This is my story… The good, the bad and the sometimes hilarious! You have to have a sense of humor to get through life, even through the pain. I hope you will be able to pass this on to someone it might help. It took me a while to get the courage up to share this but I don’t see the purpose in God giving me something hard and painful without being purposeful in it. I used to fear bad things in life but now I see it gives you more courage than you ever thought you had. My wish for you is to embrace life through the good and the bad and see the beauty in all of it.
How it all began
One day I was walking through the grocery store in a fog trying to remember my daughter’s birthdate so I could go back to the pharmacist’s window and embarrassingly ask for her medication for the second time. I was considering bolting and changing pharmacies and never showing my face again. I laughed it off because of course, I knew this could happen with age but when it happened two weeks later with my son while making a doctor’s appt, I became worried to say the least. My 10 year old rubbed my arm and told me it was ok that I was forgetful especially because I was old. Ha! I guess to a 10 year old 42 is old!
I was forgetting my student’s names, appointments and was extremely tired. I chalked it up to being a working mother and chauffer. I was holding it together as a teacher as best as I could with notes on my phones, journals with reminders and I was studying mindfulness and taking breaks through the day to refresh my mind. What I didn’t know was that I was progressing into a full blown auto immune disease diagnosis or three.
The journey with God
I definitely grew closer to God through all of this and journaled daily about things I was grateful for. I took long walks on trails in my hood just to get closer to him through nature. I guess I was looking for him desperately since I didn’t see him day to day like I use to. I wasn’t losing faith, I was just distracted by pain. There were definitely days where I felt sorry for myself and played the tape in my head…why me? I know there are much worse diagnosis out there but this was taking me down and changing my story.
Keep reading for Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment
New symptoms were appearing through the school year:
Hand pain: morning stiffness, joint pain, redness and burning sensations, muscle weakness and swelling
Foot pain: joint pain, feeling as if someone dropped 50 pound weights on them
Fatigue, brain fog, memory loss, and
Dryness: in mouth, eyes and areas a female would never wish to have!
Phantosmia hallucinations: I would smell smoke constantly as if someone had just lit up next to me…even at school.
I managed the pain at this point with yoga along with mindfulness practice(breathing, journaling and mindset) and it did truly help me through some of the beginning stages but just wasn’t enough to carry me through my day. I’ll share more on these tips in another post.
I would come home from teaching and take a nap just to get the energy to make my family dinner. While all these symptoms began developing I saw my gynecologist for my annual and explained what was going on. I could see the look of sadness on her face for me since I was relatively young…I was also crying while describing symptoms. Let’s be honest, I cried a lot in front of doctors through all of this. I wore my emotions on my sleeve and couldn’t hide anything. I was asked by three doctors if I wanted Anxiety/ Depression medication to make it through my days(The doctors were very well intentioned). I adamantly rejected any prescriptions they offered knowing side effects can cause more issues than what you started with.
And then there are tests…
Well of course my blood test showed I was ANA positive (Antinuclear Antibodies blood test) indicating further testing by a Rheumatologist. This was the beginning of my new fun and exciting journey full of MRI’s, more blood tests, failing a memory test in the Rheumatologist’s office (after I explained I was a Gifted and Talented Teacher…you should have seen the look on his face!) and heading towards possible diagnosis.
He brought me back in and explained that my brain MRI showed some abnormalities. I had some lesions in the frontal lobe and more white matter than normal. He said not to get over excited about it but I might have Multiple Sclerosis. Are you serious? Don’t get excited? I had to wait one month to get into the Neurologist for him to quickly determine that MS wasn’t even a consideration. Can you imagine a full month over the summer, thinking your life was about to drastically change? How can a doctor so flippantly throw out such a possibility and say don’t worry too much about it but we will see what the Neurologist has to say.
They also found that I had a major maxillary sinus infection so I was put on Prednisone. My ENT thought this might be the reason for the smoke smell. He also said it might be my mind playing tricks on me. He also said he has never dealt with this issue. Ok, just because he never really diagnosed that, it must be that I am crazy. Yep that makes sense. So that wasn’t a fun appt to say the least. I had a doctor tell me…a grown woman that I am making up symptoms.
