'I wouldn't get them out if they weren't making me sick': RuPaul's Drag Race judge, an ex-playmate, and thousands of other women call on the FDA to recognize that breast implants DO cause autoimmune disorders as regulators consider a ban

TV star Michelle Visage, 50, has had breast implants for more than half her life.
She got her first set at 21 in New York City, then an aspiring star from New Jersey with a small frame and modest chest, starting to make it in music and the ballroom scene.
These days, Visage recognizes: 'I am literally known for my t*ts, I love them.' Her wardrobe as RuPaul's right hand host on the hit show Drag Race consists almost exclusively of figure-hugging plunging necklines.
But six weeks ago, she got them out.

For decades, Visage has battled mysterious onsets of various health problems, including heart palpitations, hair loss, extreme fatigue, panic attacks, and Hashimoto's disease - an autoimmune condition that attacks the thyroid.
As her symptoms worsened, leaving her doctors baffled, Visage became more and more suspicious that the saline-filled silicone shells in her chest were to blame.
There was no data to support her suspicion, nor FDA recognition that implants cause sickness, but she read about 'breast implant illness' online, in Facebook groups with thousands of members who all had breast implants and all described the same symptoms.
'I was getting sicker and sicker, I couldn't take it anymore. Even if it wasn't my implants, I wanted them out of my body. I felt mentally strong enough,' Visage told DailyMail.com. 
'I love my breasts. As if I would get these beautiful things of my body if they weren't making me sick.'
When Visage first got her implants in 1992, to the tune of $11,000, she was disappointed. It was 'a very conservative surgeon' in New York City, who, concerned for her thin frame, boosted her from an A to a B cup. 
'I would've had to go to Miami to a doctor who works with exotic dancers to get bigger,' Visage says. 
She got a new set in 1996, this time saline-filled silicone shells because, at the time, there was a ban on silicone (see History box below). After a good run, delivering and nursing two children, Visage went to her doctor, concerned they were deflating. Her instincts were right; there was a leak. 
Getting her third set, again saline, Visage was starting to get weary, trying to sideline her health issues as she sustained her vivacious energy as a producer and judge on Drag Race, now an Emmy Award-winning show with versions across the world. 
She loved her implants, but her thyroid was acting up more and more, her heart palpitations were constant, and she started to catch segments here and there, online and on the news, about breast implant illness. 
She asked her cousin, who's a doctor, whether reports about breast implant illness were true, but he insisted there was no data (which is true, there isn't). 
She asked her doctor, but, again, they said no to worry, there's no data. 
'Every time I would have a panic attack I would have to talk myself out of it,' Visage said. 'Something inside of me was going your body is trying to fight an invader.' 
Late last year, Visage decided she was done with second-guessing whether the implants were safe or not. 
'It just didn't make sense to have these big blobs of toxins in my body anymore,' she said, scheduling an explant for February 2019.  
Former playmate Karen McDougal got implants at 22 years old in 1996.
'My younger self thought breast implants would make me feel more feminine, more like a woman,' McDougal told DailyMail.com.
She had no complaints for 20 years, aside from developing a catalog of allergies, hormonal issues, and colds that would last six weeks. 'I just thought I had a terrible immune system.'
It wasn't until January 2016 that McDougal started blacking out, vomiting, having panic attacks, and feeling perpetually dizzy.
By July 2016, the pounding headaches and spontaneous black-outs were habitual, and McDougal took herself to a neurologist, fearing a dire diagnosis.
Tests showed nothing.
But by October 2016, she was bed-ridden.
A year prior, a friend had told McDougal that his wife developed breast implant illness, and after an explant she was fine.
'At the time, I blew it off. I said, 'I've had my implants 20 years, they're fine.' But I did think… wow, those symptoms are like mine.'
By January 2017, McDougal decided to explant.
Her illness went away within weeks, as did her long-term allergies and hormonal issues.
Speaking to other playmates, McDougal learned that at least three others had gone through the same thing - extreme illness and eventual explant. 
Now, three more playmates and McDougal's sister have explanted. All of them say, 'it was like night to day'.
Visage and McDougal are two of the thousands of women who are calling for breast implant manufacturers to recognize the links between implants and a slew of symptoms. 
This week, their campaigns for answers may be met as the FDA holds a two-day interrogation of manufacturers to determine the safety of breast implants.
