Heather Wright/The Independent
Three Lambton women all had different reasons for getting breast implants; reconstruction after surgery to avoid breast cancer, reshaping their bodies after children and getting the curves they always wanted.
But, they all had the same reason for getting them removed; the implants made them sick.
And now the trio, brought together because of their illness, want to make sure other women know what they’re getting into and how breast implants can go horribly wrong.
Jenny MacFarlane, Christy Foster and Tammy Peats didn’t know each other in the early 2000’s when they all decided to have breast implant surgery. It would be years before each would become ill.
“For basically 12 years, I felt like I was dying,” says Foster. “Every year it seemed like there was a new symptom that would come…There was no reason as to why I should be feeling the way that I was feeling.”
Multiple doctors ran multiple tests over the years. “Everything seemed normal. But you didn’t feel normal. I couldn’t move my arm, there was constant pain, heart palpitations, anxiety. And over the years, it just kept getting worse,” says Foster.
MacFarlane felt the same way. She could never get a deep breath, her heart would race, she was anxious and she had a shooting pain in her arm. And she was constantly in a fog.
Peats felt way that, too. Driving back to her Port Lambton home she would tell a friend almost every day that she felt awful. She has pictures of ankles so swollen it hurt to stand.
The three only figured out their implants were the problem when others pointed out the possible source of their illness. Each went to the internet and found the Breast Implant Failure and Illness – Canada Facebook page. Foster said it was a revelation; she was not alone and she knew what was wrong with her.
“You sit there for days on days on days and weeks and you cry.”
MacFarlane admits she was angry when she figured out her breast implants were the problem; “I felt blame, like I blamed myself, I was angry at myself. Why the hell would I do this? And now I have to pay money to get them out…And I thought they’d be forever.”
Peats said discovering the implants were the problem was a relief. “As soon as I found out that’s what caused all these years of suffering, I was relieved. I was excited. I wanted them out.”
That’s exactly what the three did – all in August of 2020.
MacFarlane and Peats couldn’t believe the immediate difference taking the now decaying “gummy bear” implants out of their bodies made.
“I was in complete disbelief at how well I could breathe,” says MacFarlane. “I could actually take a full breath; it’s hard to explain until you’ve had implants, it is almost like somebody’s sitting on your chest.”
Peats also noticed she was breathing normally again and, she said, her energy levels soared.
Foster’s recovery has been slower, marred by infections. She’d been dealing with the decomposing implants for 12 years and they had done more damage. Just now, she’s starting to feel more like herself, although Foster says she will never regain complete health.
The three women, one from Petrolia, one from Sarnia and one from Port Lambton, are now working together to make sure no one experiences the illness they did. During March, Breast Implant Illness Awareness Month, the three shared their stories online. And they were amazed at how many people they reached.
MacFarlane says 32 people reached out to her after she spoke. Foster convinced a relative not to get implants.
Peats now hosts a Facebook Page called Bold, Brave and Beautiful to convince others implants are not worth the damage they can cause.
The women want others with implants to have an MRI done to make sure they aren’t leaking. The manufacturers say they should be monitored every two years, although MacFarlane says implant patients are rarely told that. After finding out her implants were making her sick, she went through her paper work from the operation and found no instructions about caring for the implants in the years to come.
The Lambton women also want doctors to be educated about the illnesses caused by implants. Peats is part of a three year study to figure out some of the symptoms of breast implant illness.
Peats’ doctor is “educating other doctors and plastic surgeons about it, saying ‘this is real.’”