BEST SELF, GRATITUDE, HAPPINESS, MY TRUTH

Happy Belated New Year

01/24/2017

Life has been busy the last several weeks.  With the holidays, the New Year, vacation, and just life in general, we have definitely kept very busy here in DC.  I’m grateful to say that I have been feeling well and that my energy level is back to normal, if not better levels than pre-surgery.  I am still working on a couple of hurdles in my recovery in regards to range of motion and pain in my pectoral muscles, but with time I am optimistic that these things will heal as well.  Although the surgery and recovery process did not go as I expected, I still think the outcome was worth it.

Today’s post is more about getting back on the horse after a good amount of time not writing, and playing a bit of catch-up.  I have sat down to write this post many times, but I get caught up in my to do list and it never gets done.  I also recently got talked into co-chairing a HUGE auction for my children’s school in DC, which is proving to be a full time job and then some. 

The past month and a half has been a bit of a whirlwind.  We celebrated our first Christmas in another state, which came with its own challenges, but also its own rewards.  It was hard to be away from family during the holiday.  I haven’t felt homesick all that often since I moved, just random days where I am  triggered by some sort of event.  The holidays stirred up a lot more feelings of homesickness.  But if I’m really honest, I think it was less about missing “home” and more that I didn’t feel like we had a choice.  My husband had extremely limited time off and it was quite expensive to get tickets back to Florida.  I had even looked up flights home to surprise my parents on Christmas morning, but the cost was excessive!  Even if we could have traveled, we would have been torn between our two families since they reside in different states.  

In addition, staying in town meant that the responsibility of Christmas fell largely, if not solely, on me.  I put a lot of pressure on myself to have a wonderful Christmas.  I was feeling a lot of guilt that the kids couldn’t be with their Grandparents and cousins for the holiday and focused my anxiety on finding the “perfect” gifts for my kids (even finding myself in East Baltimore after a wild goosechase for Ellie’s dream toy).  This spurred even more anxiety as I battled the dichotomy between my desire to find the perfect gift and my current efforts to declutter and minimalize.

I wasn’t sure what to do for our holiday food either.  My kids kept talking about the “holiday feast” that they were imaging, but as we are eating mostly plant-based foods,  I did not even know where to start.  I felt overwhelmed and unsure.  To make life a little bit easier, I suggested that we have Christmas Eve dinner out at a restaurant and pick up our “main entrees” for Christmas dinner at Whole Foods and that I would take care of the sides.  My husband and kids picked out cheese lasagna and I opted for tofu “chicken” and I completed these meals with roasted brussel sprouts, cranberry sauce, and gluten free stuffing.  

In the end, Christmas turned out to be quite delightful.  We really tried to be present on Christmas morning, balancing the opening of Christmas gifts with an overall gratitude for our general life gifts. We discussed our blessings and what the holidays were all about.  Even though we couldn’t be with our extended family, we were really enjoying the time we had – just the four of us.

After Christmas, we made a last-minute decision to take a small vacation. We couldn’t figure out what we wanted to do for our 9 year Wedding Anniversary that weekend since the one babysitter we have found in DC was away for the holidays, so we decided to drive an hour and a half north into Pennsylvania to go skiing.  We went to a small resort called Whitetail and used hotel points to decrease the cost of our adventure.  We were also able to take advantage of a lot of great deals for first-timers at this mountain and it really paid off!  The mountain was not very busy and our group lessons turned into private lessons because they had so few people signed up as compared to the number of instructors that they had on for that weekend.

The weekend trip to the mountains really increased the value of living in DC. We have talked about moving out to Colorado for the past couple of years, but are conflicted because the travel back and forth to our family would be more challenging in both cost and time.  Being able to get to a mountain, albeit much smaller, in only an hour and a half really changed our view of living on the East Coast. We had an amazing trip – probably one of the best vacations we’ve had, and left with fond memories!

On the way home from Pennsylvania, we started discussing the option of staying in the DC area.  We talked about benefits and compromises we would have to make.  When we arrived home we took several day trips around DC and the surrounding Virginia area to start looking at areas where we may be able to see ourselves living.  We got excited about the prospect of having a home again.  Although there are a lot of benefits of renting, I definitely feel a strong pull to plant roots.  I find this difficult as a renter.  It is a new feeling and I’m trying to wrap my head and heart around it.  Looking for a property in the DC area is such a different experience than looking for a home in Florida.  The prices of the homes are astronomical.    For what we purchased our 2,200 square foot home, with A+ schools, swimming pool, two car garage, and backyard, we can afford a 1 bedroom/1 bath apartment in our current neighborhood.  If we want to remain in the good school zones the prices are pretty comparable across the district – and in some cases even go up!  Then there is the challenge of finding a property that allows dogs.

We started looking in Northern Virginia as well.  Areas such as Burke, Alexandria, Springfield, Falls Church, Vienna…to name a few.  The problem is, that although this increases the square footage some, the prices are still exorbitant.  Unless you are willing to increase your commute significantly the prices stay relatively high – especially as compared to where we came from in Florida.  The search for a home has left us questioning so much about what we want and need.  Weighing the pros and cons of a house vs a condo and a commute vs walkability.  We have only begun our search and we may end up simply renting for another year – only time will tell.

Another exciting experience that we have had in the last few weeks is that we received our first snowfall since living in DC.  We had a couple flutters earlier in the week, but nothing that stuck.  Two weeks ago, we had actual snow!  REAL SNOW!!!  We watched it come down from our window and waited till there was enough on the ground to play in.  The kids layered up with all their winter clothes on and headed downstairs with the dogs.  We spent a good hour playing in the snow.  The kids loved it.  And so did I.  We are having a mild winter thus far – with only one snowy weekend.  I feel silly that I was ever worried because I really love it. It is so amazing to have seasons. I went my entire life not understanding seasons and what they meant. Living in Florida we really only have one temperature – hot and I am not racing back any time soon, despite being away from family and friends.  Lol. 

