I may seem normal, but for too long I simply haven’t felt well, nor have I been able to muster the drive and stamina that once came so naturally and was so necessary to meet the needs of being a mom, manage a full-time career, and really enjoy life. I was in my early forties when my life took a left turn and I found myself starting out on what would prove to be an extremely frustrating yet most enlightening journey. I’m still on it even now, fifteen years later.
After innumerable tests and many, many doctor and specialist visits, I’m still working to overcome a list of rather debilitating health symptoms that ultimately sidelined me from my career, and sadly, from a good part of my life. It just didn’t make sense. I weigh about the same as I did in high school. I eat well and take quality vitamins and other nutritional supplements. I exercise. I try to get the rest I need. I don’t really have vices, other than what I call the “crunchy munchies.” I like nuts and seeds and other salty crunchy treats (I eat them mostly raw and unprocessed these days). I also enjoy the occasional piece of dark chocolate and the very occasional cocktail. But who doesn’t? Right? So, why in my forties––and now my fifties––do I feel so poorly when I can remember a time not so long ago when I felt so good?
Following the appearance of some of my earliest symptoms which primarily manifested as chronic fatigue and frequent flu-like symptoms, I began seeking out the guidance of regular medical doctors only to discover that they couldn’t offer me any real help. They kept telling me my tests all came out fine but what were they testing for? Did they know where to look? After a time, some noticed that I was getting stressed out about my situation but only offered me antidepressants. I had made the mistake of taking antidepressants once before at another challenging time in my life. I learned that antidepressants come with a huge price. Not only do they produce major side effects, but getting off them is HELL! Further, they just didn’t work for me. I also knew what I was experiencing was real and not normal for me, or anyone really, and I wanted to get to the bottom of it.
I remember being healthy, energetic, passionate, and driven, and I wanted that back––I still do. And I’m still willing to do whatever it takes. And although it’s been a formidable journey the consequences of my doing nothing or just popping pills to mask my misery were clearly not the answer as my symptoms seemed to only be multiplying over time. So, I dug in and did my homework. I researched and read up on all that I could about my ailments, and about natural remedies for such and high-quality nutrition. I also discovered holistic and functional medicine.
Unfortunately, for many Americans, medical insurance programs rarely cover what doctors with more holistic views or with Eastern influences recommend. So, I paid my own way to see a group of Functional Medicine doctors. These are doctors that tend to be much better informed about healing nutrition and natural remedies. They typically rely on safer, more natural treatments that support the body’s innate healing efforts rather than just manage or mask symptoms. They prescribe synthetic prescription medications only as a last resort. Plus, functional, integrative, holistic and or naturopathic medicine practices better understand and approach the body as a whole “being” rather than viewing it only by its parts.
For years, I eagerly abided by their suggestions. I also inquired about ideas I discovered in my research and added to my regime steps I was advised I could do on my own. Itt helped! This approach improved many of my symptoms and kept me going, at least. I even recall a time of about two years following a two-year period of extensive holistic treatments, when I felt really pretty good again. I had thought my health issues were resolved and finally behind me! But a demanding new work role coupled with the stress of our failing economy proved differently and soon knocked me back to square one. In fact, I got really ill. I had been fairly resilient in the past, but this time my body just couldn’t take this level of stress anymore.
Even though I certainly tried, the situation proved to be something that I could no longer just muscle my way through. In fact, the more I tried to do just that the worse I seemed to get. These last several years and months resulted in my having to sit out too much of life, away from fun with friends and loved ones, and eventually, from work I loved due to a total lack of energy and unpredictable and progressive symptoms interfering with my plans. It was time to slow way down and I had to find and ask for the help I needed.
I was ultimately diagnosed with hypothyroidism, adrenal exhaustion, chronic fatigue syndrome, frozen shoulder, hormonal imbalances, Candida, tinnitus, brain fog, active Epstein Barr virus, and more. Even so, I still have some good days, but I also have just as many or more days where I feel nearly 90 years old and somewhere I’ve felt like I understood what it felt like to be dying. I too frequently feel exhausted, unwell and just can’t focus or think clearly. Some people like to suggest this comes with getting older, but I don’t believe that’s the issue here at all. No one in my family has had to slow down like I have or felt as poorly at my same age. And, no one else around me has had the interest nor taken as good care of their health as I have, either. So what the heck was happening here?
What I knew was that my previous integrative health treatments had definitely helped me to keep going even if only in second gear but it seemed that we hadn’t gotten to the core of the issue. My health was still vulnerable and I frequently experienced setbacks. I continued to wonder about and research what was really responsible for all of this dysfunction.