Onto some diagnosis’s and A little about Auto Immune Diseases
Did you know there are over 80 Auto Immune Diseases? They are characteristic by antibodies made by your immune system that cause it to attack your own cells, tissues, and organs. I also learned it can take years to come to a correct diagnosis and determine the cause of your immune system freaking out. I don’t know about you but aging is hard enough without your own body attacking you!
I also did lots of googling Auto Immune disorders and symptoms…wow that was scary. How many of us try and diagnose ourselves and then throw out a dozen possibilities to our doctors…I’m sure they hate the Internet for that reason.
After being put on Prednisone for most of the summer, and dealing with insomnia due to side effects, my inflammation was reduced a bit and that signaled to my doctors that Arthritis might be in play. My mother was also diagnosed in her 40’s with Arthritis. Through lots of blood work, it was determined through nonspecific inflammation markers that I had Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sjogren’s Syndrome (inflammation and dryness are the key markers for this one) and Connective Tissue Disease. So what this means is, I was diagnosed on the basis of symptoms and family history. My doctor explained it can take years to identify the right auto-immune disorder. The only markers through my blood tests were the ANA positive and an elevated CRP level.
Did I mention I wasn’t able to open bottles, cut my food, wore ugly arthritis gloves and sometimes had to stop grocery shopping because it hurt to push the cart? I am not telling you this to feel sorry for me. I simply want to really give you a detailed picture of how bad it got before I tell you my little miracle.
How did I treat my symptoms?
I was very fortunate to be able to quit my job to reduce stress, walked every day, did IV Anti Inflammatory treatments twice a month, went Gluten Free, ate the traditional Anti-Inflammatory diet, meditated, yoga, prayed a lot but got progressively worse. I also found a great product at Brookstone that heats and massages your feet. I never went on any medication except Advil or Aleve when it was really bad.
Finding a passion through it all..
I also found the love for photography and finding beauty in little things in life. I was looking through a lens with pain on one side and beauty on the other. It made me feel better and purposeful. I needed something other than focusing on my health and found a passion in the meantime. If you are currently sick, I do recommend finding something that can help take your mind off of your pain and that gives you joy. I have read that gardening is also a wonderful way to keep your mind busy and connect with nature at the same time. Sadly for me, I kill everything I bring home from the nursery…even succulents.
Through sadness came a miracle
At the end of this year and a half, my father passed away. I truly felt it was God’s gift to me, through my father leaving, that my little miracle happened. A family friend visited my mother ( she hasn’t seen my mother in years and made the trip in just for this reason) to give her condolences and through that meeting a beautiful conversation happened which was to change my journey. My mother spoke about my symptoms and our family friend described how a friend of hers went through the same journey until she had her breast implants removed. Yes, you just read that correctly: BREAST Implant EXPLANT! My mother told me about this conversation and of course I immediately thought that sounded crazy until I researched it on the web and read books on this little idea that the medical community states there is not enough research or long enough studies of women with symptoms to connect implants with auto immune disease. So my research began and my faith grew stronger. I just knew in my heart this was it! My implants were 15 years old and I felt it was time to move forward and try something radical to see if any of my symptoms disappeared. Here is what I found:
I always thought since my implants were saline, I was never at any risk to get sick. Wow was I wrong! After researching I realized that all implants themselves are made of silicone which starts breaking down once they are implanted. So, 15 years later….you can only imagine what chemicals can be released from the shell itself without ever having a rupture. The moment something foreign is implanted in your body, your immune system starts working overtime to protect you from it. Side note: I have also read that the gummy bear implants are more toxic due to the materials used to make up the gummy material.
According to the FDA this is tightening of the tissue capsule around an implant, resulting in firmness or hardening of the breast and squeezing of the implant if severe. 30% of women end up with this complication. I had a grade level 3 out of 4 and never knew it. I never had pain or felt like the breast looked different but my surgeon knew right away just by looking at me.