We actually got to take a quick trip down to Florida to visit with some family and friends, although we didn’t get to see everyone due to time constraints.  With the holidays behind us, we were able to get a good deal on flights and the kids had off Thursday and Friday due to the inauguration – which pretty much closes down DC.  I’m hoping I can take advantage of future deals and see everyone I wasn’t able to see this trip.  Seeing family and friends definitely filled a void I was feeling – and it is always bittersweet  to say goodbye – but I can honestly say that Florida doesn’t feel like home anymore.  I’m not sure if I’d call DC my home just yet either.  I guess I’m feeling a bit nomadic at the moment.  Being in this in between state is a new personal challenge for me.  Trusting in the process is not something I do naturally and so it takes a lot of work and self reflection to help navigate through these ever changing feelings.  All I can do at the moment is take things day by day and believe that life has a way of working itself out.  😉

BEST SELF, BREAST IMPLANT ILLNESS, HEALTH, MY TRUTH

The Never Ending Story // My Recovery Part II

12/13/2016

I am thankful that as I restarted my endeavor on this site, I made the decision not to hold myself up to unrealistic standards when it came to the frequency of posts.  I also recognized that this is a journey for me and one that has to go at my pace to truly be authentic and helpful.  That said, I’ve been eager to write again since my last post, but hesitant as I have not wanted all my writing to be consumed by my surgery.  After much contemplation, I realized that even though I want to write about other topics, the surgery is consuming my life right now.  This site is a reflection of my attempt to find balance in my life and how can I be authentic and talk about other things when I have this huge hurdle that I am working to overcome?

Today I am 6 weeks post op.  The journey of recovery has proven to be a very rocky road, full of highs and lows.  During my last entry (click here to read), I was 16 days post op.  I explored the challenges thus far and was optimistic that I was on the right path to recovery after having been slowed down by a hematoma that I had developed.  At the time, I still had my original drain in and was hoping the hematoma would drain on its own.  Unfortunately, 4 weeks had passed since the date of the surgery and the drainage was still relatively high.  I was draining an average of 60 cc within a 24 hour period.  My doctor had wanted it to be below 25 cc before removing the drain.  After Thanksgiving weekend we decided it would be best to come in for an office visit.  At that point I expressed that I was still in a good amount of discomfort and had remained on the prescription Ibuprofen, but I was mobile and overall able to function relatively well.  The hardest part at that point was sleeping – which caused a lot of discomfort, so more than anything I was simply exhausted.  He said that although the drainage was not where he would have liked, that it was time to pull the drain so that it did not cause more pressing issues.  We scheduled a follow up appointment for one week to check the breast for fluid build-up.  I was hopeful that with the drain out I would heal and be able to catch up on some sleep.  Boy was I wrong.

The appointment was scheduled for Monday, but by Sunday night I was in great pain.  My husband had been out of town that week for work and so all the parenting and dog duties had fallen on me.  I felt good enough to do them, but with the pain I experienced on Sunday I was concerned that I had overdone it and perhaps ended up with a fluid build-up.  I was grateful to have an appointment scheduled for the next day.  I also had a trying weekend, as that Saturday my sweet 14 year old Golden Retriever had some sort of episode in the middle of the night causing her to urinate, defecate and vomit all over the apartment at around 2 am and she also lost her mobility.  She could  not stand, walk, or even move her legs on her own.  As I noted, my husband had been out of town for travel that week and was flying home that afternoon, so as soon as he was walked through the door we took her to the emergency animal hospital.  Long story short, she was diagnosed with Idiopathic Vestibular Disease, otherwise known as Old Dog Syndrome, which is essentially doggy vertigo.  The dog is basically so dizzy that it makes them ill and lose control of their faculties.  They then continue to spin so much that they are almost paralyzed as they do not know which way is up or down.  After a very expensive trip to the vet, we opted to take her home and care for her ourselves.  After a week, I can say that she is doing much better.  She is not 100%, but she can make it outside to use the restroom with very little assistance and her falling down due to imbalance is minimal.  Overall, good news, but extremely sad and stressful.

Okay, back to the recovery.  On Sunday night the pain became intense.  I felt like I had an elephant on my chest and it hurt to take a deep breath.  The pain increased as soon as I laid down – which made sleeping even more of a challenge than it had already been.  Additionally, I started to run a fever of 99.2.  The next day at my appointment, my doctor tried to aspirate what we thought was fluid in the breast, but no fluid was present.  The doctor concluded that the pain was likely due to muscular contraction and provided a few tips regarding stretches that I could do to help minimize the discomfort.  I went home and began stretching.  Within an hour I began to run a fever again.  This time it was a bit higher at 101.3.  I emailed my doctor to notify him of the fever – which I had forgotten to do during the appointment – and ask about  possible infection.  My doctor indicated that I had shown no signs of infection and I was likely coming down with something and to treat it the fever with Tylenol.

