Updated: Jan 11, 2021
I always believed I could be more beautiful. That if I put more makeup on, or looked like that popular gal from school, I'd be more likeable, I would feel more sexy, and more wanted.
The truth is, it was all a lie.
When I look back on who I was before having my 3 children, to 4 years ago when I made a decision that changed my health forever, I see a woman who needed some extra confidence. If I just had more of that, I may have had a different story to tell. I never asked for what I received, nor did I deserve it. I had insecurities in my teens and early twenties, but it didn’t really become an issue until after I had my first child in 2011.
Let's hold a safe space for conversation around the need to alter our bodies surgically into something we feel is beautiful, wanted by many, and that we feel is going to give us the most out of life.
It's a global tragedy! An industry that preys on weaknesses to make money. It is all about profits.
I am a nurse, a mother of 3, and a wife of a paramedic. This happened to me, it can happen to anyone.
Cosmetic surgery. The big elephant in the room.
Humour me for one moment, and read my story. It might just save you or someone you love from making a decision that can't be undone.
The short synopsis, my breast implants ruptured, leached heavy metals and chemicals into my body, causing over 25+ symptoms of illness while also causing permanent damage to my breasts and chest wall. Paired with an abdominoplasty to repair 15 cm of abdominal separation that caused an umbilical hernia; a decision I made under false and misleading information that changed my perception of the word "beautiful" forever.
I was diagnosed with severe postpartum depression when my son was 5 months old, in February 2019. I went on medication and straight into weekly therapy sessions.
Diving into more detail:
I wanted more. I wanted to feel complete and comfortable in my own skin. So when I was referred to a surgeon to repair my umbilical hernia caused from my first 2 pregnancies, I fell into a trap. The surgeon had a dual practice, general surgery and cosmetic surgery. For the record, I believe this is not a good mix of surgical skill set. I needed an abdominoplasty "tummy tuck" to correct the 15cm diastasis recti (abdominal muscle separation) caused from my first 2 pregnancies, to prevent future occurrences of hernias, and to strengthen the weakened areas of my abdomen I could not do with physiotherapy. This used to be covered under OHIP but is no longer accepted as it is deemed "cosmetic " and "unnecessary" in nature.
Sitting next to us in the surgeon's office, were bags; bags filled with gel. Something I always wanted were bigger breasts. I never developed properly with having hormonal issues in adolescence, a small A cup, always. 2 kids didn't change this.
We asked about a breast augmentation while we were already organizing my abdominal surgery.
If I could go back in time, and change this moment; I would.
One thing led to another, and after much thought and consideration between myself and my husband, and after asking all the questions about risks and health concerns, we arranged the "Mommy Makeover".
Ha!... Makeover? They should call it "makeunder". The abdomen was a medical issue for me. So, we booked the surgery and took out a loan to prepare.
This went sideways in more ways than imaginable.
In August 2016 I endured 5.5 hours of surgery that altered my abdomen, my chest cavity, and my breasts; I was told by my surgeon that it would "enhance the beautiful life I already had".
11 months after implantation, pain struck on my ribs. The implants were "bottoming out" exerting pressure into my armpits and downward on my ribcage. The surgeon revised his work (without imaging to detect anomalies) at 11 months post op and lifted the implants up with stronger sutures, but failed. They deformed and fell on my ribs again 10-11 months after this revision surgery of July 2017. At this time I began to experience debilitating migraines, brain fog, forgetfulness, loss of finding words, slow but worsening joint pain and swelling, muscle cramping, worsening fatigue, and anxiety that landed me in therapy weekly, and much more. Never connecting my symptoms to my breast implants.
My husband and I had decided we were not done having children. Our two beautiful girls are amazing, but we wanted to try for a boy. We thought we were done, but life has a funny way of telling you when you aren't. Our surgeon assured us it was safe to conceive, to grow life inside me with all the surgery I had done. He told us it was perfectly safe to breastfeed. So, we moved forward with our decision and conceived our son in January 2018.
My pregnancy was hard, exhausting, I became very ill and eventually couldn't work. I had difficulty breathing, difficulty walking, feeling faint, not understanding why this pregnancy was so difficult than my first two. My midwives tested what they could and no one could figure out what was wrong with me.
Our son was born September 2018 by induction for maternal anxiety, and unknown illness.
Our son breastfed, and topped up with formula as I couldn't produce enough milk for him. Near 1 month into breastfeeding our son started vomiting his feeds, and gained weight ever so slowly. He was diagnosed with reflux and was put on medication.
After five and a half months of breastfeeding our son decided he didn't want to breastfeed anymore. He didn't want anything to do with it. A few days after complete cessation of breastfeeding, his reflux symptoms began to subside, and within the week was so much better that we stopped his medication.
My postpartum depression put a strain on my family. I couldn't take care of myself or my kids properly. I had suicidal ideation and always spoke to my husband of “when it happens please make sure the kids get this and that…” I needed help. This was the most scared I have ever been. I never thought I would survive the dark place I was in.