Dozens of women traveled to Silver Springs, Maryland, to testify about their experiences at the hearing, all wearing ribbons - black and white to signify autoimmune disorders, pink and green to signify cancer.
On the first day, a handful of women were called up to speak, describing how they had lost their homes, their jobs, their health, and their quality of life. 
The FDA was open to calls from women asking for more research or a ban on textured gummy implants, which have been linked to cancer. There is less momentum to meet concerns that all types of implants may cause autoimmune diseases. 
By the end of the first day, most of the panel took the view that pulling implants from the market would be an 'extraordinary overreaction'.  

The issue has been see-sawing for decades.
Implants first hit the US market in the 1960s. In the 1980s, manufacturers started getting hit with lawsuits demanding damages for their debilitating side effects. 
These concerns led regulators to ban silicone (not saline) implants in 1992, demanding proof of safety from the manufacturers before they could re-enter the market.
In 2006, two brands (Mentor, now owned by Johnson & Johnson, and Inamed, now Allergan) had not yet completed the necessary clinical trials, but they won approval on the grounds that they would conduct six post-approval safety studies involving 40,000 women each. 
Those studies have still not been completed. Seventy-five percent of participants in Mentor's study dropped out before the follow-up, most dropped out of the Allergan study, and Allergan was accused of excluding women who reported adverse side effects
Now, the debate is reaching a new crescendo. 
In 2011, regulators confirmed that breast implants can cause a rare cancer of the immune system, BIA-ALCL. The risk of developing cancer from implants ranges from one in 3,000 to one in 33,000 patients. Earlier this year, the FDA said nine US women have died of implant-related cancer, and almost 500 have suffered implant-related injuries.  
But neither of those reports prompted tighter regulation or a ban - as happened in France - and regulators stopped short of acknowledging that implants might cause immunity disorders, too.
Currently, women who get breast implants are warned there is a risk that it could rupture or leak, or that they develop and infection. Some surgeons recommend renewing them every seven or eight years. 
But there is no data on links to the things women say they suffer, including: 
  • heart palpitations 
  • autoimmune disorders like Hashimoto's, lupus and fibromyalgia
  • Lyme disease 
  • migraines
  • rashes
  • hair loss
  • anxiety 
  • depression 
  • panic attacks
  • extreme fatigue 
  • joint pain
  • brain fog
  • sensitivity to light, sound and smell 
  • loss of libido  
  • mood swings 
  • hormone imbalance
Regulators rely on data to determine a device's safety. Without data confirming these links, doctors cannot warn women that they exist. 
There has been a push by researchers to rectify the data gap. 
Last year, a team at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center reviewed data collected by manufacturers and found there was an above-average rate of women who developed melanoma, scleroderma, and the autoimmune disorder Sjogren syndrome. 
However, the high drop-out rates in every industry-funded study meant that they cannot be sure.  
The FDA responded to the study, saying the agency 'respectfully disagrees'. 
There are signs the FDA is poised to take decisive action in some form. Last week, days before the hearing was due to start, the FDA sent letters to two manufacturers - Mentor and Sientra - warning that their products could be pulled from the market if they don't present adequate studies within 15. 
'I was surprised, but this is not the first time that the FDA has sent warning letters to implant companies that they are not complying with their research requirements,' Dr Zuckerman told DailyMail.com. 
'The important question is what the impact of those letters will be. Will the letters scare the companies enough that they improve their research? If not, will the FDA rescind approval of their products? 
'The FDA has never rescinded approval of a device in those circumstances, and as long as FDA doesn’t follow through on their threats, the companies don’t have an incentive to improve their research.
'And if the research isn’t improved, patients will still lack the information they need to make informed medical decisions.' 
For plastic surgeons it's a sticky issue. They are the only ones who can put in breast implants, but they are also the ones women are relying on to diagnose mishaps and perform the explant.
Breast augmentations are big business. They are easily the most popular invasive cosmetic operation performed in the US, with 1.5 million done last year, and that figure is rising.
Dr Diana Zuckerman, a scientist who studies patient data and health after years in Congress overseeing committees on medical devices, put it bluntly: 'Breast implants are basically a $5 product that's sold for $1,000. That's kind of a big mark-up, so you can imagine how lucrative that is for companies. Then you have surgeons who say they can do the surgery in 20 to 30 minutes but they charge thousands of dollars for it, and they don't even have to deal with insurance companies.