The pain continued to get worse and the fever was lingering.  I called my father, who is an MD, for his thoughts.  My dad was greatly concerned and told me to get to the ER to have blood work done immediately as he was concerned that I did have an infection.  I called my husband who was on his way home from the office and gave him the heads up that we should head to the ER upon his arrival home.  I got the kids and myself ready and we met him downstairs in the garage and headed straight for the hospital.  The ER was quick to get me back to a room and ran various tests.  The blood work came back normal, but the CT scan showed a buildup of fluid under my muscle which would require a special procedure with the Interventional Radiation Department in order to aspirate.  This is why my doctor had not been able to retrieve any liquid despite there in fact being a fluid buildup.  At first the decision was to admit me to the hospital overnight and administer IV antibiotics while working to get the procedure scheduled the following day or so.  Luckily, the ER doctor was awesome and was able to coordinate a plan B, which meant going home with a prescription for a double course of antibiotics and working with another doctor (who had been working at the ER that evening) to schedule the procedure at a different hospital the next day.

At first switching hospitals was chaotic and we questioned our decision to do so, but in the end when all was sorted out, it really turned out to be a great suggestion on the part of the ER doctor.  I was well taken care of and the procedure was done that afternoon.  There was a series of sonograms and CT scans to help guide the aspiration process and the doctor was able to drain all visible fluid.  He then flushed the cavity and inserted a catheter into the cavity to enable draining and also provide the ability to flush the cavity in the future if needed.  The doctor was extremely patient and thorough and I felt at ease.  Since the procedure last week, the doctor who performed the aspiration has stayed in contact with me, checking in regarding my progress.  I still have to wait a little longer to have the drain removed as the fluid level is just slightly above where he would like it, but the pain has decreased significantly.  Although I still have pain and discomfort, the doctor has reassured me that a large piece of the pain is due to the fact that the catheter is placed under the muscle and so close to my chest wall.  I can take a deeper breath now without feeling like I am being stabbed or that I may pass out from pain.  My sleep is still erratic because it is painful to lay down and the drain is extremely irritating, but I know this is temporary.

My healing process is certainly not the norm and I hope it doesn’t dissuade anyone from getting the explantation surgery, but on the other hand I do hope that it works as an eye opener for those contemplating cosmetic surgery.  In the end, you may still decide that it is right for you – and that is okay – but it is important to realize the implications.  I got implants so that I would feel more balanced in my body.  I had larger hips, broader shoulders, but an extremely small bust.  I always felt like I was not proportional.  I thought augmentation was the solution, but in the end, the implants brought me more grief than they were worth and now I am anything but symmetrical.  There are women that will never have an issue a day in their lives with surgery or cosmetic procedures, and they are lucky.  For me, it has been a different story.

In regards to finding or keeping balance, the reality is that it is very hard to do when life keeps trying to knock you over.  I cannot work out right now or for several more weeks and my sleep is erratic and limited.  I try to stay positive, but I definitely have found myself in an emotional rut from time to time during this healing process.  As for nutrition,  I’d say I am proud of myself for trying extremely hard to stick with a whole foods, plant based lifestyle, but I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t made concessions.  We have had nights of frozen pizza & mac and cheese, albeit I try to get the grass-fed, organic kinds for the family and of course gluten free for me, but it is a challenge to change food lifestyles without the obstacle of surgery, so this has been exponentially more challenging.

Luckily, even though my recovery has been long and drawn out, I have had periods of reprieve in which I have been able to enjoy time with my family, cooking, and even some travel.  It has definitely helped to have these experiences even if they are short lived.

I am hoping that this will be the last of these long winded posts about my recovery, but I make no promises.  I remain optimistic about the healing process, but have also conceded in the realization that I will likely not be able to change the adhesion of my left breast to my chest wall and that of course, the healing has taken more out of me than expected.  My focus now is on the New Year.   I am working on visualizing what I would like to achieve in 2017 and health is definitely at the forefront of these goals.

As the year comes to a close, what are you focused on in your own life?

BREAST IMPLANT ILLNESS, HEALTH, LIFE CHANGES, MY TRUTH

Goodbye Boobs // Explant Surgery & Recovery

11/18/2016

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For those of you who have read my previous posts, you are likely well aware that I recently had surgery to remove my 11 year old breast implants.  If not, feel free to [click here] for some back story.  That said, I have been wanting to write about the surgery for a while now, but the recovery process has taken a lot out more of me than I expected and I have not had the energy to do so, nor the focus or brainpower to write more than a few sentences at a time.  But, today I’m feeling decent and so I’ve decided to sit down and write.

My surgery took place on November 2nd, so a little over two weeks ago.  I thought I had prepared well for the surgery after reading a myriad of posts in the support group I am in, from women who had already undergone the procedure.  After reading their stories, I assumed that it would be about 2-3 days in bed before I regained my energy and could do light tasks, such as walking to the bus stop to take the kids to school and working at my computer during the day.  In addition, I anticipated 4-8 weeks of overall healing before I could do more invasive activities such as working out.    So, in preparation,  I cleaned my entire home, top to bottom, to make sure that I was in a clean environment post surgery.  I did all the laundry so that the husband and kids had clean clothes to wear during my recovery time without the added pressure of laundry.  I cooked whole foods plant based meals for myself and my family to help during the recovery process and again lift some of the daily burden off of my husband.  I loaded up on fresh greens and fruits to juice to help with the healing.  I filled all my prescriptions ahead of time and put them by my bed.  I rented movies and books from the library to keep me occupied during my healing process.  And I set up childcare for the day of the surgery so that if we weren’t able to pick our kids up directly from school that afternoon, that we would not feel stressed out if things ran a little late.  And I even started practicing a surgery specific meditation created to help promote healing.  I was ready.  Nervous, but ready.  

Or so I thought.

Unfortunately, as it goes in life, nothing went exactly as planned in regards to the surgery or the recovery.

