A Journey I Didn’t Know I Was On…..A true story, shared by Charlene Sottilare


Image 2-13-19 at 11.19 AM (1)The Beginning:
7 Years ago, I started a weight loss journey. I had lost a considerable amount of weight. If I remember correctly, about 80lbs. I had competed in an NPC figure competition at age 46! It was an amazing goal. My body was lean and mean, however I had lost my “boobs”! They turned into flat pancakes!  After discussing it with my biggest fan and supporter, my husband, I decided to get implants. I remember my husband, Ray, saying, “Babe, if that’s what you want, then go for it! But, remember, I love you no matter how you look.”  Ahhhhhh, I should have just stopped right there!
Now……let’s be real for a moment. I wanted those implants. I loved those implants once I got them. My implants looked natural, not fake, they were beautiful. I loved them until I didn’t love them anymore. The weight I had gained made them bigger, I was uncomfortable in my own skin. I’m not bashing implants at all. Breasts are beautiful, big, small, or none at all. For me, it was a matter of being healthy.. Image 2-13-19 at 11.19 AM (3)
I truly believe, from what I read, my implants were making me sick. Over these last few months, it was getting aggressive. Through research, I joined an amazing FB group. These ladies range in age from young to old. Some suffering…some not.  Some really bad…some just a little. Cancer survivors…to women who are contemplating getting implants.  It’s an amazing group of women who really eased my mind and have helped me considerably. This is my journey….
The Surgery: 
Once I decided to get implants, I went back and forth to my surgeon to decide on size and shape, etc. We discussed options as far as saline filled (silicone shell) or silicone. I opted for the saline filled (silicone shell). In May 2013, my implants were put in. The days after, I felt amazing. I attribute this to being in the best shape of my life when having the surgery. I was eating healthy and just overall feeling great. My recovery was fast. I followed all my plastic surgeon’s instructions, and I was back to my normal life within weeks. I was cleared around my 5/6 week mark at which time I could begin exercising again, but to go light with upper body weights for a bit.
Fast Forward just a bit:
Almost immediately after my implants were put in, I had a CC (Capsular Contracture). If you’re not familiar, a capsular contracture is a response of the immune system to foreign materials in the human body. Medically, it occurs mostly in context of the complications from breast implants and artificial joint prosthetics.  Around June 2013, I had returned to my doctor. He said it was a Grade 1 at the time.   Here are the grades explained:
Grade 1 : usually the patient is symptomatic
Grade 2: the breast is firmer and can be uncomfortable.
Grade 3: the breast shape changes. Usually the implant will move up causing noticeable difference. The breast will also feel firm.
Grade 4: The breast is not only misshappen but now it is painful to touch.
There really isn’t anything to be concerned about at Grade 1, or so I thought. I had no idea it was my body having a “negative” response. I just thought it was common, and I thought it would just settle itself and continue to heal.  I was continuing to heal. The breasts could take up to a year or longer to see what your actual size will be and how they will settle after augmentation.
The end of July 2013, I started to put on weight for no real reason.  I had done an NPC figure show, and you can’t stay that lean forever, but I mean real weight, and lots of it. I had absolutely no desire to get back in the gym. It actually was embarrassing when I finally did go back, because I was so much heavier then when I left for my surgery. I had thought maybe these symptoms were menopause. My workouts were different. I could feel the one implant moving sometimes during a workout! I hadn’t worked out my chest in 4 months, and when I did a push up, I was like, “What the hell is that???” My implant felt like it was moving!  Again, I thought this was normal. Asked other people with implants and they had that feeling as well sometimes.
Fast forward about 1 ½ years, still suffering with symptoms, my workouts were not like they were before. I kept my diet as healthy as I could, and still no weight would come off. At this point, I thought I was obviously in perimenopause or menopause. I did have random hot flashes, but really that was it.  No other symptoms that you would think would be related to menopause, could the unexplained weight gain be part of that as well? My doctor was diagnosing me with work related stress. All my blood work was coming back fine.
I’m a goal oriented person, so I figured I needed a new goal, so I started my powerlifting training.  About 5 months in, I tweaked my lower back doing a deadlift. I was out of the gym for over a month recovering, so I decided to wait on doing any competition.  I then started to get a severe pain in my right buttock.  It was really bad. I went to the doctor and had a cat scan and x-rays. I was told I had slight arthritis, but there was nothing else visible or wrong.  Hmmmm, ok. A little after this, I went back to my original gym in tears and begged my trainers to help me get back to where I once was. I wanted to lose the weight and get my physical stamina back. The pain became so excruciating that I had to modify a lot. This was so not me! I was so fit at one time. I was honestly a beast in the gym! I loved it so much, and now, I was really starting to fall apart. Could this honestly be menopause? Is this really what it’s like? I felt like I was 80! I starting rolling classes to help the pain, it was so terrible but, the classes didn’t help. I was told it was all these different things and stretching and rolling would help, but nothing helped, it just got worse.
