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Real Life

Real life: My breast implants almost killed me!

I was desperate for answers but the docs refused to listen.

By As told to Take 5

Natalie Alexander, 26, from the Fraser Coast, Qld shares her true life story;

As I blinked my eyes open, I felt overwhelmed by the bright lights and beeping sounds.
I remembered I was in hospital.
"Is it done?" I slurred groggily to a nurse checking my vitals.
"You're all good, love," she replied. "It all went well."
The size of my tiny A-cup breasts had always made me feel self-conscious, so I'd decided to get implants to increase them to a DD.
Excited, I looked down at my bandaged chest to see my brand-new bulging bosom.
"They're amazing," I marvelled, impressed by the new mounds on my chest.
Once I was allowed home later that day, I headed straight to the full-length mirror in my bedroom so that I could inspect myself properly.
"I love them," I said aloud, peeling back the bandages.
Even though I was still swollen and sore, I already felt like a million bucks, light years away from the insecure girl I used to be.
I felt so confident with my bigger boobs. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
Before the surgery, I'd shy away from low-cut tops or revealing clothing.
Looking at myself in the mirror had always made me cringe; I didn't feel feminine compared to my fuller-chested friends.
Around men, I was constantly self-conscious and usually tried to turn off the lights in bed.
But now, I finally felt sexy and womanly, on the inside and out.
When I went out with my friends after the op, I donned a tight, low-cut dress to show off 'the girls'.
"You look bloody ripper!" one cheered when she saw me.
"Best decision I ever made," I winked gleefully.
Men kept doing double-takes as I walked by them, and I relished the attention.
But three years after my surgery, strange things started happening.
One day at work in my job as a child carer, I was holding a toddler when I felt the whole left side of my body turn numb.
Panicked and confused, I nearly dropped the poor kid!
"I dunno what's going on," I screamed to my workmate, quickly setting the boy on the ground.
Frustrated, I went to hospital and had a series of tests, even seeing a neurologist.
I took drastic measures to feel better. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
But no-one could say what was wrong, and after a few days, I discharged myself since the numbness had gone away.
Maybe it's just a one-off, I convinced myself.
In the following weeks, I woke up every morning feeling like I had a massive hangover, even though I hadn't drunk.
I was constantly tired, my throat was sore, and I couldn't concentrate on a thing.
I'm just run-down, I figured.
If it was something more serious, the docs would have surely found it.
But some days, I had heart palpitations, extreme anxiety, and when I combed my hair, huge clumps would come out.
"Don't worry, pet, we'll figure out what's wrong," my partner, Wayde, soothed when I cried to him. "I'm sure it's all connected."
I'd never felt so unwell and afraid. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
One day, nearly three years later, just as I was giving up hope in finding answers, I read a Facebook post.
An old colleague of mine was talking about having her breast implants removed due to a condition she called 'breast implant illness'.
She described it as a series of autoimmune issues that affect women with implants.
Brain fog, insomnia, poor memory, I nodded, reading through the symptoms.
Surely this isn't real? Doctors had assured me my implants were safe.
But as I did my own research, I stumbled across a Facebook group with more than 70,000 women going through the exact same thing.
I became convinced this was happening to me, too.
Armed with dozens of testimonials, I went to my GP.
"All these women have breast implant illness, and I think I do, too," I urged.
The doc chuckled. "That's not a medically recognised condition," he grinned.
"I know you're worried, but I wouldn't trust what some women on Facebook say."
The more I read, the more I was convinced I had breast implant illness. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
I left feeling disappointed – I wasn't bloody making it up!
But the more I read, the more I was convinced it was what I had.
"I'm gonna have the implants taken out," I told Wayde, fed up with feeling so crook for the sake of a curvier figure. It just wasn't worth it.
"I'll support you no matter what," he encouraged.
I was sceptical that the surgery would cure me of all my symptoms, but I was willing to give anything a try.
After three years suffering debilitating symptoms, I'd finally saved the $6000 fee for the explant surgery.
Being rolled into the operating theatre again felt like deja vu.
But as soon as I woke from the operation, I felt like I could breathe properly for the first time in six years. My brain had clarity and my chest pains were gone. I was finally free!
Leaving the hospital, I felt like a new woman.
I feel healthy again. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
It took all those years of pain and anguish to love my body for what it is. It didn't bother me that my boobs were small.
I finally felt healthy again and that's all that mattered.
"Believe me now?" I asked my surgeon during a follow-up appointment.
He paused. "If you'd asked me two years ago, I'd have said it was rubbish, but from the results I've seen, I can't deny it," he nodded.
Now, it's my mission to make women aware of the risks of implant surgery.
Bigger breasts aren't necessarily best.

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