The day of the surgery we dropped the kids off early at school thanks to help from their teachers and drove anxiously to the surgery center.  We checked in and were admitted, and put in a room to prepare for the surgery.  We met with the nurses, anesthesiologist, and the doctor and I was suited up in the oh so flattering hospital gown, socks, and blue hair cap.  But, with 30 minutes til surgery, my doctor poked his head in and told us that the surgery was being pushed back 30 minutes due to the surgery ahead of us running late.  This happened again and again, until my 10:00 am surgery was pushed back to 12:30 pm, so two and half hours later than expected.  We thought we would still be okay, because we had child care til 5 pm and the surgery was expected to be 2-3 hours with a 30-60 minute recovery.  So, even with a 30 minutes drive home, we were still okay.  That was a bad thought process though.  

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The surgery took two and a half hours, which was within the normal window and my doctor came out to let my husband know that everything went great and that I was taken to recovery and he would be called back shortly.  However, the recovery took a lot longer than expected and after an hour a nurse came back to tell my husband that I was having difficulty coming to.  They told him I was in Stage 2 and very sleepy, which I gather to mean that I was off the breathing tube, but still not quite conscious.  Finally an hour and a half later they let him come back to the recovery room where I had just woken up – and I use this term extremely loosely because I could not stay conscious.  I kept drifting in and out of consciousness, and could not really communicate with anyone.  Although, the first thing I said to the nurse when I first started coming to was “Can you kiss me on the forehead, I miss my mommy”.  Lol.  Yes, I’m a 35 year old mother of two and I still want my mommy when I’m sick or in pain.  Ha ha.

At this point though my husband was freaking out a bit.  He later told me that he was terrified that I was going to be in more of a vegetative or brain damaged state because I just could not stay conscious.  He would try to speak to me and ask me questions, but I was unable to respond to him.  Over thirty minutes passed with me unable to maintain consciousness.  My husband even spoke to the anesthesiologist whom he said seemed concerned herself, which didn’t help his unease.  I started to slowly be able to communicate elementary thoughts and they fed me some applesauce to help get calories into my body.  I had not eaten in about 22 hours.  At this point it was 5:20 pm and the surgery center had closed at 4:30, so staff were either gone or on their way out the door and my husband could tell that although they wanted to make sure that I was coherent, the staff working with us were anxious to get going too.  So they got me into a wheelchair and decided that I was ready to be discharged.  They sent my husband down to get the car and pull it around front and told them they would wheel me out front to meet him.  He got there and waited, but no me.  He received a phone call after 10 minutes or so letting them know that I wasn’t ready due to severe nausea.  The room was spinning and I felt extremely sick.  They gave me more medication (a giant shot!) to help with the nausea and fed me more apple sauce.  Finally around 6 pm the nurse rolled me to the car where my husband was anxiously waiting.  I don’t think any one of us felt 100% comfortable with me leaving at that point.  I just didn’t seem quite ready, but we loaded up and left.  In hindsight, my husband said he wishes we had booked a night with a surgery recovery center or at the very least driven straight to the hospital so someone with medical knowledge could have taken care of me.  He felt in over his head.

Also, if you remember me saying so before, we only had childcare scheduled til 5.   My friend who was watching the kids had a prior obligation she needed to get to, so my husband was frantically trying to make arrangements to have another friend come and pick up the kids from the first friend and watch them until we could get there.  This was already stressful unto itself, but keep in mind – these are brand new friends that we are asking major favors from – we just moved here in late March and one of the two friends I only made 2 months ago!  AND I am NOT good with asking for favors or for help.  Lol.  My friends were AMAZING though and took care of it without a hitch!  The kids were in good hands, so my husband could simply focus on getting his wife home.  

On the way home I was very sick and threw up a few times which offered momentary release of nausea.  I was in a lot of pain and discomfort and extremely fatigued.  We picked up the kids from our friend’s house and made our way back to the apartment.  The night is a bit of a blur, but I remember getting out of the car and barely being able to stand.  We were in our basement parking garage and I ended up laying in the roadway.  My husband eagerly got me to the side – out of the way of any possible cars – and propped me up, seated against the wall.  We knew there was no way we were going to make it to the apartment on our own.  We live on the tenth floor and at the end of a very long hallway.  I remember thinking that I would likely die if I tried to make it there myself.  I know, very dramatic, but that’s how I felt that night.  My husband was feeling panicked and decided he would see if they had the luggage cart available to help me.  He ran to the front desk of the apartment to ask for help and the kids stayed with me – which was probably a bit traumatic for them.  My husband came back with the security guard and two of the leasing agents.  I never saw them, but could hear their voices going in and out.  They had brought a rolling chair, but I couldn’t even stand well enough to get into that, so one gentleman ran back and got the luggage cart which was lower.  I remember hearing them say “should we call 911”, so I know I wasn’t in good shape.  When they got back with the luggage cart I was able to crawl myself onto that and curl up in a ball while they pushed me up to the apartment.  I cannot even imagine what a bystander may think.  Lol.  The security guard assisted my husband and they pushed the cart all the way to my room and got me propped up in bed.   Success.

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The rest of the first night is a blur.  I remember being in pain, but more than anything it was the nausea and fatigue that was the larger of the evils. My husband worked from home the next few days to help me out as needed.  He got me fluids, medicine, and food, and helped me get out of bed to use the restroom.  I was so weak that I could not even get to the restroom myself which is probably only 10 feet away.  In fact, the day after surgery while bringing me to the restroom I lost consciousness.  My husband was terrified.  He told me that he looked at my eyes and I was just gone.  I drifted in and out of consciousness while my husband tried to figure out what to do.  He couldn’t let go of me but he needed to get his phone to call 911.  The kids were already home from school so he called in panic to my son who brought him my phone – which was dead.  My husband and son were scared and felt panicked, but before they were able to find the working phone I was coming to and asked to be moved to the bed.  They were able to get me to the bed and called the doctor immediately.  The doctor calmed them down and advised them to lay me down and prop my legs up above my heart and noted that this is not uncommon as I had lost a lot of blood and it probably had rushed out of my head when I stood up to go to the bathroom.  I drank some apple juice and started to feel okay again.  