Months go by, and that buttock pain had now traveled into my hip and lower back. I went to another doctor and had more x-rays and again showed absolutely nothing. I started physical therapy and also did acupuncture, cupping, ART and weekly adjustments.  It had gotten to the point where I could not stand straight with my feet together without being in severe constant throbbing pain. I even started infrared therapy, which I loved, but it wasn’t helping either. I was spending so much money on self-care, but nothing was working, I was getting worse. I had also started to develop slight pain on the side of my right breast. I went to the doctor, and all looked good.
My workouts were subpar and quite embarrassing. My conditioning was basically gone. I was living with pain and still trying many treatments. A little time had passed and I was starting to feel like my body was shifting, rotating. So, I was sent for more x-rays and yes it was rotating to the left, very bizarre to me, maybe coming from my scoliosis? Maybe from my one leg being a tad shorter than the other from a childhood break? However, none of these things were an issue prior. Everything was happening almost out of the blue. I could no longer do twisting movements or tilt side to side without pain. I could not do certain lunges without pain. Also, in 2017, I got a growth on the back of my right foot.  I was told it could be a bone spur, a cyst or even a Haglund’s deformity. This was affecting everything I did. It was painful to even walk. At some point, it went away only to come back again, then to go away!
My Ah-Ha Moment:
In the summer of 2017, I was at a customer’s home, (I own a pool service company with my husband) and I was coming out from a small area of the yard. I was crunched over. When I stood up, my right arm hit a tree. Oh boy did that hurt! I hit the area between my outer shoulder and my bicep. The next day, as you can imagine, it turned purple! I had pain, locally. I went to the doctor. All was good, just bruised, and I did sound wave therapy for any possible scar tissue build up. At this point, all my symptoms pretty much remained the same. Nothing changed, life went on in pain.
In 2018, I wanted to try powerlifting again.  Maybe I could get some life back in me?  Well, 2018 was the worst year of my life!  The pain not only traveled from my buttock, to my hip, and to my lower back, it had now gone to my shoulder area, to my trap, to my upper back and to my neck! Every joint in my body was aching. I still was having adjustments done. I would occasionally go for acupuncture and cupping and sit in the sauna.  I was going to the doctors, getting bloodwork, and everything came back fine! This seriously could not be menopause!
I continued to train the best I could. I was in constant pain, and it was a struggle to get out of bed most days. My husband would stop home in the middle of the day and instead of me being in my office working, I was in bed! I would apologize in tears and say, “Babe, I’m so sorry! This menopause is killing me.”
In July 2018, this is when it got extremely bad, I was starting to lose my hair!  My husband had to constantly clear the shower drains. I was noticing changes in my hair…little pieces and fuzzies. My skin was horrible! It was constantly peeling. I’d put makeup on and it was peeling off.  I thought, “Ok, maybe it’s the makeup.” I tried numerous washes, creams, facials, toners, masks.  UGH! The money I spent. Nothing worked. My face was getting dull. My eyes were dull.  My skin felt like it was sagging more. I was getting old!  Then, the worst part, I was so foggy brained! I couldn’t get words out! I had vertigo symptoms.  I was dizzy. I was literally not able to walk straight.  Most days, I had to hold onto to things getting out of bed. If I closed my eyes in the shower, I had a fear of falling over. Sometimes, I would forget how I got somewhere driving!! My scalp became super itchy. I felt like my eyesight was changing. I had tingly hands. Sometimes, I tasted metal. I had a slight ringing in my ears. I was so fatigued… literally exhausted.   I was sad, depressed and called out to friends for help. I even thought I had a brain tumor! I could barely sleep at night from all the pain. What the FUCK was happening to me???? At this point I said to my husband, something is wrong with me, this can’t be normal.  I had gone for my physical in October (self care month for me), as well as my yearly mammogram and my yearly GYN appointment. My blood results at that time showed extremely high cholesterol? Well that’s strange, why all of a sudden, why not gradual? Also, my red blood cell count was low. We’re going to keep an eye on this. Ok yes, let’s do that! We also discussed my fatigue, my dizziness and more symptoms I had, it’s probably stress, you’re over worked. Yes, in the summer, but not now!  Even my GYN wanted to put me on a 2-week trial of an anti depressant.  I opted to not take that!  But maybe I was depressed, maybe I was just going crazy, or maybe I do have a brain tumor, something???? I was really keeping to myself for the most part, didn’t take part in much social media anymore, friendships were kind of changing, I just couldn’t cope. I was so tired and fatigued all time. It really was embarrassing, especially at the place I love the most, the gym.
One pain I thought I could control was my right breast. I went back to my plastic surgeon in September and got quotes to get my implants out. He asked why, and at the time, I said the one breast is really bothering me. The right one, and I was just over them!  They were big. They were in my way. Honestly, those were the only reasons at the time.  I even told my friends I was ready to have them out. Actually, I had been saying this for probably over a year. The right one was constantly painful.
