I feel like this is a post I should have written long ago. It will probably be a little long, but I’m going to be disclosing a bit more of my personal journey with you, and it’s not easy for me to write.
Like most of you, my readers, I wasn’t born with an awareness of toxins and the necessity of avoiding them. When I was younger, I had the same attitude most people have, which is that if something is dangerous, companies wouldn’t use it in their products. They just wouldn’t. And that is how I lived for most of my life.
You have shared a lot of your personal struggles and journeys with me, and I’ve been privileged to read them. Many of you have gained an awareness of toxins because of brushes with cancer, autoimmune-related illness, and other issues. Some of our eyes have been opened slowly, others more quickly. For many of us, it has been a process. And I’m no different.
I want to talk with you about a mistake I made, more than a decade ago. I was young; I was not happy in my marriage; and I struggled, like so many women in this society, with body-image issues. So I made the decision to “enhance” my figure with breast implants, a decision I now regret.
At the time I did so, I was relatively new to this country. I was very naïve about the process. I had heard of organic food, but did not understand its importance. I had no knowledge of the 80,000 or so chemicals that are used in consumer goods, or that their health effects are virtually unknown and that many of them are unregulated. Like many people, I simply did not think critically about the health effects of the products I was using on a daily basis.
The decision to have the surgery itself was pretty emotional, and I simply did not invest sufficient time into determining the long-term health effects associated with breast implants. I trusted my plastic surgeon to warn me of any possible side effects. The only side effects he told me about were the risks any surgery with general anesthesia would have. After all, he said, they had recently switched from silicone to saline breast implants that were much safer, according to the surgeon, because in case of rupture, which, according to the surgeon, almost never happened, the saline would simply get absorbed by the body. Problem solved.
I recovered without complications and simply stopped thinking about the fact my body carried two silicone bags filled with saline liquid. I adopted them as a part of my body. Moreover, I was so happy to wear a size B bra that I intentionally blocked any information about health effects associated with breast implants – until recently, anyway.
Years passed. I got divorced. I met my husband. While we were dating, he introduced me to a lot of things, including organic food. He opened my eyes to the importance of avoiding chemicals in food.
On our first anniversary, I was hit by an SUV as I was walking in a crosswalk with the light. A driver was talking on his cell phone and didn’t see me. I bounced up onto the hood and ended up on the ground. Someone found my cell phone and called my husband, who took a cab to the scene and rode in the ambulance to the emergency room. I had some bleeding in my brain and remained in the hospital for four days, and off work for several months.
After the accident, I noticed that my stomach was aching a lot; I was worked up for just about everything. During this time, I read a lot about lots of different kinds of food, in an attempt to solve my pain. As a result of that research, I decided that I would eat only organic food as a possible way of allaying my symptoms (and avoiding a lot of other issues down the line). I was also receiving this advice from doctors and other healthcare providers as a possible solution. Ultimately, one of my doctors suggested that in the absence of anything else that would explain my symptoms, perhaps they were caused by a pinched nerve from the accident. I don’t know if that was the cause, but during this workup, I read a lot about toxins, pesticides and the organic food movement – all of which really opened my eyes.
During this workup, my doctors realized that I had something called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis – a type of autoimmune disease. They said I can control it with medicine, but that I would have to take it the rest of my life. I never thought that it could be related to my breast implants.
Ultimately, my abdominal symptoms went away when I was pregnant with our son. But, I did develop a couple of other curious symptoms then. First, I was very itchy throughout my pregnancy. Also, my skin got darker, as if I were tan. After I gave birth, I immediately stopped being itchy. But my tan remained.
Fast forward a couple of years. As many of you know, I really started becoming passionate about avoiding toxins when I was pregnant and looking for products to use with my baby. As I learned more and more about toxins, I knew one day I would have to confront what I knew, deep down, to be the truth about breast implants, but it was a truth that candidly I was afraid to face. I was afraid to talk about them with my husband, even. I assumed he knew about them, but I was too shy to talk about them with him, and so I just buried my head in the sand – until recently, when I had no choice but to face my fears head-on. Here is what has happened.
Some of you know that about one year ago, I started to experience some alarming symptoms. My tan deepened. I became anxious, and started suffering anxiety attacks – something I am not sure I even believed in before they started happening to me, but believe me, they are very real. I was nauseous. I was fatigued. Ultimately, I went to the University of California San Francisco medical center, and was finally diagnosed with Addison’s Disease – where the adrenal glands stop working in one of several different ways I won’t bore you with. Addison’s is also an autoimmune disease.
The treatment for Addison’s is to take a certain steroid in certain doses that vary from person to person and day to day. Too much cortisol results in unpleasant symptoms; too little results in the same unpleasant symptoms (and can cause coma and death). So it has taken a bit of time, but I felt I had finally started to settle into the right regimen for my body. (And once I started taking the cortisol, I started losing my tan – darker skin is a classic symptom of Addison’s.)
It turns out that more and more people are being diagnosed with autoimmune conditions these days. Doctors are trying to understand the causes of this phenomenon, but there is an emerging consensus that in many cases the cause may be associated with exposure to toxins.
In connection with my diagnosis, I have been pretty extensively worked up. I have had a number of different blood tests, and multiple tests over time. This year, I underwent five months of heavy metal detoxification, which was pretty unpleasant. I finished up this course in October.
Unfortunately, earlier this month, my symptoms resumed. And then I finally realized that I needed to be honest with myself and start investigating in earnest whether the breast implants may be affecting my health.
So there it is – my confession. I am not perfect, and I am sorry if any of you felt I was misleading you. When I first suspected I should do this research, I was pregnant with my son. Then I was breastfeeding, then we were trying to have another child, then I got very sick with Addison’s, etc. Now I am out of reasons not to do this important research.