'So there's a lot of money to be made. And that's why so much money has been spent to keep these on the market.'
There is a handful of surgeons who have earned a darling reputation among women in the BII (breast implant illness) community, including Dr Lu-Jean Feng in Ohio and Dr H Jae Chun in Newport Beach, who have been vocal about BII and performed scores of explants. 
Women say they have met many surgeons who dismiss BII as an internet fad. 
Many surgeons insist they are willing to confront the issue, but they say the data gap hamstrings what advice and warnings they can give to patients. 
'I think it is extremely important that we as a profession acknowledge the potential risk as well as concerns patients may have and provide them with scientific data driven answers,' Dr Dennis Schimpf, MD, of Charleston, South Carolina, told DailyMail.com. 
Dr Schimpf insists most illnesses are tied to textured gummy implants. Those are, indeed, the focus of the FDA investigation, since they are most strongly linked to BIA-ALCL, the cancer of the immune system that has killed nine women. 
'Given the recent media coverage and growing concern on social media I believe it is necessary to discuss the potential risk of lymphoma as well as the idea of breast implant illnesses with every potential breast augmentation patient,' Dr Schimpf said. 
'Hopefully through these discussions and education as well as further data patients will continue to remain highly satisfied with this procedure.' 
There is little reprieve, though, for the many women with smooth or saline implants reporting the same concerns - like Michelle Visage, Karen McDougal, most of the other playmates, and the women who share their stories below. 
Some activists are calling for an outright ban on some or all breast implants. 
Others, including McDougal, Visage, and the dozens of other women who spoke to DailyMail.com, just want an acknowledgement of the risks. 
'Tell us exactly what will happen to us if we choose to implant, then we can make the decision ourselves,' McDougal, who runs a Facebook support group for women with BII, said. 
'It's just like smoking - you know the risks but some people choose to do it anyway.
'A-B-C-D - give us the list of risks and symptoms so we can weigh it up.' 
Visage, who is currently producing a documentary with World Of Wonder about her explant and breast implant illness, said she is only just starting to feel better six weeks after her operation, but she is confident her condition will greatly improve, perhaps transformatively, after reading about the chemicals in implants. 
Implants contain more than 40 chemicals, including formaldehyde. ('Why is that in the shell of this implant when it's used in an ink jet printer?'). 
But that wouldn't have stopped her getting them, she says.
'If I was 21 and they said this could cause problems, I still at 21 would have got the surgery.
'But we have a right to know what the risks are. I trusted the FDA blindly, we all do, to tell us if it's safe. And we believe them - "leave it to the professionals."
'It’s clear that they know what we are suffering from, and this happens. The FDA told us that smoking was safe back in the 50s but, obviously, that changed. There are more studies and they can’t really run from it. Hopefully the truth will come out and women can be vindicated, or at least be informed.
'If you're going to do it, I understand. Good for you, I love plastic surgery, I love my breasts. But if something starts going wrong, just know that you're going to have to get them out.'   

Panic attacks, hair loss, forced to quit jobs, and implants filled with E. coli: Four women describe their battles with breast implants

Heidi Cross, from Boston, Massachusetts, tested positive twice for Lyme disease without ever getting bitten.   
The first time, in 2013, she thought it was strange. 'I had never been anywhere where ticks would be,' Cross told DailyMail.com. 
The second time, in 2016, she was very skeptical. 
'The nurse said, "ma'am, you got bit again." I said, "no, ma'am, that's not the case. I just know it."
'Why me? I'm not rolling around in the grass every day. I didn't have a bite or the bulls-eye rash. But I felt like I was dying.'

Both times, Cross had woken up feeling like she had multiple sclerosis, near-paralyzed, unable to move her neck, turn or look down, with 'the worst migraine of my life, I felt like my head was going to blow up.' 
Cross's tests were coming back positive for Lyme disease. While it's common for people to not notice their bite, Cross felt it was too much of a coincidence. 
A dose of antibiotics didn't cure her symptoms but slightly dampened them, before they came back again. 
Cross says the first time she felt true relief from the headaches, muscle aches, stiffness and anxiety that have plagued her for nine years was last week, after getting her implants removed. 
Cross, now 34, first got implants when she was 23 - smooth saline high performance.
'I didn't know much about implants, it was just something everyone did and I just figured if doctors were doing it to us it would be safe.'
