toenails randomly fell off for the first time ever, and the hair on the top and sides of my head fell out.  I suffered from arthritis in my hips and wrists, and I dealt with constant excruciating pain in my right rib and shoulder, and for roughly 8 to 10 hours a day wore an external Medical Pain Management Device called Flex-Tens, along with debilitating fatigue and exhaustion, insomnia, and daytime sleepiness.

In fact, my sleep doctor Dr. Feldman confirmed my symptoms of narcolepsy, and treated me with a regime of medication to help me stay awake during daytime hours, and to help me sleep deeper during night time hours. By now, I had to reconcile with my ego, and get a new parking pass for people with disabilities due to the unexplained weakness in my lower body. On top of that, I experienced dry mouth and eye irritation and pain, with accompanying sensitivity to fluorescent light. Because my hair was falling out so rapidly, I had to get it cut down to about one inch in length. By now, I had hit rock bottom on so many levels, this is a place I had never been before, as I could no longer cover my illness with sunless tanning lotion and teeth whitening, and by physically staying fit despite being sick on the inside.  I could no longer fool anyone. I could barely wear clothes, anything touching my body hurt from the pressure. I went from a woman in high powered suits and heels at one point, to a woman wearing flip flops, special shoes my feet could actually tolerate without causing debilitating pain, My clothes were loose, a size too big, and had to be a natural fiber, rarely did I look cute. Forget cute Wedges, or cute dresses. Any pressure on my body either from a bra, underwear, pants, earrings, a ring, a necklace, I simply couldn’t tolerate the pain. Who had I become? I no longer recognize the person in the mirror. A part of me welcomed this with relief, a freedom to just be me, and not use up sacred life energy to try so hard to be presentable on society’s terms. My main goal was to show up and do my best. As my muscles worked themselves out during the day, as they loosen up, I would put on eyeliner, and mascara, a little later blush, by 5:00pm end of my work day, I was putting on lipstick, just in time to go home. I didn’t care so much, because my work always required 100% of my mental attention, and I am good at what I do, and its allconsuming, it’s my great escape from my body, my illness, my appearance. I loved working because as stressful as it was, It was a great distraction, and validated that my fight is over yet. I am still in the game as long as I can get to work each day, and do a great job.

Was this quality of life? No, it was life on the sidelines. 

I am a single mother, and my second job begins when I pick up my little one after work. There is dinner to be made, homework to do, paperwork to be signed, baths, laundry, laying out next days clothes, laying out any special items such as gymnastics clothes, cleaning dinner dishes, taking the trash out, packing lunches for tomorrow, bedtime stories, and the brushing of my 7 year old daughter’s hair before bed. I was now a woman with only one breast, nearly bald, overweight, and very ill. I was scared more than anything. What if I lost my daughter because I couldn’t work anymore in the insurance industry, or coaching? I didn’t want anyone’s pity, but I did want to feel comfortable in my skin despite my body appearance. I thought if I could just master this, master my fears, and master loving my body exactly as it is in this moment, it would be a remarkable triumph. I learned to love my broken body in all its fullness.

As a writer who is an editor by nature, my word recall issues really bothered me. I had to either Google a word or ask one of my children – ages 16 and 7 – for the correct spelling and sometimes definition of words, just to send a simple text or email! It was incredibly frustrating, to say the least. 

My spouse was a successful Corporate Alpha Type A male and I was a successful Corporate Alpha Type A in the aviation industry. I worked in aircraft sales and our lifestyle was demanding physically and mentally. I remember going out on a boat with my husband and his boss and his wife and a couple other associates to see the lights in Palm Beach. Due to my extreme fatigue and physical exhaustion, I had to lay down in a private area in the back of the boat and rest the entire time.

 

This is life on the sidelines.

I simply could not keep up with our lifestyle with its yacht trips, private aircraft travel and international travel, networking and negotiating on golf courses and in meetings — a lifestyle most of us would label as “glamorous.” For me, it was far from it: it was a lifestyle I tolerated for a long as I could due to constant flare-ups and exacerbation of my various auto-immune diseases and bladder incontinence. I remember speaking on the phone with an aircraft sales prospect once where he asked me a question in regards to the fractional ownership of a 7 million dollar aircraft, and I answered him with words that made no sense. He replied, “You didn’t answer my question.” I knew that I had not. I also knew I had answered the same question he had asked a million times over, yet I wasn’t able to structure and form the words to answer his question. I have been to a speech pathologist for therapy sessions on how to learn to respeak twice in the past 11 years. This is still something I am secretly insecure about, I slur my words when my mouth numbs up after much use.