Looking back now, it all makes sense. My ruptured implants were leaching chemicals into my breastmilk and into my son, making him sick, and me sick both mentally and physically. Was it really postpartum depression?
May 2019 we asked the surgeon why my breasts won't stay in place? Why are they still deformed? Why do they hurt?
Instead of sending me for imaging (which he should have done), the surgeon wanted to charge me more money and to suture the implants back up again. His reluctance of repairing them successfully was noted in his expressions and his words by my husband and myself.
I decided at this point, I needed to go see someone else for a second opinion. A surgeon in Toronto quoted me for a breast implant replacement for a larger size and sent me on my way. No real answer as to what was happening to me.
I came across a woman on YouTube by chance that evening after my second opinion, who reported her implants were making her sick.
A light bulb went off.
My symptoms I have been experiencing for 2 years that have been getting worse daily, it couldn't be me "aging". My implants could be making me sick?
Straight to my family doctor, and into imaging at the Hospital. Ultrasound and MRI both confirmed bilateral ruptures at 2 years and 10 months of having implants in; June/July 2019. This is not normal and should never have happened so early on. Not just one implant, BOTH!
10 days after connecting the dots that my implants were likely the cause of me being sick, before I had any results of ruptures, I had the biggest most terrifying panic attack. Kids were off to school, baby was sleeping, my husband in the kitchen making breakfast for us. I walk to the basement, into the spare bedroom, shut the door, laid my head face first into the pillow, grasping it with my hands, and started to cry, then crying turned into screaming. My husband came down terrified, didn't say a word and put his hand on my back to let me know he was there. I was screaming so loudly, crying as hard as I could, screaming at the top of my lungs into the pillow, then… I screamed so hard "Get Them Out of Me!" My husband was terrified I was going to cut them out right there and then. Believe me, I had many thoughts about doing this. I was not in my right mind. I couldn't just take off a bra, or stop a medication. These toxic devices would have to be surgically removed, and that takes time to find a surgeon and then planning.
I confronted my surgeon and he didn't deny nor admit to anything. When I confronted him about my ruptures he had nothing to say back. I was ignored.
So let me just mention that breast implants are supposed to be safe and are warranted to last 10 years?
I'm calling BS on this now. False information, false advertising, surgeons can mislead women, some prey on women's insecurities and weakness of their body image; it's shameful. Some just don’t know what they are actually doing to women. My surgeon lied to me, and took my money for his own selfish gain. A money hungry giant in the cosmetic surgery industry. I was fed lines from my surgeon who I trusted "it is completely safe", "my patients walk out of here happy, and studies show women have more confidence post op". Seriously? I bought into that? Doctors take an oath to do no harm, this is borderline inhumane and criminal in my eyes. You cannot make an informed decision if you don't have all the facts, period. This was taken from me, my right to informed consent.
My eyes have been opened. I wish someone had told me their story prior to me doing this surgery, I would have taken the time to research more. I trusted my doctor, my surgeon. It is public knowledge as of winter 2020, this surgeon has been stripped of his license to practice medicine ever again. So rest assured, he can no longer hurt anyone as a physician again.
I am one of hundreds of thousands and counting of women who are sick from a medical device that we were told was perfectly safe. Even the manufacturer lists risks and what women have reported in symptoms. They also recommend imaging by MRI to detect any anomalies 3 years after putting implants in and every 2 years after that. Was I informed of this? Was I informed I would need multiple surgeries over my lifetime to maintain them? No!
I never felt comfortable with breast implants, and there is a good reason why. They ARE NOT supposed to be in our bodies. You wouldn't believe the amount of harmful heavy metals and chemicals all breast implants are made with. My hair analysis shows arsenic, lead, cobalt and many others in my system when implants were in, and when tested again after removal, the levels dropped dramatically.
November 2019 I flew to BC to have my implants removed properly. A lot of research and time went into how this procedure needs to be done. So I found a surgeon I was comfortable with to get the job done right. If done wrong, foreign material will be left inside you and you will remain sick.
I know there are women who are symptom free, and that's great!
However, it is not a matter of "if" it will happen to you, but a matter of WHEN! A small amount of doctors are starting to come forward with the dangers of breast implants.
The online support groups on Facebook I am in gave me the strength, reassurance, and knowledge to get these unnatural bags of jello out of me the right way. I thank all these women who put so much time into helping other women get through this nightmare.
I was explanted successfully. The videos and photos I received from my surgeon shows a yellow substance mangled into pockets of jello with the consistency of sticky putty. This is not supposed to happen, and it is disgusting to think I almost replaced them not knowing what was happening inside my body. Even if you never have a rupture, these materials leach into your body and deposit everywhere. Think of a plastic water bottle in your vehicle on a hot day, after a few hours you drink it and it tastes like plastic; same concept as there is leaching and migration of chemicals. The ultrasound technicians at my hospital mention silicone migration to me when I go in for regular imaging, they know this happens.
