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I know I’ve shared a lot about this topic but because I care about the health of others and because it’s my one-year anniversary, here is one more.

Last one…mmmkkkay?

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Our immune system.

There are various detailed definitions of our immune system and what it does but they basically all mean the same thing.

Simply, the immune system identifies and defends against unknown intruders in our body.

“The immune system has a vital role: It protects your body from harmful substances, germs and cell changes that could make you ill. It is made up of various organs, cells and proteins.

As long as your immune system is running smoothly, you don’t notice that it’s there. But if it stops working properly — because it’s weak or can’t fight particularly aggressive germs — you get ill. Germs that your body has never encountered before are also likely to make you ill…

Without an immune system, we would have no way to fight harmful things that enter our body from the outside or harmful changes that occur inside our body. The main tasks of the body’s immune system are to:

* fight disease-causing germs (pathogens) like bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi, and to remove them from the body

*to recognize and neutralize harmful substances from the environment, and

*to fight disease-causing changes in the body, such as cancer cells.

The immune system can be activated by a lot of different things that the body doesn’t recognize as its own. These are called antigens.”

-National Centre for Biotechnology Information

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A year ago right now I was drinking a smoothie, had just emptied my drains, had just taken a regular Tylenol and Advil and was propped up with lots of pillows enjoying a visit in Kelowna from a friend who stopped by our hotel room post-surgery.

I could breathe again. I could see the whites of my eyes again and in an almost literal instant could noticeably see the difference in inflammation in my face and body. It was really trippy and both Jeff and I were almost rendered speechless.

After my first mastectomy, I could tell my body rejected the reconstruction tissue expander immediately. I hated how it felt. It was tight, heavy-feeling, rock-hard and extra lumpy because of the metal port.

After I my last round of chemo and delivering Luke a month later, when my white blood cell count was up and I was allowed to get non-essential needles again, I began the expanding (filling) process. It included getting a needle every week that would pump up the expander, stretching the chest tissue to make a pocket area large enough to put a ‘permanent’ implant in.

After an expander rupture and subsequent infection with that replacement surgery, a while later I had my final reconstruction. I had my expander in for two full years…even though manufactures warnings strongly state that no expander should be left in a patient longer than six months maximum.

That major oversight and discrepancy was just one of the many things I have learned on this breast implant journey over the last one and a half years…something I had been curious/angry about but have since let go.

For about 8 years, I didn’t think too much about all of the symptoms I had. I was so used to having a new thing show up each day. Although truthfully unnerving and freaky, there was nothing I could do but go along with it and allow myself to let go of the fear that came along with each morning.

I was in an out of the doctors and specialists offices with so many weird things and everything came back more-or-less negative, not overly concerning or I wasn’t taken seriously.

No one was looking at the bigger picture of it all.

I was otherwise healthy…working out, didn’t drink or use drugs or put anything ‘bad’ in my body. It just didn’t make sense why I was getting so sick.

I chalked my insane fatigue up to being post-chemo with a newborn baby, work, married etc. I was told Raynaud’s is common and I shouldn’t be concerned. My hair was falling out like crazy but I figured it was due to stress. I got weird scleroderma and morphea patches on my trunk and face, rashes popped up here and there and my joint pain was almost unbearable at times.

I was becoming more and more sensitive to sunlight and losing my ability to regulate heat (as seen in my bright red face in the ‘before’ pic above). The skin on my fingers started to deteriorate and my left pointer finger was thinning out. It had calcinosis cutis on it and I was beginning to entertain the idea of an amputation if the deterioration continued. I did well covering it with bandaids.

Although Luke had just started sleeping through the night last year at the age of eight, my insomnia over those years had grown worse and worse and I started getting panic attacks again. I hadn’t had a panic attack in years but I knew how to deal with them so I just breathed through them.

Again, I knew I had stuff to ‘unpack’ in my life and combined with my sleepless nights with Luke, I just figured I needed to figure things out. Also, I never felt truly tired except I was rightly exhausted at the same time…all the time. That was frustrating.

Chemo does a good number on your skin, body and brain…and Tamoxifen does too. They gave me a full head of grey hair, drier skin and more wrinkles. Chemo killed my kidneys and my liver had a run for it’s money.

Though I knew of the damages of chemotherapy and the other meds I took , I also knew our bodies were designed to heal themselves if they have the chance and aren’t actively fighting against anything foreign. Something just wasn’t right…things weren’t adding up.

One night when we were in Toronto, my jaw just locked up. I could barely open it or chew anything. I had a headache straight for over year until a few months ago when it only comes and goes. I have nailfold capillaries, telangiectasia, I had every symptoms of CREST syndrome, I couldn’t swallow food or fluid well, would feel like I would choke and I still get swollen fingers and toes from time to time. My eyes were permanently bloodshot and dry and always felt like I had something in them.

I’ve always had lung issues in some form. I had pneumonia as an infant, was hospitalized for croup at the age of six and dealt with chronic bronchitis most of my life. The heaviness of my implants and something else I couldn’t identify was making it even harder to breathe on a regular basis. I couldn’t recall the last time I took a full real breath.