Luckily this was an isolated scare and although I continued to feel weak I didn’t have any other incidents of passing out.  It seems that my body is simply not good at handling trauma.  Over the next week I continued to drain a lot of blood and remained very weak despite eating well balanced meals and staying hydrated.  I felt disappointed that I was doing so poorly and felt naive regarding my anticipated recovery.

the_hourglass_project_explant_surgery_003cI was stuck in bed for the most part oscillating between reading books, watching movies, and sleeping.  My husband would help me to the restroom and also help me try to walk the length of the apartment so that I could get my body moving and not risk blood clots. We found if I drank apple juice before getting up I tended to do better.  I think it helped balance my blood sugar and give me that extra boost of energy I needed.  My kids would come spend time with me and read me books, write me letters, and keep me company.  We discussed in detail the surgery and recovery process and explored the fears that they had and moments that they felt scared.  

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I continued to remain extremely weak and fatigued, but the pain was tolerable.  It was hard to sit up on my own (my husband had to help) and hurt if I rolled on either side, but other than that it was more of a strong, but dull pain.  My back and bottom hurt from sitting in the same position for so long too.  I felt beat up, but it was not acute pain.  I decided to forego any narcotic pain medications and I have only taken Ibuprofen and Tylenol to help with the pain.  Oh, I also had an anti-nausea patch, which we were advised to leave on for a few days post surgery, but after receiving a tip from a member on the support group I took it off and suddenly my nausea decreased significantly – how ironic.  The patch also caused my eyes to be dilated so I could not read until the patch was off.

At my first post-op appointment, 5 days after surgery, I had no energy and could barely think to ask any questions.  They removed the compression band and returned my implants, but  I was unable to get either drain removed because the fluid levels were too high and so we scheduled a second appointment 4 days later.  The day of the first appointment was very difficult for me emotionally. I was not healing like I expected to heal, my drains were not out, my body was extremely weak, and I was fully dependent on others to take care of me.  I felt like a burden on my family and also felt dumb for turning away the help offered by both my mom and my mother-in-law.  I know, I know, really silly to turn down help, but I did not expect it to be such a difficult recovery and we live in 850 square feet so I was worried that it would end up feeling like too much.  Wrong.  If I had it to do over again I would ask both to come….just at different times. Lol.  

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In addition to feeling like a burden to my husband and kids, the results were deflating (pun intended).  My right side was extremely swollen and bruised and my left breast had adhered (with scar tissue) to my chest wall.  I knew that there were aesthetic risks to getting the implants removed, and mentally I was okay with that, but here I was looking at my body for the first time feeling completely deformed.  I broke.  I cried a lot – which let me tell you is NOT good when you have just had surgery on your chest!  The emotional and physical pain was too much.  I felt completely defeated and hopeless.  I never doubted that this was the right thing to do because I needed to get these foreign objects out of my body, but I was throwing myself a wonderful pity party for ever getting them in the first place.

I reached out to the support group online and was flooded with love and encouragement.  It was just what I needed.  The crying allowed me to release my emotions and the support lifted me out of it.  I felt cleansed from the sadness and started to become optimistic to my healing process.  I got tips to help release the adhered breast and was reminded that it can take 6 months to a year to see the full results of the surgery as it takes time for our bodies to heal and our cells to rejuvenate.  So, really only time will tell if the tips will work, but at the end of the day I am healthier than I was two weeks ago and I accept that.  I was never going to be a bikini model anyways.  

During my second post-op appointment, the fluid had decreased enough in my left side to have my drain removed.  Wahoo!  I could not believe how long the drain was and how much was inside of my chest.  No wonder it was so painful.  I spoke to my doctor about the surgery and he confirmed that he was able to get all of the capsules out!  Hooray!  He also indicated that he sent the capsules to pathology to be tested and that my implants looked clear and unruptured.  Double yay!  

My parents had flown in the night before my appointment and my husband had the day off for Veterans day, so we were able to spend the next few days together as a family.  I was out of bed and started to regain my energy.

Women in the support group had told me that once the drains were out that I would start feeling better more rapidly, but I could not believe how true it was – and I only had one out.  My energy started to increase significantly and I didn’t feel the need to lay in bed all day.  I still took several naps throughout the day, but I was up and joined my family for meals!  We actually went out to eat several times – my husband would drive me and the rest of the family would walk to meet us.  It was fantastic.  By the last day of my parents’ trip I felt so good that I decided to walk the mile to the restaurant with them.  I even put on makeup and had my mom blow dry my hair.  I could not get over how much better I felt.  I was on a natural high and felt so optimistic about my healing.

the_hourglass_project_explant_surgery_003eUnfortunately, it did not last long.  My parents left after brunch and within a few hours I was starting to feel beat up again.  It felt different this time.  I did not feel the overwhelming fatigue that I had originally felt, this was pain.  I felt like I had just gotten into a terrible car wreck.  It hurt to move.  My chest and back hurt far worse than it had the entire time since the surgery.  At first I thought it may just be inflammation due to the rubbing of the still intact drain on my right side with all the walking I did.  But, the pain continued to get worse – waking me up in tears in the middle of the night and keeping me glued to my bed during the day.  It felt like a relapse and my spirits sunk.  The second day I started to run a low fever and was worried about infection.  I got ahold of my doctor and spoke to him about the symptoms and onset.  He said that it sounded like I had developed a hematoma.  He gave me steps to take to try to get the blood to drain on its own since it was on the side that still had the drain, but indicated that if it didn’t drain independently he would need to open the incision and manually drain it.  This was a scary thought – I did not do well with the first surgery, I did not want a second one.  

