But women who opt out will have to take their chances in one-on-one lawsuits.
"We need a sense of what each of us might get from the settlement," a BBer wrote as the attorneys wheeled and dealed at the Birmingham yacht club. "Let's not sell ourselves short. We will not be swept under the carpet like other class-action victims. These deals only make class-action attorneys rich."
Another woman warned: "As much as we support ourselves emotionally on this BB, we must keep abreast (pun intended) of what's going on in each of our states re: punitive damages, caps and other thief-in-the-night legislation."

Though the tone on the bulletin board is almost always congenial, there have been tense moments as the implications of the big settlement have started to hit home.

"When I read your letters, I wonder if you are a Dow plant or something," one BBer told another during a testy discussion about litigation strategies. "You obviously don't have any medical problems or you would be rip-roarin' mad like the rest of us. . . . GET SMART!"
"How dare you insinuate that I work for a sleaze like Dow?" the first writer responded. "We don't all march to the beat of the same drummer. . . . Litigious militancy will not serve my purposes. Like I tell my kids, if you don't have something good to say, don't say it."

"They told us: 'Implants are perfectly safe. Silicone is an inert substance and will do us NO HARM whatsoever. A thousand years from now, the anthropologists will dig up your body and will find nothing but bones and two perky implants.'"
--From the bulletin board

Teresa Butler shuts her eyes tightly as she recalls her decision in 1989 to get silicone breast implants.

"I lost so much weight after my first son was born, and I thought I didn't look my best," she says, sitting in a small room that serves as a computer room/kids' playroom in her expansive home near downtown Phoenix.

"My figure was fine for me, but I didn't think it was what it could be. Lots of my good friends had and have them. It was the thing to do, a piece of cake. So I just decided to do it."
Before she took the plunge, however, Butler says she grilled her plastic surgeon about the safety of the implants.

"I asked the right things," she says, "things like how long they last and can there be side effects and other problems. In the end, he drew little pictures on my file that showed what I looked like compared with what I'd look like after I got them. He did a good sales job and reinforced my insecurities at the same time."
The November 1989 surgery went off without a hitch, Butler says, and the results thrilled her.

"I was the contented consumer," she says, managing a doleful smile at the thought of it. "Then I started to get sick."
Generally, she suffers from deep, chronic fatigue, inflammation of her joints and other maladies common to what's now being called Silicone Adjuvant Disease, or SAD. Because Butler plans to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of her implants, her attorney has asked her to refrain from discussing the specifics of her medical problems.

"The doctors I saw couldn't pinpoint what was ailing me," she continues. "Here's the AMA saying the breast-implant thing is a scare, and some of the doctors apparently had little more to go on than I did. No one told me that I should go see an immunologist or a rheumatologist. All I knew is that I felt different and worse than I'd ever felt in my life."
Finally, last October, a Phoenix rheumatologist concluded that silicone poisoning is the probable cause of Butler's ills. "I got mad at him at first," Butler recalls. "It's not that the implants had turned my breasts hard like they do in many women. They hadn't ruptured or anything. But I was sick, and I wanted to know what was wrong with me."

Butler and her husband, Reid, a Phoenix attorney, designed a crash course of self-education about breast implants. "We couldn't believe there was so much written about it," she says. "My eyes started to open wide, and I haven't shut them since."

Late last year, their wives' health arose in a conversation between Reid Butler and a friend. It turned out the other man's wife has suffered ills similar to Teresa's.

"We started to compare notes on the phone," Teresa Butler says, "and one day, she asked me if I had a home computer. I said, 'Sure.' 'You have Prodigy?' I didn't know what it was. But when she told me about the bulletin board, I just got really excited."
Butler became a "silicone sister" soon after her husband bought her the Prodigy program for Christmas last year.

"All these women were saying the things that were in my mind," Teresa Butler says. "It's a wonderful tool, kind of like a little community."
She interrupts herself to sign on to the board. As if on cue, a BBer from the Pacific Northwest has typed something in:

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