Aside from describing the risks with anesthesia that exist for any surgery, Cross's doctor did not raise any other concerns, she says. 
'He told me I had a lifetime warranty if they rupture. That was it.'
Four years in, when Cross was about 27, her symptoms started to emerge. 
'It was slow, starting with migraines and exhaustion. I thought I was getting older, I was approaching 30, and I had three kids. But slowly I developed other symptoms.'
She wrote them down - 21 symptoms:
  1. Migraine
  2. Anxiety
  3. Fatigue - 'even blow-drying my hair was exhausting'
  4. Joint pain
  5. Muscle pain
  6. Neck and back pain
  7. Stiff neck
  8. Breast pain 
  9. Capsular contracture
  10. Brain fog 
  11. Sensitivity to light
  12. Sensitivity to sound 
  13. Sensitivity to smell
  14. Hair loss - 'my eyelashes were just breaking off'
  15. Skin dehydrated
  16. Blood-shot eyes - 'my eyes were blood shot every day, I couldn’t wear contacts'
  17. Depression 
  18. No energy or libido
  19. Mood swings
  20. Heart palpitations
  21. Hormone imbalance
Cross, who trained as an embalmer and funeral director, had to quit her job to find something stable and stationary at a desk. 
'It was a lot of work and I was able to do it for a couple of years. It was too exhausting in the end, even writing obituaries I would have to write one and lie down after,' Cross said.
She saw doctor after doctor. One recommended Botox as a treatment for migraines. Cross tried it, but to no avail. 
It was her acupuncturist, who she started seeing to treat her stiffness, who first suggested that her implants might be causing, or at least exacerbating, her symptoms. 
That's when Cross started investigating breast implant illness, and found women online who seemed to have lived through exactly the same thing. 
Cross said, tearfully: 'I... I couldn't believe it. It's hard to accept. Doing it to yourself and finding out later that that was the reason why, it’s just really hard to accept.'   
On Friday March 16, Cross had her implants removed, covered fully by insurance because she had a capsular contracture - one of the handful of side effects that qualifies for coverage. 
'It was just night to day, I can’t even explain how I can feel my body healing,' Cross said. 
The hard part was the pathology report. 
Cross had seen other women's photos online of yellowing and deformed implants. But she wasn't prepared to experience that herself. 
One of her implants was yellow. 
The pathology report found nothing wrong with Cross's own tissue, but the left implant contained mold. 
'I was just emotional. I was just really upset. It was hard to look at them knowing they were mine. I see them online but when it’s yours... It's hard.'
Looking back, Cross says she would counsel herself, and any woman, to think twice. 
'It was a very poor decision, I didn’t even need them. I was a small C, a full B.
'I was just so young and I thought they were what I needed.
'For young girls with social media now it’s probably even worse. I can’t even imagine being 18 now. The pressure to look good and be a certain way... it's overwhelming.
'I just feel so glad to share my story and that we're finally being heard.'
Conner Niles Ramacher, now 27, was modelling when she had her first child. 
'I had breastfed my daughter for 18 months and I was insecure about how my breasts had deflated,' Ramacher told DailyMail.com. 
Ramacher's reactions came on earlier than most after getting saline implants in April 2016, at the age of 24. 
Within months, she had painful capsular contracture on both sides, requiring replacement surgery in August 2016. 
Soon after, more symptoms arose.
'I started noticing that my hair was coming out in clumps. I have a lot of hair so it’s not something I would normally notice. I have most of my head shaved so for that much hair to be coming out was saying something.
'I noticed that my skin changed from oily to dry complexion. Small things here and there. Extreme agoraphobia, anxiety and OCD. Running out of breath.
'I would leave my apartment and I would be so worried and anxious that I would drive 15 minutes and panic that I hadn’t locked the door, turn around and drive all the way back.' 
Those symptoms aside, Ramacher's implants hadn't 'dropped yet'. They were meant to slide into place after the swelling of the surgery had subsided, but that wasn't happening. 
So, a couple of months after getting her replacement set, Ramacher had to get another. But she didn't connect her other symptoms to her breast implant woes. 
In July 2017, Ramacher developed another capsular contracture, requiring another set. 
That was when her worst symptoms arose. 
'I have always been energetic, outgoing, I have ADHD and I have always bounced off the walls a bit. I started getting tired, and I couldn't eat or drink anything. 
