A woman who suffered unexplained mood swings and extreme tiredness for years was shocked to find out they were being caused by her breast implants.
Stephanie Fernandez, 32, from Miami, Florida, forked out more than £3500 for saline breast implants to even out her asymmetrical breasts in 2008.
“I used to think my boob job was the best investment I’d made in my whole life,” she said.
“I was 19 when I had them done and it gave me so much confidence because my left breast was always noticeably bigger than my right.”
But five years later, Stephanie started having some weird symptoms that she couldn’t explain.
She claims she suffered hair loss, tingling in her hands and feet, dry mouth, brain fog, headaches, mood swings, sleep disturbance and felt exhausted all the time.
Doctors were equally baffled by her symptoms and over the years, they diagnosed Stephanie with anxiety and multiple sclerosis.
In 2020, Stephanie was diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome in 2020 – an autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to mistakenly attack the body.
But Stephanie still wasn’t convinced and started doing her own research. That’s when she stumbled across a support group for women who have suffered with breast implant illness (BII).
After reading stories of women experiencing similar symptoms who had also had breast implants, Stephanie realised her symptoms might be caused by her own boobs.
She said: “I only heard of BII when I was scrolling on Instagram and came across a post by a friend of a friend who was suffering because of her implants.
“I then read up on the variety of symptoms and joined a Facebook support group, realising that there were women all around the world who were suffering like me.
“I sat in front of my computer screen and sobbed. My implants were causing my body to attack itself.
“I was also suffering from anxiety with constant outbursts and mood swings, had no sex drive and felt very emotional – which affected my personal life and relationships.”
In November 2020 Stephanie decided to take matters into her own hands and found an explant surgeon in Miami who would remove her implants.
But the operation to remove the implants and the surrounding scar tissue didn’t come cheap. After spending £3500 to get the implants in the first place, Stephanie now had to shell out more than £7000 to have them removed.
After saving the cash, Stephanie finally had the implants removed in a five hour operation in December 2020.
Now she’s on a mission to raise awareness of BII and has opened up about her experience to her best friend, influencer Desy Gato, on Desy’s podcast.
“Stephanie is like a sister to me, she actually dated my older brother for over 10 years but when they split we stayed in touch,” Desy, 24, said.
“When I found out she was sick, I wanted to do whatever I could to help.”
She added: “I wanted to team up with Stephanie to raise awareness of BII, in the hopes that it will encourage others to seek help and push for answers.
“I know a lot of my listeners are influencers and models who have implants.”
After her podcast episode aired, Desy also donated her $200 sponsorship fee to the National Centre for Health Research, which is investigating evidence of BII.
Since Stephanie has recovered from the operation, she’s feeling full of energy and the pair are planning a trip to Mexico soon to celebrate.
Stephanie said: “I don’t have general anxiety anymore, I sleep better, my food intolerances are gone, my hair that I lost is all growing back and I have such a better energy with my mental health now my physical symptoms are eased.
“Shopping for new bras has been so hard, I can’t wear underwire anymore.
“I bought a couple of grandma bras, plain with no lace or padding.
“The asymmetry is still there, both boobs are an A cup but one is more of a pancake than the other.
“But it feels so good to go back to being me. I am getting more and more accepting of my little boobs every day.
“I really want women to understand if you are feeling any of these symptoms you aren’t crazy and help is out there.”