The hematoma also landed me right back in bed for the week which was extremely challenging, especially after having the taste of freedom over the weekend.  Luckily, another friend had heard about the surgery and insisted on helping.  I’m grateful that she didn’t take my “thanks, but I’m sure we’ll be okay” for an answer and could see that I am someone that doesn’t do well asking for help.  She insisted and I will forever be grateful.  She coordinated with her amazingly wonderful and sweet nanny to pick up the kids from school every day and bring them home to me.  On top of entertaining all the kids (my two and the two she already watches) she has helped me with dishes, walking the dogs, and they even made muffins!  Seriously – they are a Godsend.  So this has taken a boatload of pressure off of me and I’ve been able to focus on healing.

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I have been following my doctor’s advice to a T for 5 days now and the overwhelming pain has subsided.  I still have extreme tenderness in my breasts and feel achy, but not to the degree it was before.  The drainage is still high, so I am assuming the hematoma is draining on it’s own and I won’t be going under the knife again.  Yesterday I started feeling decent and was able to get out of bed and spend most of the day sitting at the table attending to an overwhelming amount of emails and doing some light reading.  I even ate dinner with my family.  I was a bit worried that I may be overdoing it and feel worse today, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.  I still feel only 60% healed, but I feel decent and able to do light activity such as get myself food and drinks, sit up at the table and work on the computer, and walk around the apartment without feeling like I need a nap.  I am hoping that over the next couple of days the fluid will decrease significantly and I will be able to get second drain out.  I am optimistic that it will be a major turning point for me.  

I know that was a ridiculously LONG entry, so if you stuck through it I thank you.  In the end, I don’t regret getting the explant surgery and I would do it again in a heartbeat.  I am 16 days into a healing process which was 11 years in the making.  I am trying not to waste any energy regretting the decision to get the implants in the first place – it was just a part of my journey – and rather focus on the strong and healthy individual that I am becoming.  That said, I would plan a bit differently if I had to do it over again.  First, I would check my expectations at the door and realize that this is major surgery!  I would anticipate a two week recovery time and plan for that.  This way it would be a bonus if I healed earlier.  Second, I would ask for more help from friends and family.  I would also set up more medical care knowing that my body doesn’t fare well with trauma.  Third, I would try to be more loving to myself.  My husband gave me wonderful advice in one of my dark moments.  He said, “Be gentle to your body. You are healing.” – wise man 😉

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments!  I love the dialogue 😉

BREAST IMPLANT ILLNESS, HEALTH, LIFE CHANGES, MY TRUTH

The Naked Truth // My Life with Implants

10/27/2016

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I recently posted an article about having breast implants and my decision to have them removed (click here to read).  In the article, I briefly discussed Breast Implant Illness and indicated that my recent understanding of BII was one of the major reasons for finally deciding to follow through with the explant surgery.  I did not go too far into detail in regards to my own personal health journey or BII as a whole.

As I spoke to my mother this week about my impending surgery, I realized that those around me, even those close to me, are not aware of how long I have been struggling with health issues.  I think my husband is the only one that is truly aware of how long I have been suffering.  I discussed this with my husband this morning and decided it was worth writing about.

My health issues started about 10 years ago and have become increasingly significant.  The first health issue that I can remember dealing with post implants was my Costochondritis.  It was about a year after I had gotten my implants that I was diagnosed with the disorder.  For those that are not familiar with Costochondritis, it is an injury where the cartilage is pulled and removed from the rib cage which results in inflammation and intense pain.  I believe that I suffered this injury while working out with my husband at the YMCA shortly before our wedding.  I remember doing lat pulls on a machine and alternating reps with him. During one rep I assumed he had changed the weights back for me and pulled down on the lat bar, quickly realizing that the weight was too heavy.  I changed the weight and continued with my workout.  I did not think much of it.  The next night we went out with Damon’s grandmother so that I could interview her for a paper I was writing for grad school.  During the dinner I started having immense chest pains, to the degree that I could barely concentrate.  I was worried, but I kept it to myself as I didn’t want to over-react.  After dinner I told Damon about the pain and it quickly intensified over the next hour or so.  The pain was radiating in my chest and shooting down my left arm all the way through my hand.  It became unbearable.  Although I felt like having a heart attack at 25 was very unlikely, I was extremely concerned about the way the pain was presenting itself.  We decided that it was in my best interest to go to the emergency room.  During this visit I had a battery of tests including an EKG and a chest x-ray.  They did not find anything and sent me home telling me I had a panic attack.  I found this to be very frustrating and invalidating.  I had never been in this much pain before and I had nothing to feel anxious about – why would I be having an anxiety attack?

I followed up with my doctor shortly after that as the pain lasted for about three days and was pretty debilitating.  He sent me out for a larger battery of tests to scan my heart and lungs and to make sure that everything was alright.  The test came back negative.  In the end he decided that I was likely suffering from Costochondritis and that was my diagnosis.  My doctor indicated  that  this disorder was often seen in Caucasian women with a slim build.  Although I felt frustrated with diagnosis, I won’t lie, I was excited that he called me slim! LOL.