My recovery has been a slow and difficult journey. My healing is not just physical, but emotional as well. I will forever be monitoring my health, and my son (who is now under medical supervision at sick kids). My anxiety and depression is a constant battle, and I truly believe my breast implants caused my anxiety and depression through toxic elements released into my bloodstream and tissues causing an array of symptoms that did not make sense. My postpartum depression was likely exacerbated by toxins. Inflammatory responses to the brain can cause mental illnesses.
The anxiety and depression I get help with through therapy and medications, and the 25+ symptoms these implants gave to me including joint pain with stiffness and swelling, fatigue, insomnia, rashes, migraines, vertigo, tinnitus, breast pain and swelling, the feeling that I am dying, and much more. I continue to manage my health through multidisciplinary therapies. Finding energy for my 3 kids and my husband is up and down, and then having the constant battle of my body image and the harm done to my body is always in my mind. My family has paid the price as well, this ordeal has taken them through emotions they should never have had to share with me or see. The state of my well being in 2019 was rough. I'll spare you the details because it is hard to talk about.
I will have the scars forever to remind me that I was perfect the way I was, that I didn't need to change a thing. Yes, the hernia and diastasis needed to be corrected, however, I didn't need to slice and dice myself into something I am not and take it that one unnecessary step further. I thought I needed implants to feel more like a woman, that they would help me feel more complete. However, they did the opposite and made things much worse.
I am still recovering, at 13 months post op. Some symptoms have subsided however I continue to manage my anxiety and depression, joint pain, swelling, and tingling, insomnia and intermittent fatigue, head to toe body aches and pains which some would call fibromyalgia, early onset of osteoarthritis at age 33, detoxing effects of the foreign materials that still run through me as collateral damage, and brain fog that gets so bad that I forget in the moment where I am or what I was just doing, and the continuous internal struggle I have with my external appearance.
This experience opened me up to explore why I felt I had to change myself to begin with. I don't have all the answers, I am still trying to figure this one out. It goes deeper than I realized.
I came across Nicole and Jarrett's contest and VIP page for Nicole's Boudoir Photography. A husband and wife team. I joined the group and entered a contest I thought I would never win. I was drawn to how their photos of women were strong, displayed confidence, and beauty of all shapes and sizes. More of this is needed in this world; a healthy depiction of women.
I was shocked when I heard my name announced. I was nervous and scared to do this photoshoot. Nicole and I agreed there is a message behind my photos, and this could be a piece of the healing process that I need; to see myself in an entire different light. This gave me an opportunity to show the world beauty comes in all different shapes and sizes, and you are all beautiful. Women are beautiful! Curvy, skinny, tall, and short, it doesn't matter, there is no "normal".
I jumped in. Nervous about my scars I was left with. I tried to bring clothing to cover myself up, and I let Nicole and Jordan (hair and makeup GODDESS) choose my outfits. Nicole encouraged me to show more than I planned. I trusted her, I needed to trust the process, and I'm glad I did.
I cried, multiple times that day; a true struggle within. Jarrett and Nicole made me feel comfortable regardless of the turmoil I was having from start to finish. No judgements, no opinions, just a raw and safe environment where I was able to express who I am.
The images were stunning. It was me, but the me I once knew before surgeries altered my external self. I was amazed at how powerful some of these images were. I saw confidence I thought would never return. They tell a story, a message, beyond what I felt. Some of the images were so powerful, they brought me to tears.
My healing is just beginning and will be a work in progress for a long time. This photo session helped me see what I truly am, that I am beautiful regardless of my decisions, my scars, and the path I chose.
I saw a bit of myself come back that day, and the artistic talents of Jarrett and Nicole helped me see this.
It isn't going to change overnight, and believe me, I continue to battle everyday,but I am moving in the right direction, the direction towards loving myself again. I can't turn back time,but I can definitely decide where to go next.
All women need a safe space to love themselves, to feel beautiful inside and out.
Cosmetic surgery will only put a bandaid on the real reason they feel this way, the reason you feel this way. It didn't help me in any way, it caused more harm inside and out on levels I could never imagine was possible. I am not saying it is not right for you, but I say this with the utmost respect for women, please take your time and don't rush the decision. The damage can't be undone, and I regret not taking more time to pause with making this decision.
If someone doesn't like you for who you are now, then they are not the right person to be your partner, your friends, or be in your life.
If there is one thing I have learned from this traumatic experience, it is this: it is okay to not be perfect, and personally, it is more beautiful and real to just be you, to be perfectly imperfect.
If you are on the fence about trying a boudoir shoot, stop it! Just go do it. You'll surprise yourself. Jarrett has a way of bringing out what you may think are flaws, but are actually the best parts of you. Be proud of the flaws that make you unique.
To all the women who struggle with their identity, this is for you. Remember you are a warrior, a goddess, and you are beautiful just the way you are.