In April 2018, I decided that I was aging so badly and quickly, that the chemo had really taken a toll and that my jaw was getting so wide from grinding my teeth from stress (as seen in the top right square pic that says ‘pre-explant’) so I decide to get some Botox and filler done. Side note…I am totally good with aging gracefully, however, this was seriously next level.

My eyes were drooping, my face looked super heavy and full even though I was eating autoimmune protocol and weighed less than I do now! My smile was starting to turn downwards, I had black circles under my eyes and was starting to get purple skin on my eyelids.

Again, I figured it was just from aging really poorly due to chemo but later found out it was due to silicone poisoning and increased inflammatory response form the implants.

While my session of Botox and fillers helped for a brief while, that stuff doesn’t last very long and my body reacted a bit to it. Not knowing that my body was already in major distress autoimmune-wise due to my silicone gel implants, adding these chemicals only bugged my system more. I only had Botox and fillers done once and after over two years, it has long since worn off (side note…I’m not against it per se…but please ladies! Learn the real warnings on it for yourself ok?)

Fast forward to about a week ago last year…

I was bed-ridden, a girlfriend had to push me in a wheelchair and I couldn’t walk up or down my stairs. I couldn’t drive, had excruciating ovary pain (I had kept them with my hysterctomy), I had fluid in my breast area that they said was possible internal bleeding, I was in emergency a couple times with what felt like a heart attack, I couldn’t remember anything…the brain fog was so bad…almost worse than ‘chemobrain’. I could barely breathe, it felt like my skin and bones were on fire and every cell in my body was in pain. I could barely eat because I couldn’t swallow anything.

I was dying a slow…but now fast death. I didn’t think I would make it to surgery.

I had been told that I would die two real times before in my life…once with anorexia and once with cancer…and those didn’t scare me. This was a completely different animal.

Having had surgery, chemotherapy, while pregnant and being a mom to a then seven year-old Braden, my breast implant situation was by-and-large worse in most ways than that ever was.

I have never felt that close to death…ever…I even made a video to my boys.

Yes, it was that serious…except almost every professional except my Rheumatologist (thank God for her) didn’t take it seriously and that was the worst part.

Regardless of the toxins, chemicals and endless other things wrong with breast implants, as someone who had been recovering from cancer — as the quote above mentions of the immune system — it’s job is to “fight disease-causing changes in the body, such as cancer cells.” But how can it do that and heal someone recovering from cancer when it is fighting against such massive and chemical-filled foreign bodies such as implants?

While there is much more that could be said and disclosed about the implants themselves, the discrepancies of medical devices, the chemicals used (FYI- ‘medical grade’ silicone is bunch of BS and doesn’t really exist) and the fact that silicone breast implants were banned between 1994 and 2006, I will leave most of that for now.

What I will include is that Johnson&Johnson lost track of 85% of their post-market approval study participants and only ever got data for up to four years instead of the 10 that they had promised…which has recently (and FINALLY) led them and Allergan and the others down a road of law suits, warning letters and more.

But, unfortunately they will keep on going because there is

too much money to be made with implants, they can afford to fight the law suits, re-write a new narrative and buy a bigger rug to sweep the dirt under.

The interesting thing is, when I hear people quote top breast implant specialists like Dr. Mark Clemens about his amazing work and research on implants, for example,…if you dig deep into his history, you will find he was funded by the breast implant manufacturing companies. So, common sense and critical thinking says his words cannot be taken as completely unbiased. The key is to do your research, think for yourself, look at the bigger picture, go with your gut and don’t take any one single person’s or study’s information as the be all end all.

***Above paragraph EDITED — though I acknowledge many have been helped by Dr. Clemens and things are changing in the right direction, make sure your specialists are considering the bigger picture, using common sense and looking at other’s work as well…thank you Terri ;)***

Conversely, when others (who aren’t funded in any way by the industry) such as Dr. Diana Zuckerman or Dr. Jan Willem Cohen Tervaert (the current Director of Rheumatology at the University of Alberta who has been studying this for 30 years), make statements of their findings, their words are not heeded or taken as seriously…but absolutely should be.

Proof is in the pictures above and in how I feel today (and the fact that my kidney function has increased from near failure to that of a 20 year old…from only having my implants removed).

The single and only difference between the ‘pre and post’ photos is I had breast implants in the ‘pre’s and now I don’t in the ‘post’s. I even ate strictly for autoimmune issues and weighed less in the ‘pre’ photos too.

Though I will most likely always have the overlap connective tissue disease I got from my body hitting it’s failure threshold (it’s not a matter of ‘if’…only a matter of ‘when’ people get sick in some capacity) that my implants gave me and weird symptoms that pop up here and there, I am so grateful to feel stronger and finally start functioning again.

Thank you everyone for supporting me this past year and when I was so sick. I can never repay you for your help.

Heading into another mastectomy surgery next month (and hopefully the last foreseeable surgery), I will finally be rid of these things that have tried to take me out once and for all.

10 years ago I couldn’t have imagined I would be this excited to get another body part removed…especially a breast…but good riddance and I can’t wait to have absolutely nothing there. #blessed.

Ladies…if any of you have implants and have experienced any of the above issues, feel free to reach out if you have questions…or if you just don’t feel quite right.

Much love, gratitude and support to each and every one of you,

-Becky

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