Why I Got My Breast Implants Removed—and I’ll Never Look Back

breast implants

Note from the author: There are many reasons women, non-binary, and trans persons choose to get breast implants. This article is not intended to be anti-implant. It’s a pro-explant for me story.

Nothing in 2020 went as planned, and most unexpectedly it was the year I set my boobs free. 

The year started slow. I’d been having some health issues and my twice-daily hikes turned into a once-a-day slow walk. I’d just turned 57 and it hurt my knees to carry my young grandchildren up several steps to enter my home. It’s like there was a slow leak in my body. My brain was foggy. I had no energy and the joint pain became so intense I found myself in bed for two weeks with heating pads on my knees and hips—and this was all before the pandemic started.

Once lockdown happened, it only got worse. I prefer holistic healing and I knew if went to the doctor I’d be given steroid shots and pain meds. That wasn’t a solution for me. I wanted to heal from the inside. I’d also been dealing with stress from a family situation; maybe if I managed my stress the pain would lift, and my vitality would return.

By the summer, I was napping all of the time. It was hard to get out of bed. I’d use my hands to lift my legs to roll over and then I’d steady myself on the floor. It hurt to take a step. I didn’t tell anyone what was going on because the world was in turmoil—the pandemic, racial protests, and ongoing social inequities. My health issues were my problem.

In June, a breast thermography revealed some curious spots around my breast implants. The nurse who reviewed my records reminded me that I should get new implants every 10 years. That was the first time I’d heard this information. My implants were 21 years old. 

I prefer to think my choice to get breast implants when I was 36 was simply to even out my breasts after nursing four children but really, I enjoyed the look of having perky breasts, even small ones. Prior to being pregnant, I had very little breast tissue. I didn’t notice or care until the world told me to. When I decided to get implants after breastfeeding, I made the choice without any research. So many women I knew had them. I even booked the procedure with a friend and we got our new breasts on the same day. 

Ten years ago, I considered removing the implants. I was healthy and felt great, but as my daughter became a teenager, I started regretting my decision. I didn’t want her to think her body needed to look any different at any stage of life. And what example was I setting for my three sons? And now I have two granddaughters and I want them to cherish their bodies just the way they are. 

At the time, the explant surgery was two to three times as expensive as the implant surgery. I’d need to get a loan. Ultimately, I chose to leave them in because I didn’t want to do any more damage to my body. I didn’t want the trauma of cutting myself open again. 

While I always thought I had a good relationship with my body, as I wrote the book Autobiography of an Orgasm in 2014, I realized how disconnected I’d been when I chose to place two bags of plastic right on top of my lungs, right over my heart. 

And then in September 2020 came the news that the FDA was adding a black box warning to implants. Some types could potentially cause cancer. Allergan, a company that makes implants, announced a recall of certain implants. What kind did I have? I had no idea.

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When you get implants, you receive a small card with the information about your implants. In 21 years, I’d moved 11 times. That card was long gone. I called the surgeon’s office who did the implants. They informed me they only kept records for 10 years. The only way to know if I had the recalled implants was to cut into my chest.

“So, you want new implants,” the receptionist at the office asked. “No, I want mine removed.”

Long pause and then she put me on hold.

After hanging up the phone, I reviewed the surgeon’s website and found a video of him defending the safety of breast implants and a statement that there was a lot of misinformation circulating regarding the choice to explant. If I was going to remove the implants, I would choose someone who believed in the procedure. 

As I started researching explant surgery, I discovered there are thousands of women who were explanting, many due to health issues and unexplained illnesses. There are waiting lists of up to a year to have them removed. Some plastic surgeons refused to do implants anymore. A Facebook group with more than 100,000 women was filled with stories of health and bodies reclaimed after explanting. 

By October 2020, my health continued to decline. I stopped taking daily walks. I was out of breath when I carried my granddaughters. Pain sliced through my knees and legs when I sat on the floor to play with them and it was nearly impossible to get up. 

I got relief from BodyIntuitive treatments with Dr. Janet Galipo. BodyIntuitive uses the wisdom of Eastern medicine combined with the science of Western medicine to treat and balance the body and mind. It was during one of these treatments when I asked about the implants and it was confirmed that they needed to be removed. “As we age, the body can start to think of the implants as foreign objects and begin to fight against them,” Galipo said during one of my sessions.

I booked consultations with three doctors for December and then was fortunate to get a last-minute appointment for surgery with my first choice, Dr. Luke Swistun in Beverly Hills. I read his statement on Breast Implant Illness at drswistun.com and realized that the intense health issues I’d been having for the past three years could be caused by the implants. I assumed it was due to stress, menopause, and aging. 

“I’ve made Breast Implant Illness (BII) a strong focus of my practice,” Dr. Swistun told me. I liked that BII patients currently represented the majority of his patients. Even without proof of BII, Dr. Swistun was listening to and believing his patients. That was important to me. 

Now, I’m two months post-surgery and feeling great. While my intention for surgery was to reclaim my natural body, those ongoing health issues disappeared immediately. I’m hiking, dancing, and doing yoga. My energy is back. My body is healed. My boobs are healed… damn, what I’ve put them through. They are like animals who had to perform in a circus their whole lives and now they are set free to live out their lives in a friendly pasture. 

During my follow-up check-up, Dr. Swistun sent me photos and videos of my surgery. It was a sweet sensation to witness a clear chest, nothing blocking my heart or lungs. I appreciate his expertise in removing the implants and scar capsule that formed around them. He’d told me that there wouldn’t be much of a difference because my implants were so small, but there was a difference. My daughter Lucy noticed it.

A few days after surgery on a call with Lucy she said, “Now we match again.” 

Yes, we do.

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Betsy Murphy
Photo by Pauline Shypula

Betsy Murphy is a writer, performer, mother, grandmother, and guide for women to retrieve the hidden parts of our stories. She speaks about the “things we don’t talk about” but does it in a way that makes you comfortable being in the conversation. Her books include Autobiography of an Orgasm, Beyond O, Write On: A Daily Writing Practice for Anyone with a Story to Tell, and Chasing Temples (2021). You can find out more about her books, solo shows, and where Betsy is teaching at betsybmurphy.com


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