Eventually, I had to take medical leave from my job. After over a decade, I was forced to say goodbye to the aviation industry because of my lack of physical health. I could not keep up with the pace of our lives and my demanding sales position. I was too sick to work and my marriage ended after one year. I spent 10 years of my life in denial and isolation, hiding my autoimmune diseases with sunless tanning lotion; teeth whitener; expensive custom suits, shoes, and handbags; hidden naps on the floor under a desk in the back office, and naps in the car before driving home from work. 

Living my life on the sidelines for over a decade was exhausting. I pushed through each day, sometimes moment by moment, motivated by sheer will as a single mother. I lived in fear that I would lose the health necessary for me to work and care for my children, but the combination of fear and faith made the impossible possible. Then, when I could no longer hide my sickness, I felt angry and depressed that this was happening to me.

In October of 2018, when I finally made that fateful decision to have explant surgery, I diligently did my homework before deciding on a plastic surgeon. After much research, I scheduled consultations with three plastic surgeons who were experts in breast implant explantation with capsulectomy surgery. Instinctively, I knew the time was NOW for me; if I waited any longer, I would not be healthy enough to have the explant surgery. 

I choose Dr. Barr. Why did I choose Dr. Barr? It was a combination of him and his team’s compassion, humanity, and expertise. The day I called, and I wish I could remember the date, I spoke to Carla. She assured me, “Oh, your nurse Candy had them taken out too. I will be your direct contact person. Here’s my personal cell phone. I’m available 24 hours a day. Let’s just get them out!” It was the only office I’d called that ever mentioned explantation without mastopexy, the breast-lift. During our conversation, Carla informed me my nurse would be Candy. She gave me Candy’s telephone number and told me I had 24-hour access to her too. I was like, “Wow!” and booked a consultation.

After we hung up, I knew I’d found the right medical team, so I called them back and told them, “I want to have the surgery. What does the schedule look like?” I met with Dr. Barr for a consultation on July 11 and surgery was July 15. It went so fast. But I knew when I met with him, he was my person. I’ve had three implants and surgeries and no other surgery I’ve ever undergone have they asked for so many tests. And the due diligence and the detail to your health is amazing. Dr. Barr takes your health as seriously or even more seriously than you do. He’s not playing. In fact, I tried to make a joke when I asked him, “You’re not serious about the no alcohol rule two weeks before the surgery?” And he was like, “I’m serious.”

There was no garlic, no turmeric, no vitamins. The tests of blood clotting and everything else showed how very thorough Dr. Barr and his team were. Dr. Barr listens, he sees you and he’s so human. The synergy and the cohesiveness of that team is like a beautiful symphony. I’ve never seen anything like it where people compassionately take care of other people. Far from being burnt out, Dr. Barr is fresh, he’s there, he’s present.

I asked him, “Don’t you get tired of this after 35-plus years?”

He said, “No, not at all. What you don’t understand is through the years you craft better and better. Now is my prime.” Dr. Barr exudes the essence and spirit of a leader, compassion, trust, and almost a fatherlike, godly protection. I knew, “Okay, I trust him with my life. I trust him 100%.”

The first thing he said to me when he came in was, “This is not a cosmetic procedure. I’m going to do the best I can. This is going to be hard because of the scar tissue and all of the surgeries you’ve already had. It’s not going to be easy.”

I replied, “Okay. Let’s do it.”

 

The day of surgery, he called me from his professional cell and it went to voicemail. So, he texted me, “Do this, do that. Take this medicine, that medicine. Make sure you eat. Take your anti-nausea.” What plastic surgeon calls you on the day of, you know after surgery? And so did my nurse, Candy. And so did my direct contact, Carla. These are compassionate people. Dr. Fredric Barr is amazing and so is his team. They are second to none. I feel so blessed and honored to have had my breast explant with total capsulectomy by this incredible team. I recommend them, 100%.

