Fitness influencer Sia Cooper was only 25 years old when she began feeling sick. Her hair began falling out in clumps, her fingers swelled so much she couldn’t wear her wedding ring and she was constantly exhausted, no matter how many hours of sleep she would have the night before.
She began to think it was all in her head or symptoms of postpartum depression when doctors told her nothing was medically wrong and blood tests came back negative.
Cooper, also known as Diary of a Fit Mommy on social media, began looking into a little-known and highly contested condition called breast implant illness.
“I was like, ‘Could it be my implants?’” Cooper told InsideEdition.com. “I started getting ill around the time I was getting my implants, so it sparked my curiosity. Not everybody is going to let a foreign object live inside without any side effects.”
The mother of two had her implants removed last December, and said she’s never felt younger or more alive since.
Cooper of Destin, Florida, said she got her breast implants when she was 22-year-old with the encouragement of her husband at the time.
“I wanted to improve my own self-confidence,” she said. “I wanted to improve my looks and feel feminine again.”
Initially, she loved her new breasts and felt proud of her new body.
Soon after she remarried and had her first baby, she began noticing her body changing and began experiencing unexplained exhaustion.
“I was a new mom and thought, ‘Maybe this is motherhood and you’re supposed to be tired all the time,’” Cooper said. “I ignored it.”
After her second baby, the symptoms became difficult to ignore. Her hair began falling out in clumps, her joints became swollen and her muscles ached constantly, she said.
She said she was sleeping more than 12 hours a night and taking naps lasting up to two hours during the daytime but still felt inexplicably tired.
“My marriage suffered,” Cooper said. “As a mom, I wasn’t able to play with my kids. My husband would have to take the kids to school because I had no energy to get them ready or get up in time.”
During this time, Cooper spoke openly about her breast implants on her blog – emphasizing what parts of her body were results of hard work at the gym and which parts were not.
When one of her followers suggested she look into breast implant illness, she ignored it and chalked the comment to internet hate for years.
While breast implant illness is not an officially recognized diagnosis, a growing Facebook group of more than 80,000 women around the world continue to insist the seemingly random symptoms they shared point to a common illness.
Dr. H Jae Chun in California, who focuses his practice on explant surgeries and has performed more than 2,000 explant procedures, is a firm believer and advocate that breast implant illness exists.
“Many of my patients present with diffused constellation symptoms that are often labeled and lumped together as breast implant illness,” he explained in a video on his website. “These are usually diffused symptoms involving multiple organ symptoms, but they’re very severe and often debilitating.”
Specifically, many women said textured implants were making them ill, and they brought their heartbreaking stories to the Food and Drug Administration in March, urging an advisory panel to conduct more research and ensure patients undergoing procedures understand all the risks. They also suggested banning or restricting certain implants all together.
One woman told Inside Edition at the time the implants she received after a double mastectomy “took me down way worse than breast cancer ever did.”
Another claimed she lost “half [her] hair in a year.”
The FDA, however, decided earlier this month that they will not be banning the textured implants at this time but will continue to investigate risks associate with the product.
As Cooper’s health continued to decline, and as more and more medical tests came back negative, she decided to look deeper into breast implant illness and stumbled across communities affected by the condition.
“It was awful not having anywhere to turn, but luckily, I had those few people who I thought were heckling me, they were actually supporting me,” she said. “My followers are what led me to find out what was going on with me.”
She said one doctor discouraged her from getting them removed, saying she might look “lopsided” and would become unhappy with her appearance if she went through with an explant.
Instead, she got in touch with Chun, scheduled her explant surgery and flew to California with her family last December to have the procedure.
Even though the explant surgery and aftercare procedures were painful, Cooper said she began feeling her breast implant illness symptoms disappear within weeks.
“I still have a little bit of hair loss going on, but everything is great,” she said. “I lost 20 pounds since. My joints don’t swell anymore. I feel good, I feel younger. My followers comment saying, ‘Wow, you look like you aged backward.’”
Cooper, now 30, said she’s even been able to start working out again, and has been able to do more push-ups than she has since getting the implants put in.
While Cooper continues to support every woman’s decision to make choices for her body, she said she hopes her story will encourage women to do their research before going through what could be a risky procedure.
“It’s good to have my life back,” she said.