IF Beatrix Shishido had known the horrific health problems that would ensue after having silicone breast implants in 1977, she never would have heeded her first husband's advice to go and get surgically "enhanced."
The suffering after
Since then -- and even after having the silicone sacs removed after the left one ruptured in 1992 -- the frail, forty-something Mililani resident continues to ail. Her post-implant medical history includes lupus, long bouts with bronchitis and debilitating fatigue.
Yet Shishido is no complainer; she's a doer. The soft-spoken housewife and mother of two young children from her second marriage:
Is Hawaii's most fervent advocate for breast implant sufferers and the harshest critic of Dow Corning Corp., which filed for bankruptcy to protect itself against breast implant litigation.
Is one of the few among thousands of plaintiffs who voted against accepting Dow's $3.2 billion settlement deal with women who claimed silicone breast implants made them severely ill or who want to have them removed. If approved on Monday by a federal court judge, the deal would result in a payment of only $20,000 for ruptured implants and $5,000 for implant removal surgery per woman, an insulting pittance for life-changing trauma, says Beatrix.
Has demonstrated by herself in front of the state Capitol, wearing jeans and a T-shirt showing the infected scar of an implanted breast that had to be cut off due to necrosis of the tissue, and carrying a picket that reads, "This is Dow Science. You decide."
Has put together a Web site (http://www.cchono.com/~jbjjsurf/proof.htm) containing graphic photographic evidence and information on botched breast implant surgeries worldwide.
Beatrix's distress over the issue was renewed Monday, when she opened her Star-Bulletin and saw a story about a panel of 13 scientists had concluded silicone breast implants do not cause major diseases.
"I sat there for hours, looking at those words, not believing my eyes," Beatrix said via e-mail. "We can't find physicians to treat us or even believe us, because of all the phony studies. We spend tens of thousands of dollars every year on doctors and medicine, only to be told, 'We don't know, we don't care, or we don't believe you.'
"We have lost our health, our jobs, our income and, in some cases, our families. We have been left to die, forgotten. But I will not lie down quietly."
DESPITE her fragility, Beatrix is a woman with a mission. She wants to raise enough money to produce and run a TV commercial about the downside of breast implant surgery, so those contemplating it can better assess the risks, and hopes to collaborate with a local doctor on a book.
Too many modern-day women, Beatrix says, are still embarrassed to talk about their medical problems after having breast implants. Sometimes, they don't want their mates or friends to find out they even had the surgery; other times, they are too scared, too sick to complain or are too demoralized after having doctors tell them that implants -- even those made of saline -- are "perfectly safe."
Beatrix knows otherwise. "I don't want to die without knowing that I tried to help someone along the way," she says. "Women are still expected to be beautiful with 'perfect' breasts, then society ignores or downplays our medical problems after undergoing breast-enhancement surgery.
"This fight isn't about me. It's about all women who have had problems with breast implants. It's about us."
Diane Yukihiro Chang's column runs Monday and Friday.
She can be reached by phone at 525-8607, via e-mail at
DianeChang@aol.com, or by fax at 523-7863.