If you’re looking to have your breast implants removed, I have some important advice. First, it is integral to find a plastic surgeon who specializes in breast explant with capsulectomy and a surgical team that champions alongside you. Before you have your explant surgery, do your research. For me, it helped to manage my expectations and ease my anxiety. I felt well equipped while consulting with recommended expert breast explant plastic surgeons.

As I’m writing this I am 15 days post-operation and my set expectation remains intact: explant surgery is NOT a magical wand waved; it is the beginning of a new journey and for me, a new life. It has given my body the opportunity it did not have while the foreign device of breast implants invaded it. Explant surgery represents to me an opportunity and a gift to heal.

 

Post-Op day one, my body experienced a calm rest, a letting go. No longer do unnatural chemicals leach throughout my body and invade my nervous system, thyroid, blood, brain, muscles, tissue, heart, lungs, liver, eyes, joints, and endocrine system. No longer is my body inflamed, no longer is my body in the state of fight or flight. After eleven years of constant, throbbing right-side rib pain managed with Flex-Tens pain device and medication, the pain is gone — never to be felt again. I feel my body healing, no longer fighting itself. My body is no longer killing me in its attempt to save me. My body is doing what it is naturally made to do…heal.

At Post – Operation Day 10, the tides began to turn. Acceptance is the gift. Acceptance is the final stage of grief. I felt free. Now at 15 days into recovery, I can tell you at first I felt lost. I did not know how to do bed rest with a Type A mind, and Type B body. This has always been my contradiction.

I had wished I had an instruction manual of what it is I need to do during 3 weeks. of bedrest. I sought direction. Intuitively I knew the answers were within me, and so I begin to surrender to the process. The healing process – physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional.

I am taking an inventory of life, my life. I am finding purpose in the pain. I am learning to allow. I am learning to be. I am learning to let go. I am open to listen. I am open to hear. I let go of judgment of this body. I let go of expectation of how this body heals. I let go of time. I am ready to live my life’s purpose. I am excited at the possibility of no longer living life on the sidelines. I am excited at the possibility of having Life Energy to Manifest My Dreams.

I am excited at the possibility of no longer living life in fear of my health not holding up. I am excited at the possibility of this body healing with full restoration. I am excited at the notion that I made it through the most difficult 14 years of my life (yes, it was more than just 11 years). I am excited that my life will never be the same. I am excited to travel without my body failing me. I am excited to have the life energy for the mission and purpose for my life. I am excited to be a transformational catalyst of hope. I am excited that I never gave up hope.

I hold a sincere gratitude that extends beyond words for the Dr. Fredric Barr team. Perhaps because they saved my life. I am grateful beyond words to those in my life who showed up, and how God orchestrated the entire situation within less than 2 weeks from the time I called until date of surgery. It moved so fast, I told God, “this one is yours to orchestrate; I am simply going to trust.” And I witnessed God do miracles. I would pray for something, or even think of something and it would show up right away.

The reason I share my personal, and intimate journey with Breast Implant Illness, and healing is because as painful and humbling as the journey of 11 years living Life on the Sidelines was, the Purpose In the Pain is to raise awareness so that other women needn’t be sick for over a decade as I was before learning about the Symptoms of Breast Implant Illness.

With Hope, my transparency, sharing my very intimate and personal journey alongside the triumph voices of other Breast Implant Illness Champions help to Support women of BII, to Sound the Alarm, and pave the way to Empowering women to be fully Equipped with the information needed in making decisions regarding our overall health.

And I want you to know that you can have this miracle too. Keep Hope alive, Healing is yours. It’s a sacred journey to be gracefully honored.

Ways to connect with Lacole Foster Grant in helping to Raise Awareness of Breast Implant Illness and Healing;

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Author of The Power to Create Your Life by Design. 2011 written during months on bedrest due to Breast Implant Illness.  

The Power To Create Your Life By Design: Access and Activate Fearless, Intentional, and Courageous Creation of the Full Potential Life

Certified Life Coach, Author, and Founder of Non-Profit Organization Voice of Hope, Inc Advocating for the rights of women and Children. Join the Voice of Hope Movement, leave your footprint in being a Change Catalyst

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