Here is what I have found.
The Dangers of Breast Implants
When they were first being used, saline breast implants were considered safe. Now, they are not considered as safe as they were because doctors have found that bacteria can grow inside the implants. If they rupture and if the liquid contaminated with bacteria escapes, they can quickly make the woman very sick.
According to Susan Kolb, M.D., F.A.C.S., a plastic surgeon and the author of The Naked Truth About Breast Implants: From Harm to Healing, breast implants don’t even need to rupture, they can leak in small amounts without visibly deflating, making a woman sick (source).
Dr. Kolb has also said that if there is a leakage, saline breast implants may grow mold around the valves. Mold can produce a biotoxin that may suppress the immune system and thus make a woman prone to all kinds of infections.
This raises an interesting question – can breast implants cause autoimmune diseases such as my Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Addison’s Disease?
The short answer is that nobody knows for sure. Despite the fact the first breast augmentation surgery was performed in 1962, very little is known about long-term health effects of breast implants. The short answer is that the link between silicone and autoimmunity remains controversial (Silicone and Autoimmunity, Hajdy, Steven D., European Journal of Clinical Investigation, Volume 41(2) – Feb 1, 2011).
According to my blood tests results, I might have chronic inflammatory response syndrome; however, it is hard to diagnose it because I already have an autoimmune condition and it is unclear what comes first. However, there is some evidence of the connection between silicone implant capsules and remote tissue inflammation (Restricted and Shared Patterns of TCR ß-chain Gene Expression in Silicone Breast Implant Capsules and Remote Sites of Tissue Inflammation, Terrance P. O’Hanlon, Journal of Autoimmunity, (2000) 14, 282-293).
In this study, elevate antinuclear antibodies were observed in people with silicone breast implants and suggested that there is a connection between silicone breast implants and autoimmunity.
And lastly, the FDA is currently collecting information about cases of Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (ALCL), a rare type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in women with breast implants. Currently, the FDA is aware of 60 cases of ALCL in women with breast implants.
I can also say that there is a large community of women who believe that their implants caused autoimmune diseases. Are they right? Doctors don’t know for certain.
I would rather be safe than sorry. I do not want to be a part of this human experiment. I do not want to have additional health risks so I can adhere to some standard of societal beauty that is wholly unrealistic. But since there is a chance, I want to do everything I can to be healthy again.
So, I have decided to have my breast implants “explanted.” I have done some research here, and have found that there is a group of doctors who have begun to specialize in this process. You can find out information about them here.
The surgery is scheduled for January 12, 2017.
Because I have Addison’s Disease, my body does not naturally produce cortisol, a hormone that literally keeps us alive on a daily basis. The body’s need for it goes up with stress, trauma, and illness. Since I have the disease, the success of the surgery will also depend on the exact right dosing of cortisol, without which I literally could die or go into a coma. Because of my adrenal insufficiency condition, the surgery will be done at a hospital with at least a one-day stay, since my endocrinologist has prescribed a 24-hour cortisol IV postoperatively.
This is another reason that I have been hesitant to do the research this past year – knowing that if the doctors get the cortisol dosing wrong, I literally could die from the explantation procedure. But this is now a risk I want to take because I feel it is currently my best chance to get well.
I am looking forward to reclaiming my natural body and love my body the way it was created. We all come in different shapes and forms and we are all beautiful in our ways. I now wholeheartedly believe that the fashion industry and beauty magazines should not dictate beauty, and I am sorry I succumbed to having the surgery in the first place.
As our family has adopted a non-toxic lifestyle, we have parted ways with a number of different things over time that used to be part of our way of life. Plastic spatulas and nonstick pans; petroleum mattresses and petroleum skin care products; fluoride in our water and Old Spice; all these have been banished from our house in turn as we learned of the dangers. And now the time has come to have something else literally surgically removed from our lives.
The Hunt Continues
According to conventional medicine, I am not supposed to be able to cure my autoimmune issues. However, I was able to resolve my Hashimoto’s to my conventional doctor’s satisfaction (and surprise); I am now, with his permission, no longer taking medication for it (although we are keeping an eye on it).
This surgery is another step in my goal of curing my Addison’s Disease – a lofty goal. So far this is what I have looked into:
- Exposure to heavy metals
- Exposure to toxic substances
- Exposure to biotoxins
- Food allergies
- Electromagnetic fields
- Vitamin/mineral deficiencies
- Stress management
- Leaky gut/gut health
And even if I don’t recover from Addison’s, I will be healthy in all other areas, so I can live a normal full life with the right amount of medicine. My belief that it is possible to recover from Addison’s is powered by the fact that I was able to reverse the Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis to the continued disbelief of conventional doctors.
And I am buoyed by my research that includes anecdotal evidence that explantation has led to a resolution of autoimmune conditions in some women.
If you have read this far, God bless you! I am sorry to have burdened you with my personal story, but my hope is to use this blog to try to dissuade others from making the same mistake I did. I hope people considering implants will find this post and see my experience as a cautionary tale. And I am not one to talk about things so personal, but feel strongly that if I can help spread the word, it is worth any personal embarrassment or shame I may feel.
Please feel free to share in the comments any information you might have about breast implants or your New Year resolution or anything else you feel like sharing. I’d love to hear from you. If nothing else, I will have something to read while I’m in the hospital.
To learn more:
The Naked Truth About Breast Implants: From Harm to Healing by Dr. Susan E. Kolb
Silicone Injury: Memoir of a Life And of a Spiritual Journey by Hermitra Elantra Vedenetra
Absolutely Safe by Carol Ciancutti-Leyva
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