'I went to the hospital because I'd lost 9lbs. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I had an endoscopy at a gastroenterologist. They said my organs were inflamed.'  
Soon after, Ramacher got pregnant. 
'I lost 15 pounds in my first trimester. I was throwing up five to six times a day. 
'I started to have extreme rashes on my face to the point that they would crack and bleed and I had to keep putting lotion on it.
'I couldn’t stop itching with hives all over. I would get random swelling. I was bed bound. 
'I had chronic fatigue, that I associated with pregnancy, and I was sick all the time. 
'My teeth started deteriorating but at a quicker pace. I started developing cavities. I brush my teeth, I take care of myself.
'I had extreme pain in my hips and my back.'
Eight days after Ramacher and her husband welcomed their son, there were problems. Their son couldn't feed and Ramacher was hospitalized with a 107F fever. 
'They thought it was meningitis or encephalitis. They pumped me with every antibiotic they could, pain meds - I was in so much pain I would cry with my head pounding. They put my in isolation.'
Her ex-boyfriend, her daughter's father, was the first to suggest it could be breast implant illness, after meeting a woman in a clinic waiting room who told him she had just explanted. 
'He told me he had never heard anyone so genuine, begging him to never let any woman in his life go through the same thing.
'I kind of blew it all off. I’m a stubborn person even if someone told my about breast implant illness before I probably still would have got them.'
But weeks later, a friend mentioned the same thing, and Ramacher started listening. 
She read online about other women with the same gastrointestinal issues, lack of libido, autoimmune disorders, and heart palpitations as her, all after getting implants. 
Normally weighing 125 pounds, she was struggling to budge down from 170. 
'I thought, this is definitely what I have. This lined up with everything. I matched with 40 symptoms, so I decided to explant.'
On March 5, Ramacher got an explant performed by a reconstruction specialist in Austin, Texas. 
Her case was one of the most extreme.
The doctor, who Ramacher insists did the best job he could with what she had, was forced to remove 70 percent of her left breast. 
The implant was attached to her chest wall. The scarring had surrounded a lot of her breast tissue, squeezing the implant so tight it was oblong, rather than spherical. The implant had changed from smooth to textured. 
A pathology test revealed her implants contained E. coli and two types of staphylococcus bacteria. 
Waking up, Ramacher says: 'It was a shocker. I thought I would just have flat breasts, I didn’t expect that I would have 70 percent of my breasts removed.'
It will cost Ramacher $25,000, likely not on insurance, to reconstruct her breasts. 
But she insists she has no regrets.
'It’s an amazing transformation I can’t even explain it,' Ramacher said. 
'I woke up instantly from surgery and felt amazing. I didn’t go to sleep for 12/13 hours after surgery. I was wide awake, I had energy, I just wanted to do stuff. Before, it was a struggle for me to do makeup, I felt like I had run a marathon. The last three days I’m running errands all day and I didn’t feel like I was dying. 
'And you can see it in my skin. After my explant my husband walking in and was like “holy cr*p you are fucking glowing”.'
Ramacher says she understands why women want to get implants. She's sure that nothing could have convinced her younger self not to get them. But she is now trying to be an open book of advice and information for other women considering it. 
'I'm not going to judge them. But to me it's not worth it.'
Nicole Lane, who has had silicone implants for nine years, said it's hard to hammer home what 'fatigue' really means. 
'It's like how I remember feeling after procrastinating too long in college and having a paper due the next day,' Lane, from Portland, Michigan, told DailyMail.com. 
'You stay up until like 4am writing the paper, knowing you have to be up at 6am. You end up waking late at 6.30 and having to rush around, starting your day in a panic attack after only getting maybe two hours of sleep. 
'Your eyes are iffy and burning, your body has no energy, and you feel like you could fall asleep at any time.
'This is my every morning.
'I typically get a full night of sleep and even a nap or two, and it is just never relieved.
'Throughout the day your brain is seemingly half working, you are very forgetful, constantly yawning, eyes feeling puffy, dry and sore, body feeling weak and like your muscles just simply want to give out. Feeling "not all there" and kind of lost.' 
Sometimes Lane sleeps 18 hours straight, wakes up for a few hours, then she's out again for another 12. 
The exhaustion has forced Lane to quit her job at a medical insurance company, relying on her grandparents and disability while she struggles to find treatment for her mysterious ailments. 