And then there are scars…
A week after surgery I found myself sobbing in the shower looking down at my odd shaped breasts full of scars. The worst part was that I did this to myself. If only I could go back 15 years and just be ok with my post baby breasts and celebrate the fact that this is what God meant for our bodies to go through. It is so hard in this culture to accept your flaws and not conform to the ways of the world. After three weeks and new acceptance of how I would look, I started to notice the fading of joint pain. My first realization was getting out of bed one morning. I usually stepped out of bed as if standing on a bed of needles. I would hobble to the bathroom with pain. That morning I didn’t feel a thing. Then the use of my hands returned. I began cutting vegetables with no pain and energy returned. I had forgotten what it was like to have energy again. Friends told me I even looked better and had a glow about me.
I am happy to report now, 4 months later, my symptoms have all disappeared. I don’t regret the last 15 years of implants because it has given me the strength to accept myself for who I am and understand that our health is not something to be taken for granted. It can be taken away in an instant. I really do believe God set me on this journey to speak out about it and help others. You are beautiful sweet ladies just the way you are. Please think twice before getting implants or re-implanting. If you do go forward with surgery, please get them checked periodically and do not let them go for more than ten years. Keep that in mind, the FDA will even tell you they are not life-long devices. So you have to decide if you are willing to go through that surgery 1-3 times in your life. I have to be honest, I actually liked the way I felt without implants. I felt like me again and looked a little more petite. When I had implants I was always aware of them.
Where to find the research
All of this info can be found on the site and book below. I highly suggest visiting and reading if you have implants just to stay informed.
- Great website full of information: http://healingbreastimplantillness.com
- “The Naked Truth about Breast Implants from Harm to Healing” by Susan E. Kolb, MD, F.A.C.S.
- FDA website and Breast Implant complications
My Rheumatology appt after symptoms disappeared
I asked my doctor if he has ever heard of what I went through. He actually said he has seen 10-15 women whose symptoms got better or went away after Explant surgery but that the medical community hasn’t had enough research to prove the connection.
He also called it ASIA syndrome: Autoimmune/Inflammatory Syndrome induced by Adjuvants.
I don’t know about you, but this sounds to me like the medical community has identified a problem with implants.
You are beautiful
The scars I am left with are reminders of a journey back to my real self and for that I am grateful. I hope my story will help you or a friend if you are in pain or starting the journey to get implants. Please reconsider them…you are beautiful the way God made you.
I am here if you have any questions.
For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness”,
Made His light shine in our hearts
To give us light of the knowledge of the glory
Of God in the face of Christ.
2 Corinthians 4 4-6
And then there are the celebrities…
Here are a few celebrities who have been very outspoken about their breast implants and auto immune diseases:
Crystal Hefner, Hugh Hefner’s wife, opened up about her breast implant horror story on Facebook. She announced her implants had been slowly poisoning her and causing unexplained back pain, cognitive problems, constant neck and shoulder pain, recurring infections, and many other symptoms. Once she removed her breast implants, she instantly felt an improvement and continues to feel better. [Read more about her story in this Forbes article]
Yolanda Foster, of Real Housewives fame, removed her breast implants when she found out her silicone implants had ruptured and were leaking into her body. The silicone was making the symptoms of her Lyme disease even worse. She felt much better once she removed her implants.
Linda Blair, actress in the horror movie The Exorcist, described her experience with breast implants as a nightmare. After removing her implants, she advocated for the FDA to make sure breast implants are actually studied to be safe.
Mary McDonough, a child star in The Waltons who appeared as an adult in shows such as ER and Will and Grace, attributes her autoimmune disease (lupus) to her breast implants. She was healthy before getting implants, and it was only after her implants were removed that she immediately started to feel better. She has been one of the most outspoken celebrities on the risks of breast implants.
Karen McDougal is a former Playboy Playmate and current model who made the decision to have her implants removed after months of feeling sick. She has spoken out about the risks of breast implants in USA Today and People Magazine.
Mariel Hemingway, Sharon Osbourne, and Stevie Nicks are just a few of the other celebrities who chose to remove their breast implants because of serious health problems.