The doctor gave me 2 quotes. I went home to discuss with my husband. We decided as soon as my powerlifting meet was over, we would get this surgery done. I scheduled it for January 23, 2019. At this time, I started to research implant removal…what it entailed, what the outcomes were and how long was recovery, etc. (Why didn’t I do this research when I got them?). Anyhow, I stumbled upon BII, (Breast Implant Illness) and I was brought to tears! Could everything I was reading be true? Could all these women suffering be me?  Is this truly real? Breast Implant Illness, BII….OMG is this real! I can tell you this is so fucking real! Holy shit, what have I found?  What have I done?   I could have easily been diagnosed with Lupus, Hashimotos, several other autoimmune diseases. The list goes on. Some of these women I’ve met on social media who’ve had them longer than me have been diagnosed with auto immune, with cancer, and more. They’ve suffered so much longer than me due to not knowing, misdiagnosing or just not having the money to get them out sooner.
The results so far, day 21:

I am now 21 days post explant and total capsulectomy (this is when the entire capsule around the implant is removed).  Day 2, I sat up in bed, literally sat up, not dizzy, felt no vertigo, literally put my legs over the edge of the bed and said, “OMG, I can hop up and not feel like I’m going to fall over!” My husband said, “Hun, just wait a couple days. This could just be from all those great drugs!!” HAHA, Ok I’ll give him that! Although, I did not have to take any pain meds when I got home, other than Tylenol, and to be honest, Valium can be your friend when going through something like this! Day 3… Day 4… literally symptoms were dropping away like flies! I’m FINALLY feeling healthy. I listen to doctor’s orders. I stay hydrated. I flushed all those anesthesia meds out of me and, by then, this had to be true.  There was no more pain! I felt no pain from my neck down to my butt! Nothing! I could walk without feeling like I was going to tip over! I could stand with my feet together, and be straight with no pain. My face was clearer! My eyes were clearer!  My sinuses were clearer! Is this real? Is this a miracle? Did I, do I really have BII? Am I becoming symptom free?  Well, I can tell you now, at Day 21, I am becoming symptom free. The heal is real! It’s shocking! It truly is. I went from having DD breasts one day, to having what I assume will be a B, but I’m pain free!  It’s not been easy, most days have been, but some days are so emotional. Not emotional because of how I look, emotional because I feel FREE, LIGHTER (2.2lbs lighter, to be exact). They were so heavy, but yet that’s all they weighed!!! I feel like me! It’s hard to explain, I’ve lived with pain for so long that all of a sudden having none is a miracle. My body is starting to do its own detox. I’ve read about this on blogs and from people who have gone through this. I’m embracing it and giving my body what it needs. Healthy foods and rest. Do I wish I could be in the gym right about now, because I feel so good? Absolutely. But it’s going to take time to get back to that. I cannot wait to be that beast I once was!!

In my removal, as I had predicted, my right breast was a mess. The capsule was not playing fair in this explant! My implants came out wonderfully. They were intact. However, the right capsule had attached itself to me, like glue. There was scraping done and cauterizing done. We thought I had developed some fluid, but that was checked with needles and none was aspirated. However, we’re still keeping an eye on this as I can feel a swooshing inside my breast. I won’t lie, that right one is painful, but nothing Tylenol can’t handle. The breast even looks a bit sad. I was a little upset that I put it through that trauma, BUT I have high hopes that it will heal fully, and they will fluff up like the good lord intended! Either way, I’ll be healthier, happier and get my life back. The compressing is not fun, I am being held up and smooshed so that my breast tissue reforms back in place.  It does take months for my new (old) breasts to settle into their place, and I will be patient. Well, not that patient. I do take lots photos to see the changes!
I am so grateful for my husband for being by my side and being my amazing care taker! He’s even doing laundry, after 22 years of marriage, this is a win by itself!! He loves me! And that’s just it……he doesn’t love me for my breasts, he just loves me for me. I appreciate my friends for reaching out and checking on me, sending me cards and texts. My girl Kathy who made me amazing detoxing soup with tons of vegetables and came over and hung out with me, she texts with me all day long to make sure I’m ok!. And many a day has talked me off the ledge of hysterics. Maybe our friendship that happened a little over 6 years ago, right before these implants were put in, was a friendship meant to be, I truly believe in those things! My girl Tara who came over with lunch and laid on the bed with me and hung out! Our paths crossed for a reason as well! Funny how that happens, there’s always a reason! My cousin Flo, simply put, my angel, she knew, she just knew when I needed her the most.
Some of the girls from the support group who I text with personally have been awesome, being there for each other battling similar stories really help while going through this.
I’ll share my journey on FB & Instagram, I’ll share my story, I’ll document it all. If I help one person make a more informative decision about possibly getting implants or possibly having to get them removed then I made a difference. Please please do your research, it’s your only body, only you can be your best advocate for your health and care.
I’ll update my story as I progress, especially with the results of the 15 vials of blood I had drawn this week!
Image 2-13-19 at 11.19 AM (2)
Charlene Sottilare
IG @cmsottilare_poolgalnj
FB Charlene Sottilare
Image 2-13-19 at 11.19 AM

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