The Ugly Truth of Breast Implants: Q&A with Bianca Bogdanovic
With so many girls online often feeling the pressure from Instagram to look and be perfect, a different sort of trend has been surfacing.
Many young women, including influencers, are revealing that they are getting their breast implants removed after suffering from Breast Implant Illness.
Breast Implant Illness is described as a wide range of symptoms such as headaches, chronic fatigue, pain, anxiety and even diseases and infections caused by breast implants.
Sadly, not much research has been done into this illness, as for so long this surgery was considered safe. Some newer studies on long term patients have been done, with one of the latest ones from 2019. This research has been able to link silicone implants to specific autoimmune diseases that women have developed since the surgery.
Bianca Bogdanovic experienced this exact situation from her own implants after struggling to work out with doctor’s why she was getting progressively sicker.
I spoke to Bianca to discuss her explant journey and confidence issues now, as well as why it is so important that more research and studies into this damaging illness should be done.
Q: When did you get breast implants and what was the reasoning behind it?
A: I got my first set in 2012 and I had just turned 18. I had a lot of insecurity issues from a young age, throughout my teenage years and highschool and I obviously had to be 18 to get them done. I would have at 16 but wasn’t allowed, so I spent my apprentice years saving up all this money and as soon as I hit 18, I booked. Purely because I was bullied, I was self conscious, and I was a slow developer. I think that’s just genetic and I didn’t know anything about it. Just young and dumb. It was never a trend for me, I just wanted to feel better about myself.
Q: Did you consider any potential dangers at the time?
A: There was nothing online to say that it was dangerous. I did the usual Google searches, mostly before and afters photos and other women’s experiences. The main thing I looked at was just are they safe? They said they were 100% safe there was just no studies to say it was linked with any man made cancers, just nothing online.
Q: How was the surgery and recovery experience?
A: I had a really breezy surgery. I was obsessed with them and had them going on for 7 years. I was out of bed within the first few days, just needed a bit of help getting up for the first week. I only took 2 weeks off work and then living my best life. In that time frame, I reckon the first 5 years were the best years ever. I was developing into my 20’s, finding myself, went through a lot with modelling. I put all my confidence down to them which is wrong, but I did, because everything was happening from the time that I had them.
Q: When did you start to notice anything was wrong?
A: I didn’t link it until maybe the last couple years of having them. There were little things that I didn’t even realise were going wrong with me. The first one was an autoimmune disease that I developed called Raynaud’s. It’s a circulation issue where the blood vessels swell and collapse so my toes, fingers and lips would go blue in winter. I didn’t realise it had only developed when I had implants. That’s one of the major ones, as well as little things like headaches, fatigue and even body aches and pains which I would always put down to the gym because I trained. I always just thought ‘Oh I’m sore, I’m tired, I’m fatigued’. Especially my upper back and my neck because I had very big implants for my frame and was never really upright.
I was going to doctors saying I felt really unwell, fatigued and having issues with my fingers and hands and they would send me home. They’d say I was fine, just needed to rest, a little under the weather. They kind of made me feel like I was making it up. I kept thinking I don’t feel right I am so young, but I feel so old, every winter was scary because of my toes.
Q: Who ended up diagnosing you?
A: I did. I was getting so fed up with doctor’s telling me I was fine, they don’t know anything about implants, they don’t put them in, plastic surgeons do. And of course plastic surgeons aren’t going to say anything, it is their revenue. I was googling all my symptoms and found out about Raynaud’s which I never even knew existed before and took it to a doctor. They did some more tests and told me I had that, as well as chilblains. So, I pretty much had to do all the research myself. When I googled all my symptoms, I saw something linked to breast implants and thought that was weird, so I clicked the link and so much about breast implant illness came up. That kind of started my journey into researching that and learning more about it. I looked up Facebook groups and found out so many other thousands of women were dealing with this. There was 30 or so symptoms I had linking me to this. I got older and realised it’s a foreign object in my body of course my immune system is attacking it, it doesn’t want them in there.
Q: Was the explant decision hard?
A: Yeah, maybe 4 years ago I had my breast implants redone to get them bigger. They found a rupture in my old set that I had no idea about. Once I got my new set my symptoms just increased tenfold. I was getting aggressively sicker and that’s when I began the research and I had them in for only around a year before making that decision to remove. I travelled to America to do it because there was more explant surgeons there that actually believe in implant illness than Australia.
Q: How was the explant surgery and how did you feel after?
A: They were both [implant and explant] very similar, very cruisy. That’s probably why it is so popular now as well, it’s so easy to have done and it’s so cheap. It was actually more expensive for me to get them removed than it was to get them put in. Because it was a cosmetic surgery you couldn’t claim any of that on health insurance even though I was sick. Once I had them removed most of my symptoms lifted. It was pretty instantly which is strange to think that. But once I had them removed it was like I could breathe again. I could straighten my back, I could see properly because light sensitivity was something I struggled with for so long.
Q: I noticed you do have a following on Instagram, do you choose to share this and feel a responsibility?
A: At the time I definitely did share it a lot more. In the beginning I had hundreds of girls messaging me saying they are always sick and had implants and didn’t even know it was a thing. I still have girls messaging me all the time asking me questions. The main question I get is do you feel happier now and that they are really scared to fall back to how they were before mentally. That’s probably the real and most raw part of it all, the mental side of things and I guess what I struggled with the most. I am more confident and mature with myself, but I definitely still struggle a lot.
View this post on Instagram
Q: Do you see explant awareness on Instagram more and how do you feel about it?
A: I do see it a lot more with women having them removed and then telling their stories. It was a trend to have them and now everyone’s wanting to go back to being more natural. They want to become more health conscious which is great and they are realise the implants can be affecting them negatively. I think it’s really beneficial because that’s how so many are removing them, by seeing someone else and relating. It’s great to see all these women’s stories but there still isn’t enough out there, what we need to see more of is surgeons telling them the risks and more accredited people. It’s easy to follow an influencer and say well you had this experience which means I’m having this experience. Medical people letting you know that this is likely to happen and your body will want to reject these things might help girls think twice about it.
Q: How would you say your self confidence is now?
A: I definitely fell back into the hole I was in when I was young at first. Probably worse because I had scars on my chest and healed with a lot of scar tissue, so my natural boobs didn’t look right in the beginning, it took a long time. The confidence thing is still there even until this day. I had to change my wardrobe completely, I haven’t really been in a bikini in 2 years because that was my big thing when I was younger. I had these implants and I became a swimsuit model for national comps. I was spending so many years in bikinis and would think this is the only reason I am here, which is so stupid to think like that. When I had them removed I would think well I don’t look or feel the same so I’m not going to go compete again. I actually set myself of a goal to get back on stage without them purely to say I can, I will and I did it. It didn’t feel the same, I wasn’t as confident, but I did it.
Q: Do you think it’s hard for girls who want to be confident from this?
A: I’m so torn though, that’s why I really struggle at the moment. I actually prefer how I look now, I really do, I like the natural look. I look back on photos of myself and think what was I thinking? My brain has been so programmed into thinking that that was my normal body that I struggled to see this as my normal one now. Even though I do prefer it, I don’t know quite how to dress, and I do struggle to always embrace it. That’s something that I’ve been struggling with to this day and it’s been over 2 years. I’m very lucky to have a supportive partner.