She has never tested positive for anything, but doctors have tried to alleviate her pain with a slew of high-octane pills, invariably to treat it as a mental issue - including Buspar, Valium, Xanax, Seroquel, and Paxil. 
'My friends (when I still had them) called me "sleeping beauty" and would always get on me about "sleeping my life away", which I do. I miss everything now because I'm always just so tired,' Lane said. 
It was only a couple of weeks ago that Lane first heard about breast implant illness, and she says 'a light bulb went off.'
Lane says she wanted implants since she was a teenager with small breasts.
'I was really insecure about it. I got teased. I grew up to have an obsession about breasts, I would have anxiety attacks when I saw a woman with bigger breasts, watching TV for example. I grew an obsession, I knew I was going to get them, it was just a matter of when.'
She had her first son at 17, second son at 20, and daughter at 24. After graduating high school, she started college part-time while working at a nursing home and built up enough credit to buy a car. At 21, she became an ER technician, and at 23 she was able to buy a house. Eventually, she decided to switch to a more stable desk job. 
Finally, with all that out the way, she had saved up enough to get her implants. 
'I had researched it all, I had found a doctor, I knew I wanted them, and this was the time.'
She got them in February 2010. The next day, she noticed one was slightly deformed. Within a couple of weeks, it was clear Lane had a capsular contraction. The doctor said it would cost $1,000 to fix.  
'I had just spent $8,000 on my implants. I decided it wasn’t too big of a deal, it wasn’t too awful painful at that point so I put it off.'
Within three months, Lane developed chronic fatigue. She suspected she might have inherited her mother's hypothyroidism, which came on at 25, but tests came back clear. 
'After that, it just becomes a blur because it was all so much,' Lane says. 
She dropped out of college without finishing the semester, and was soon forced to take a year of disability from work. 
Doctors tested her for Lyme disease, multiple sclerosis - anything. It all came back clear. 
'They started treating me like it was all in my head. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder... everything. The medication didn't do anything.'
She would try each antidepressant for a month or so before her doctors upped the dose or switched to another.
Meanwhile, Lane became convinced she had MS after seeing a YouTube video with a woman describing loosely similar symptoms. This woman was starting to forget words and struggled to walk, which panicked Lane. 
But one Friday night earlier this month, while she binged on YouTube videos about MS for a sign that this was it, she landed on a video by Karissa Pukas, a Canadian YouTube star who shared her own story of breast implant illness last year. 
'I watched that and I was like, "holy sh**, this is my story being told to me by somebody else.'
Lane is now desperate to get an explant, hoping that she will be able to regain her strength, ability to work, and ability to play with her kids.  
She has set up an MRI scan to find out if she does indeed have a capsular contracture as her surgeon suspected years ago, which would mean her insurance company would cover $2,200 of the $6,000-10,000 procedure. 
For now, Lane, who is out of work and relies on her grandparents, has been forced to set up a GoFundMe account to raise the money as she eagerly watches for any word from the FDA hearing. 
'I wouldn't wish this on anyone because I can't function. I hope they listen to us.' 
'The story of why I wanted breast implants is similar to thousands of others,' Angelica Riggs, a mother-of-three from Arizona who is raising money to get an explant, told DailyMail.com. 
'I had had my children, I wanted a more feminine look to my body, I was always small in the chest and I thought my body was mis-proportioned. 
'Breast implants, in my mind, were going to make me look more proportioned. And, I'm not going to lie, it did.'
Riggs got the Allergan smooth saline implants inserted under the muscle just over 10 years ago. 
Three years after, she was diagnosed with unrelated endometriosis, requiring a full hysterectomy, appendectomy and gall bladder removal. Riggs does not believe her implants caused her endometriosis, though she wonders whether it exacerbated her case.
But it was two years ago that she started getting the symptoms shared by other women with implants.
'Symptoms, for me, are forever changing and forever upgrading, for lack of a better term,' Riggs said.
'I have a couple of symptoms that are very severe and they stick with me and they don't seem to let up no matter what, they just continue to get worse and worse. They are the ones I am constantly saying I pray they go away after my explant.'
Those symptoms include: 
  • Pain: 'The pain, the all-over body pain, is absolutely excruciating and debilitating. I take medicine for the pain but it doesn't barely touch it. If it does, I would hate to feel what this feels like without the medicine.'
