Andi Lew Shares Her Story
“Women really are intuitive and know their bodies. Our greatest power is to trust that.”
By Anabel Marquez
Photos by Rachel Carrillo
“I didn’t want to acknowledge or face it physically, emotionally, or socially. I wasn’t ready.”
Those were Andi Lew’s feelings when she realized her myriad of symptoms, including gallbladder, liver and kidney issues, digestion problems, severe anxiety, shortness of breath, suicidal ideation and hair loss— were all being caused by her breast implants.
The 49-year old Beverly Hills author, podcaster and mom of a teenage boy had consulted with half a dozen surgeons. Each time she went to a new doctor, she was put through exams and testing, including an MRI, but nobody could find anything wrong. “I felt like I was going crazy,” she says. “My body was definitely shutting down because it was no longer able to detoxify.”
It turns out, one of Lew’s implants had ruptured and silicone from the rupture was leaking to her body.
But silicone breast ruptures can go unnoticed because the silicone tends to remain trapped in the surrounding tissue, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Persisting with her intuition, Lew traveled back to her home country of Australia and, after months of begging to be seen, finally got in with the first explant surgeon she consulted, Professor Anand Deva, who performed a complete capsulectomy and detected the implant rupture, exactly where Lew had pinpointed the pain.
Lew says, “Luckily, my doctor is an expert in Breast Implant Illness and Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. She is the one that diagnosed me. She suffered this firsthand, so she really understood how to keep me stable”
While breast augmentation remains a popular and common plastic surgery procedure, according to statistics from The Aesthetic Society, nearly 150,000 women in the U.S. had implants removed in 2021 (up 32% from 2020).
The removal of silicone implants is not an easy or affordable procedure and costs are generally not covered by medical insurance. The surgery took place earlier this year and Lew spent approximately $14,000. She says the surgeon had to carefully remove tissue connected to ribs and arteries. Given that a protective capsule of thick scar tissue generally forms around any foreign object inside the body, removing the silicone bags can be a lengthy process that requires precision and careful inspection.
Fortunately, the surgery went well and once the anesthesia wore off, she felt a change. “I started feeling incredible as soon as I woke up,” she recalls.
ON MOTHERHOOD & COMING TO TERMS WITH CHILDHOOD TRAUMA
Throughout the journey, Lew’s teenage son Beaudy has been right by her side. She vividly remembers an interaction on a Sunday morning after she made the decision to move forward with explant surgery. The two went for a walk at the beach and stopped for ice cream. As they sat down, she explained things to him like this: “Mommy made a mistake. When she was young, something happened to her and when she became an adult, she thought that she had the solution by putting something artificial in her body to make her feel more brave.”
“I am so proud of my son and his understanding of women’s health issues. We have bonded through supporting one another and learning how to love ourselves despite our culture.”
Lew was alluding to a dark episode of sexual abuse from her past, which she says has played a lifelong role in her quest to find self-love. Getting breast implants, she says, was not just a revenge body decision after divorce. It was a strong psychological decision that did, in fact, help her mental health for some time but in hindsight, she asked herself, “with the residue silicone leak I’m detoxing from, at what cost did I do this?”
“Sexualizing myself with implants meant that, I would carry some kind of an armor when I was in an intimate space,” she explains.
Her son Beaudy, who was twelve, listened to Lew and responded with a simple yet soothing few words: “Don’t worry mom, It’s going to be ok.”
Then on their post-surgery flight back to Los Angeles from Australia, Beaudy looked at her once inside the plane and said: “Hey mom, we did it!”
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