He put me on a regimen of prescription NSAIDs and told me not to lift anything heavier than a pound for 3 to 6 months so that the cartilage could reattach.  He assured me that the condition would heal itself within this time.  I followed his guidance to the T, but unfortunately the diagnosis proved to be chronic.  I suffered flare-ups constantly.  It could range anywhere from 1 to 3 times a month.  Sometimes the flare-up was small and just caused a dull ache in my chest, but other times it left me in bed for days.  I felt discouraged as it was something he assured me would heal.  I did more research and found myself in several chat groups with women who suffered from the same condition.  Their stories made me realize that this was indeed a chronic situation.  The pain from the Costochondritis worsened during my pregnancies as my body was shifting and changing.  Stress also triggered the flare-ups, and during the years following the diagnosis I had a lot of stress in my life which included completing graduate school, getting married, having two children, moving, and getting licensed.  Not to mention just regular stressors in my day-to-day.  Damon was convinced that my implants were the cause.  I went to both my general doctor and my plastic surgeon telling them that I wanted the implants removed because I thought it might be the cause of my pain.  Both of them talked me out of it and said that there was no correlation.

Within two years of the Costochondritis diagnosis I was pregnant with my first child and then my second child very shortly after that. I attributed all unusual symptoms (major fatigue, nausea, brain fog, joint pain, etc.) to the pregnancy or recent childbirth, so I cannot say if I suffered any symptoms during this time as I did not experience anything that could not have been attributed to the pregnancies, other than the Costochondritis flare ups.

Shortly after my last pregnancy, I started having severe bouts of vertigo.  I had several spells which landed me at the doctor’s office and one so bad that I couldn’t even lift my head to watch my kids and had to enlist the help of my older sister who lived down the street.  My motion sickness continued to get worse and now is at a state where I can get car sick driving myself, which cracks my family up, but is such a frustration for me.

I also found myself going through extreme bouts of fatigue.  I would end up in bed for several days at a time.  Again, I attributed this to having two young children and an erratic sleep schedule.  But, I did find it a bit unnerving.  As the kids got older and were sleeping through the night, the bouts of fatigue started bothering me more.  I was eating extremely healthy, exercising regularly, and getting a good night sleep, but I would still land myself in bed 3 to 5 days at a time.  I felt like someone drained my entire body of all blood.  I felt weak and exhausted, unable to get out of bed for long periods of time without needing another nap.

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I remember calling my dad worried that I had diabetes or something to that degree as I felt like all life was sucked out of my body. I assumed I had anemia, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, or something to that degree.

During this time Damon kept encouraging me to get my breast implants removed, and although I entertained the thought, I was scared to undergo surgery with my kids so young.  I was also worried about the aesthetic aspect.  I feared that, as the doctors had told me, the implants had nothing to do with my Costochondritis or my current symptoms and that I would end up looking deformed for nothing.

I ended up back at the doctors and had a battery of tests run yet again.  This time, I made sure they ran all tests for autoimmune diseases as well being that I have one sister with Lupus and another with Antiphospholipid Disorder.  Nothing.  However, while taking my blood pressure he did notice that it was dropping significantly when I stood up.  So off to the cardiologists I went.  I spent a month hooked up to a monitor that took recordings of my heart functions.  I had a sonogram of my heart, a stress test, and a couple of other tests that I can’t remember the names of that all came out normal.  My cardiologist did find a minor mitral valve regurgitation in my heart, but indicated that this minor reflux would not present itself the way my symptoms were affecting me.  In fact she said that it wasn’t anything to worry about at all and very likely had been there my entire life.  She also told me I was slightly dehydrated, despite drinking easily a gallon of water a day.  She encouraged me to add a little salt to my water to help my body absorb it and to drink coconut water regularly.  So, again I was left with no real explanation but a lot of symptoms.

During this time, my mother-in-law was suffering from a recent diagnosis of Lymphoma.  My husband was struggling with her diagnosis and working his hardest to help her find resources and doctors to fight the cancer.  He got angry with me often for being ill and seemed to resent me when I spent the day in bed.  I felt horrible both physically and emotionally.  I didn’t know what to do.  I had all these symptoms- these real symptoms – and no explanation.  I felt crazy.  I worried that my doctor would think that I had to Munchausen’s or was looking to be ill for attention.

I remember when I was younger going to the doctor due to random bruising all over my body and him asking my mother if I did that to myself.  I also struggled with  extremely painful ovarian cysts since the age of 13 and was dismissed by so many doctors who told me I was overreacting  when I describe how painful they were.  When my son stopped breathing at three months one of the doctors in the ER told me it was just “new mommy jitters” and it never happened.  The feeling of people not believing you or invalidating your experience is isolating, shaming and completely defeating.  I learned not to complain anymore.  I learned not to talk to people about what I was going through and I worked my damndest to focus on taking control of my health through nutrition and fitness.

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I have so many strong memories of times where my symptoms hit me so hard I didn’t know what to do.  Sitting with a client of mine in the Counseling Center and barely being able to focus on what they were saying because the room was spinning so badly or needing to take breaks in between clients by lying on my floor due to the overwhelming fatigue I was feeling.  People said I was just pushing myself too hard and maybe I was.  I won’t deny that.  In the past decade I ran two marathons started a business and of course worked on raising two kids while getting licensed as a mental health counselor.  But, a healthy individual should be able to do that without the symptoms I was struggling with.

A year or so ago the symptoms got even worse.  I started experiencing severe mood swings, depression, weight gain, brain fog, difficulty maintaining my body temperature, and my hair was falling out in clumps.  After talking to a friend of mine I thought perhaps I had a thyroid issue. Damon and I talked about things that had changed in the past year and what might have precipitated the symptoms.  I realized I had a copper IUD inserted a few years before and wondered if that was the culprit.  Again, I hit the internet and found a bunch of women discussing how they felt that their IUD impacted their thyroid and that once they got their IUD removed their thyroid started functioning normally again.