It wasn’t until 2017 when I finally came across what has been behind it all. I also discovered a group of more than 25,000 other women who have experienced a very similar journey to mine, and they believe the same thing. It was because of an elective surgery that we each chose to have. I had had mine in my twenties and I had included this information on all my medical intake forms …but no doctor of mine ever questioned me about it. And because I had been assured at the time that it was 100% safe, it never crossed my mind to question it so many years later.
Nevertheless, when I finally was introduced to BII I instantly knew, without a single doubt in my heart or mind, that THIS is what had all along been the cause of my life-altering decline. And why, despite my enduring efforts, I hadn’t been able to put it behind me once and for all. I traced back to my first sign of symptoms and could then see the long but steady progression. It all finally made sense. I was ever so slowly being poisoned.
So, what was poisoning me? What is BII? BII is Breast Implant Illness, an “unofficial diagnosis” as of 2017, not yet recognized by the AMA (but remember, neither was cancer-causing cigarettes for many years) which is caused by the seepage and/or deterioration of the silicone shell used for both silicone and saline breast implants. The situation is sometimes further compounded by the seepage or rupture of the contents of the implant. Implant shells, as well as silicone implant contents, contain several heavy metals that are known to be highly toxic to the human body.
Silicone is a known endocrine system disruptor and there was one thing that I (and my doctors) knew for sure, that my endocrine system (adrenals, hormones, thyroid etc.) was a mess. Silicone was my poison! Needless to say, I did my research on the subject and as quickly as I could I had my implants removed by a highly skilled explant surgeon who has been removing implants for more than 20 years! He’s at the top of the list of plastic surgeons who are sought out by women with implants who have been neglected and some even laughed at after complaining about these very same symptoms to their regular doctors!
This is where my journey would begin, once again. The decision I made back in my twenties proved a very costly one on every level, and the biggest regret is the cost in terms of quality of life, for me and for those who care about me most. Thankfully, the concern and support I receive from my mother and my husband continue to be immeasurable. I honestly don’t know how I could have survived all this without them. And I really worry about other women going through this without the same support. I had been a pretty strong and independent spirit before all this and always felt when the chips were down that I could always count on me until the day I found I couldn’t. But I am blessed to have patient, loving, understanding souls who have been there for me. It wasn’t easy though. I had to learn to ask for help and to trust that, even though I wasn’t sure how things would work out okay.
So, now that I know and understand the core reason behind my illness and have had the implants removed, it’s NOW that my healing journey can finally really begin! Everything I’d done before was just managing symptoms.
I know some might say my misery was self-inflicted. In a way it was. I was young, naive and vain but I trusted what was believed to be true at the time, and isn’t that true for many of our modern American diseases and illnesses these days? Especially, when we think about what we know (or maybe still don’t) about the real costs of our modern lifestyles, diets, and outlooks on life.
Still, I take responsibility for my choices. I have also come to appreciate the deeper wisdom I’ve gained from this difficult and sometimes life-threatening journey. I feel even more grateful for my life and its many blessings, and most especially for the compassion I’ve been shown. I can now experience an even greater understanding and compassion for others who also struggle to deal with limitations and illness. And I am ever so thankful to those that have gone before me; those who have and continue to fight this good fight and generously share what they’ve experienced and learned to help others. I’ve spent my career being of service but feel an even stronger sense of responsibility to help others, now, too.
I think most of us are stronger, and even more capable than we might imagine. I think that’s partly what this journey is about. I trusted that I would find my way through this mystery, even though I could never have imagined just how long it might take. But it is the enduring love and support my family has shown and my faith in the goodness of Life, helping hold me and us together during these uncertain times, that has given me the resolve to begin once again to finally complete my own healing. For this, I am eternally grateful.
And it is with immense thanks to Tiffany Andersen, who walked this journey ahead with tenacity, courage and the generosity to share, who answers to a higher calling than herself, and chooses to believe in and reach out to others who are much like she was, like myself, that I now have an exciting future once again, and can look forward to sharing my journey back to health with you.
I have some really good tools and information now and am always on the hunt to discover more as I am as determined as ever to get well and be well. Along my path I’ve also discovered there are many, many more like me out there, who have similar stories, and some much more difficult. And, there will be many others to follow. They will all need help and guidance in their healing journeys. But, most importantly, they will need HOPE. I want to offer them that hope, and so much more.