  • Bed-ridden: 'I'm over 90 percent bed-ridden. I do not get out of bed for very much during the day at all and it has been that way for over a year but it has not been as severe. I used to spend a good portion in my bed either sleeping or not feeling good. Now it's very rare that I'm up out of bed at all except for to use the restroom or I have a doctor's appointment. If there's not a reason I'm probably not going to get out of bed.'  
  • Nausea: 'I'm always nauseous, very nauseous.'
  • No energy: 'I have no energy. Zero. Every day, when I walk from my bedroom to my kitchen, I feel like I ran a marathon. I have a very difficult time moving and talking, I'm not going to be able to walk and talk.'
  • Cough: 'I have a cough that my doctor thinks is croup.'
  • Severe food intolerances: 'In May it will be two years since I had any alcohol, any meat, any dairy, any gluten. Right now my diet consists of strictly fruits and not all fruits. If they have a peel on it like pears, I have to skin them. My body just will reject it and I will throw it up and it's like I never digested. I've been checked for gastroperesis. I'm negative for H. pylori, I don't have celiac, but they can't figure out why I'm not able to tolerate any food.'
  • Weight loss: 'I currently weigh 96.6 pounds. That's a very difficult thing for me to swallow. I lost a good amount of weight in a little over a year's time. I started out at 28 pounds and now I'm 96.'
  • Hormone imbalance: 'After a hysterectomy, my hormones should be imbalanced, but they're not. My doctors are baffled, they just don't understand.'
  • Epstein Barr
  • Rocketing liver enzymes: 'I don't drink but my liver enzymes are elevated. In the last few months, they went from being elevated to being in the high range.'
  • Brain fog: 'The brain fog is a very real thing. I will be talking to my husband or children and I will forget that they told them or something they told me, or I will forget complete chunks of my whole day.'
  • Anxiety
  • Fluctuating levels: 'My thyroid was elevated, it was really high, they were thinking Hashimoto's months ago, but it's now low. My B12 was elevated but now back to normal. Vitamin D is low.' 
  • Arm paralysis: 'My whole arm is starting to go numb and starts to tighten all the way down to my wrist and it makes my fingers curl in. I have to let it ride out.'
  • Moles: 'I've got these little red moles all over my body especially on my chest.' 
  • Overheating: 'Out of nowhere my entire body will turn red and it's like my core is overheating and it's visible. I feel it like my whole body is radiating heat, like this clammy feeling.' 
  • Strange smell: I have a weird odor to me on my left side under my armpit, it smells a little bit chemical to me but also sour. 
  • No libido: 'I have zero libido. Absolutely zero.'
  • Hair loss: 'The hair loss is ridiculous, I'm losing chunks at a time, it's getting so thin that I should probably chop it all off.'
  • Depression: 'Hand in hand this all goes with depression. I don't feel like I'm a depressed person but this is causing me to be. I'm just in bed all day every single day.'
'Doctors don't have answers for me, it's just a blank stare that they give, saying "it's just how your body is reacting" or something like that,' Riggs says. 
'I just turned 42 in February and I feel like I'm 98, and I definitely don't look my age. I have so much puffiness and wrinkles on my hand and every day I'm just aging even more. This is the craziest phenomenon I've ever gone through in my life.'   
Riggs identified that it was breast implant illness about a year ago. 
'My husband and I were both at a loss. He was doing a bit of research and came across the breast implant illness Facebook page. I think I disregarded it at first. But one night I started reading some of these ladies stories and I just remember sitting there and sobbing because all of a sudden I am reading my life and what is happening to me every day but in someone else's words, and that is just a trip.
'All of a sudden I'm not one in a million anymore. I'm one of 70,000 that is having problems and the same kind of issues.' 
She is now raising money to get an explant, which is not covered on insurance. 
In a GoFundMe page, her daughter implores people to donate and share as they try to hit the $9,500 goal.
For any women considering implants, Riggs urges them to do their homework on implants, and on themselves. 
'Sit down with a pencil and paper and write down all the things you think you could live without,' she says.
'Do you think you could go without all the foods you like? Could you go wit taking a chance with not being able to do anything to pick up your kids or grandkids or enjoy Christmas? Or to be with your significant other? Intimately or any other way.'
Her voice broke with tears as she added: 'This is a very lonely illness because even though you have people that are standing by you, and I couldn't imagine not having the support that I do, but you can see it in their faces, they don't know what to do.'
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