If you read my previous blog "What's Behind the Makeup", I became more personal with all of you. I talked about being perfectly imperfect and hiding behind a "mask". But now I am ready to open up, become vulnerable, and remove the mask, because behind the makeup is a face and behind this face is a story. A story that I hope can help other women, and even if just one woman can relate then I will have accomplished something.
I hide behind a smile, but look at the picture above and you can see my eyes tell it all. For awhile now I have been waking up with chronic congestion, redness, and inflammation which was worsening as time passed on. I started to spend a lot more time using makeup to try to cover the sickness seen in my face. But these were not the only symptoms that were affecting my life. For many years I have had various health concerns and illnesses, most with unanswered explanations. As an IFBB physique pro, nutrition coach and physical therapist, I was the picture perfect image of great health and fitness on the outside, but becoming more and more ill on the inside. I can recall my health declining as early as 2012, maybe earlier, but I recently found a folder comprised of a list of symptoms I was experiencing way back then and all the research and medical testing I was having done. Some of my symptoms included: chronic fatigue, brain fog, difficulty with word finding, digestive issues, allergies, food sensitivities, sinus infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, chronic neck and back pain, inflammation, unexplained infertility, suppressed adrenals and thyroid issues, hair loss, hormone imbalance, periods of depression, and the list goes on.
I knew deep down inside that something was making me sick but I did not know exactly what it was and doctors surely were not giving me answers. I had some days and periods of time where I felt pretty good and then I would go through periods of time when I was so fatigued that I could barely get out of bed. Before I got back on the bodybuilding stage this past year, I literally took 2 years and never even stepped into the gym because my adrenal fatigue was so bad and I had pneumonia 3 times in a year. I was put on antibiotics and steroids several times. I am not a fan of antibiotics since they wipe out our good bacteria that our bodies need, but I was doing anything I could to try to fight the sickness.
In 2014 I was referred to Shawn Bean of Matrix Health & Wellness, LLC, an integrative health consultant who specializes in bio-individualized medicine and epigenetics. Shawn uses an innovative approach looking at a person's enzymatic, cellular, and genetic pathways to help balance the biochemistry and neurology of the body. After a few consultations with Shawn, along with extensive blood work, and genetic, neurotransmitter, and hormonal testing, I was getting some answers to many of my symptoms and getting some relief by following his individualized protocol for me. He truly believed I may have chronic Lyme's disease or a mold toxicity, but I never completed all of the testing at that time to get all the answers. And my symptoms continued off and on the past few years since I stopped working with him.
When my life became stressful, my symptoms would get worse. My immune system would start suffering, I would get sick and it would take my body longer than normal to fight off the sickness. This past year was one of those times when life became stressful and my health started to decline again. If you followed me on social media this past year, you saw an IFBB pro who got back on stage for her second pro show, found a new love and "swolemate", grew her makeup business, and appeared very happy. For the most part that was true, but what most do not know is that I went through a divorce, was trying to pay for my house by myself which then I had to sell, had financial instability for probably the first time in my life, had deaths in the family, and the stress and emotion of it all was affecting my health again. Chronic fatigue, inflammation, sinus infections, digestive issues, metabolic problems, brain fog, etc was coming on full force again. Most of 2017 I was feeling relatively good except for the chronic congestion and inflammation. I got back to training and competing and had energy most of the time and I honestly thought maybe all of my illnesses were from being in an unhappy marriage. When you lived with someone for years who said "it's all in your head" then you start wondering if it is true. Of course we all know how stress and unhappiness affect our health. But as the year progressed, I started to get sick again, the adrenal fatigue set in and it was getting harder and harder to get out of bed. The congestion and sinuses and stomach issues were getting worse. There were times when I would vomit for no reason. Aches and pains were getting worse and onset of tendinitis and inflammation for no reason. And once again at the end of this past year I stepped away from the gym figuring that my adrenal glands needed time to heal.
And then one day I found this....
This list of symptoms caught me by surprise because I had experienced almost every symptom on the list. Could my breast implants really be causing my sickness? I've had my implants since 2009, and yes like many women, I got them for vanity reasons. I wanted to fill out my posing suit on the bodybuilding stage, and I figured they were needed in order to make it to the pro level and do more fitness modeling. And as I look back now, I truly can recall symptoms gradually starting shortly after getting the implants. But I thought I would be safe getting the saline implants because I knew that silicone could cause hazard in the body. But what I did not know then and I do know now is that the shell of my implant still contains silicone along with so many other toxic chemicals. Our bodies will naturally attack a foreign object.
Now I want to make a point to say that this is my experience, my journey, and I am not by any means saying someone should or should not get breast implants. I know many women who do not have symptoms from their implants. Will they develop them over time? Possibly. Our bodies and immune systems all respond differently. And I believe our genetic makeup has a lot to do with it as well. But I also now know thousands of women who became sick from their implants. And thousands of women who decided to have explant surgery to remove the implants, including many women in the fitness industry, and well-known female personalities including Crystal Hefner (Hugh's wife) and Karen McDougal, model/fitness personality and column writer featured on the cover of Muscle & Fitness Hers Magazine.
Today I am grateful for reading my friend's story on Facebook about her journey with Breast Implant Illness and explant surgery. I was led to a Facebook group called Breast Implant Illness and Healing by Nicole with over 30,000 members and their associated website. Finally I did not feel alone. I shared a similar story to many of these women. And thousands of women were removing the implants and getting their health and life back. I researched for hours, days, weeks and then made my consult appointment for explant surgery. I was skeptical, scared, hopeful. Could this really be the answer and would I really feel better? What if I spend thousands of dollars to have the implants and scar tissue removed and I was still sick. And how would I feel losing something that was a part of me for the past 9 years? What would my natural breasts look like after removing a large implant? But I was hopeful, and if this was the answer to my symptoms and getting back my health, then the image and vanity no longer mattered.
So today I am 16 days post-explant. I am like a new person. No, I am the person I was years ago before the implants made me sick. Immediately upon waking the day after surgery, the changes became evident as I could breath better, the congestion and inflammation was significantly improved, and my energy was coming back. As I said at the beginning of this post, the eyes tell all, and you can certainly see in my eyes as the sickness was leaving my body.
Almost all of my symptoms have already disappeared. And the most important part of this whole process is that I am learning to love my body for what it is, scars and all. My scars simply mean that I am stronger than what tried to hurt me, and I am perfectly imperfect. I feel full of life, good health, energy, and am obsessively grateful. 💙