I posted topless videos of myself on TikTok to spread awareness of breast cancer and breast-implant illness, and they went viral

Courtesy of Rachel Garlinghouse
When I developed symptoms after my direct-implantation breast cancer surgery, the doctors had no answers.
After doing my own research, I learned about breast implant disease, a problem that affects many.
I had my implants removed and posted a video of my flat chest on TikTok. It went viral.
Two months after my breast implants were removed - aka explantation - I posted a topless photo on Instagram. I was nervous, of course, because I didn't know how people would react to a topless woman with no breasts. But within a few days it had over 13,000 likes. However, every picture is worth a thousand words and this one is no exception.
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When I first had breast cancer, I had a direct-implant mastectomy. This meant I had surgery with my natural breasts and cancerous cells and came out with implants. I also came out of surgery NED - or with "no sign of illness".
The icing on the cake? My breast implants looked perfect. I joked with friends that one day I would be the hottest old lady in the nursing home. However, what I experienced with my breast implants over the next three and a half years wasn't funny.
Shoulder pain was my first symptom of breast implants
The first sign something was wrong was excruciating shoulder pain that came and went. An MRI did not reveal the cause; I was simply told to stretch and see a physical therapist. I spent thousands of dollars on physical therapy and chiropractic, neither of which did little for relief.
After about two years of having implants, I began to experience more symptoms. Just when I thought I had a handle on one, another popped up. I sought the help of 10 - yes, 10 - different medical professionals. They all came up empty-handed, save for a rheumatologist who said I "may have lupus" based on some questionable lab results.
When I started my third year of breast implants, my health deteriorated badly. I've had digestive issues, anxiety, depression, insomnia, symptoms of the aforementioned lupus, dizzy spells, muscle aches, purple toes, dry eyes, hair loss, and sudden food intolerances. As I sat down and made a list, a whopping 29 symptoms came to mind.
How I took my health into my own hands
I woke up one morning, grabbed my phone and started researching. After reading hundreds of women's stories, I knew I had to remove my implants or I would never get better. I firmly believed I had something called breast implant disease, or BII - a constellation of symptoms resulting from my body reacting to the foreign objects sewn into my breast.
That week I called my cosmetic surgeon and begged her to remove my implants. She consented to the surgery. Although breast implant disease is not a medical diagnosis, it is possible for implants to make some people who have them quite ill. In October 2021, the FDA issued new, strict guidelines for breast implants and also mentioned BII as something that could be solved with the "removal of breast implants without replacement".
My explant surgery took place a few months later, although there were several delays due to the pandemic. During the same surgery, my breast surgeon worked with my plastic surgeon to remove a 10-millimeter lump, a breast cancer recurrence, from my chest wall. The operation was a double whammy. Despite the news that I had breast cancer again, I was dizzy when they removed my implants.
I had to be my own advocate, but it paid off
A lot of people told me that there was "no way" they would choose to have flat chests as a younger woman, but I didn't care. Aside from the rejection I received, I was also confronted with medical gaslighting by some medical professionals. They implied that my illness was just in my head and would ask me things like, "What if you get depressed because you're completely flat-chested?"
Despite the naysayers, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that removing my implants was the right choice. My health was worth a lot more than nice-looking breasts — and so am I.
In the weeks after the surgery I healed even faster than I thought and over time my symptoms disappeared. Some went away immediately, while others gradually subsided. I also continued with breast cancer treatment: 33 rounds of radiation, 12 months of immunotherapy, and 12 rounds of chemotherapy.
Despite facing cancer treatments for a year, I was healthier than before because I made the bold decision to remove the implants that were making me ill. The difference between my implanted and explanted self was striking.
My viral moment - and the overwhelming response
Last summer, in the middle of my cancer treatments, I joined TikTok and decided to post a video of me topless. It felt good and I posted a few videos that were similar; they went viral. The feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive.
People call me brave, inspirational and badass. Women have privately messaged me sharing their implant horror stories, while others have thanked me for reminding them to do their self exams. One of my greatest joys is when commenters say they got their mammograms or are starting to think they have BII because of my videos.
On the other hand, some have accused me of posting for attention, which is ridiculous. I didn't get breast cancer for attention. I wouldn't wish this nightmare on my worst enemy. However, I am posting topless videos and pictures to raise awareness. I am grateful for social media and the power of images and pray that they will help others avoid the same fate.
Read the original article on Insider

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