I am more comfortable with a flat chest than with my implants

  • I got breast implants after a double mastectomy when I had breast cancer.
  • But when I started experiencing symptoms of breast implant disease, I asked to have the implant done.
  • I am now more comfortable with my flat chest than I was with my implants.

I was 35 when breast cancer took my breast. I was back together, like a modern day Humpty Dumpty, with silicone implants under my pectoral muscles. Externally, my chest was perfectly symmetrical. I was one of the lucky ones – cancer chose me and for the time being I had won. But inside, I was a zombie.

Breast implant disease came on slowly and steadily for me, long before I learned the name of the disease that many people who have breast implants end up dealing with. I had been through a journey with cancer so I thought it made sense that I was tired and anxious. One by one, other symptoms piled up, crushing me under their weight. The list of these included chronic fatigue, joint pain and swelling, brain fog and more.

I went to several specialists and had expensive scans and labs, only to be told I “maybe” had this or “maybe” that, never to be given definitive answers. Enraged, I prayed that God would let me die in my sleep.

I found hope – and answers – on a message board for other people going through the same thing

After three years with implants, I came across a social media group with over 150,000 members that focused on breast implant disease. I spent hours going through their stories and slowly began to believe that I was among those who probably got very sick from their implants. Once I became aware of this, I felt that my implants needed to go – the sooner the better. I contacted my plastic surgeon and begged her to remove my implants.

When I was wheeled into surgery, I had 29 symptoms of breast implant illness. I spent several days of the week in bed. My body was full of inflammation and always in pain.

After having my implants removed I was completely flat and nipple free. I was left with three long scars and a protruding rib cage. Although my breasts do not look like the typical beauty standard – unlike my implanted breasts – I am confident that I made the right choice for the implant. All my symptoms resolved within about six months of the surgery. My body, mind and soul released a sigh of relief.

I first asked a dear friend of mine to crochet me some “knitted knockers” — fake boobs crocheted on the outside and filled with clever stuffing. I never ended up wearing them though. I run hot by nature, and it was also difficult to arrange the “rappers” in a bra and keep them in place.

I really feel more comfortable with my body after the implant surgery

Without my implants, I can lean forward, hug my friends and family members, and exercise without being aware of my implants. Every time I leaned forward the slightest bit, my implants felt like they were going to fall right out of my skin. I knew they were secure on my chest, but that didn’t stop the discomfort.

Breast implants may help women feel more attractive and desirable — and I’m certainly not judging those who have them — but they’ve always been uncomfortable for me. Although I joked with my friends that I would be the hottest old lady in the nursing home one day, my implants were much more of a cross to bear than body parts to show off.

Rachel Garlinghouse wears a tank top and sunglasses by the pool

Rachel Garlinghouse.

Courtesy Rachel Garlinghouse

I’m 40 years old now, and I’ve had flat feet for almost a year and a half. I spent two summers – many days of swimming – without breasts. I absolutely love it. I can lie face down in a pool chair without my immobile implants getting in the way of my relaxation. Likewise, I was able to sleep comfortably on my stomach.

And I don’t hide my flatness — ever. I wear tank tops, swimwear, dresses and t-shirts without shame. I don’t worry about whether the top I’ve chosen makes me look flat or not. In fact, I joke with my husband, “does this top make me look flat?”. a play on the line “Does that make me look fat?” — neither of which are things any of us need worry about, I learned, as long as we’re healthy. My main concern when choosing clothes is to make sure the seams of the tops don’t touch the sensitive areas around my scars.

I am a proud breast cancer survivor and fan. I don’t hide who I am or what my body has been through. My breasts have never—and never will—define me.

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