So back to the doctor I went. My doctor said he had no knowledge of an IUD affecting the thyroid, but ran the tests nonetheless.  The test this time did show that my thyroid was underperforming.  We decided that since I was concerned about the IUD that I should go ahead and have it removed and would be retested after the procedure.  About 4 weeks after I removed the IUD my thyroid levels went back to normal.  Yay.  Problem solved.  Or so I thought.

This past year I have found that the same symptoms are back.  My hair is falling out, I am gaining weight despite having an amazingly healthy diet and active lifestyle, I am struggling with depression, I am experiencing bouts of fatigue, I am having joint pains, difficulty concentrating, and brain fog.  Needless to say, I went back to searching the internet for clues.  I found a link to Breast Implant Illness  after inputting my symptoms into a Google search. This link led me to a page about breast implant illness and a support group.  I spent hours reading story upon story of women who have been struggling with the same symptoms as I have for years. Their stories mirrored mine, some worse some better, but ultimately there was a trend in what I was seeing.

I decided once and for all it was time to get these toxic bags out of my body.  So after several weeks of researching doctors in the area, following conversation threads in the support group, and doing a lot of research on the internet, I found a local doctor who many women recommended and went in for a consult.

The doctor that I met with is a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon and came with many strong recommendations and reviews.  During my consultation he validated all the symptoms I had been experiencing and shared that he has been seeing a lot of women with similar symptoms come in for the explanation surgery.  He noted that most of the women who explanted found that their symptoms decreased significantly or totally disappeared after their healing period.  He also explained that despite a lack of medical research on the area of Breast Implant Illness that he had witnessed a staggering amount of women from all over who seem to fit this criteria and noted that he truly believed that there was a correlation.  He explained that everyone’s body reacts differently to having a foreign substance in their body.  Some bodies will try to fight off the intruder and therefore over time their immune systems become compromised as a result of being in overdrive for an extended period of time.  He explained this in more detail than I am going into, but I can’t remember all of the medical terminology he used.  He also said that silicone has silver in it and our bodies may be reacting to the silver corroding over time within our bodies.  And although my implants are saline, the shell is made out of silicone.  This however does not happen to everyone with implants.  Some women will have breast augmentation and never suffer one negative symptom or if they do, they may attribute it to other causes as I did for so long.   I think this is the reason that there is not much research on the topic.  That and the business of Breast Augmentation is a lucrative one.

Although I do feel like there needs to be more significant research on this topic, I am writing this article simply to express my story.  My truth.  Regardless of what you believe, these are my experiences.  I am hopeful that the removal of the implant will better my health, but there is no guarantee.  At the very least, I will remove any doubt that they are currently influencing my health and will be able to continue my journey from a solid baseline.  In hindsight though, I am glad that I did not have my surgery eight years ago or even eight months ago for that matter.  If I had done so, I wouldn’t have known that I needed either an en bloc or total capsulectomy for the surgery in order to make sure all the silicone is out of my body.  I may have had the implants removed and continued to be ill without being able to get to the root problem.  This is my time.  I have my surgery scheduled for next week, November 2nd, so all positive thoughts and prayers are welcomed.

As always, if you have any questions please feel free to contact me.  Or if you have thoughts or comments and want to start a dialogue (as long as it comes from a place of love), I invite you do so.

LIFE CHANGES, NUTRITION, WFPB LIVING

Making Plant Based School Lunches

10/20/2016

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After recent articles discussing our decision to focus on a Whole Foods Plant Based diet, I’ve received a few requests to write about what I pack for my kids’ school lunches.  So over the past couple of weeks, I snapped some quick pictures (when I remembered!) of the kids lunches before packing them up in their lunch boxes and sending them to school.

I am not going to lie, creating Whole Foods Plant-Based school lunches for my kids started out as a bit of a  challenge.  Especially since their school has become a Nut-Free Zone this year.  This added an extra layer of difficulty because we use nuts, nut milks, and nut flours in a lot of our foods.  But with any new journey there are always hurdles and hiccups.  We had created habits of easy go to lunches that now how to be broken and replaced with new habits to fit our new lifestyle choices.

The first couple of weeks were definitely the hardest, but I feel that I am now getting into a rhythm and it seems just as easy as it used to be.  The bonus is that I feel confident in the food choices that I send them to school with and they love their lunches.  I never in a million years would have expected that my kids would be requesting for more salads!

Below I have chronicled 5 actual lunches that I packed for the kids.  These images are over a two week period as we often repeat these throughout the week or offer variations of the lunches illustrated below.  My kids ask for the salad (lunch #2) two or three times per week.  It is their favorite!  For my son’s class I pack two snacks, but my daughter’s class only has one snack per day.  I have opted to show my sons lunches as it highlights more food options.

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This meal is one of my easy go to lunches if I don’t have “fresh” foods ready to go.  I typically have cans of Organic black beans and corn on my shelves and we almost always have a bag of tortilla chips in the pantry.  I have also sent this without chips or paired with rice and had happy kids in all scenarios.

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This lunch is my kids favorites.  It is a take on one of the salads that we love at Sweet Greens (if you missed my post on SG, click here to check it out!).  It is simply mixed greens finely chopped (this is key!) with chunks of apple and pear, sunflower seeds, and chopped basil.  The Sistema lunch systems we use have a salad kit that allows me to put the balsamic dressing in separately so the salad doesn’t get soggy.  I also have room on top to put a piece of bread and treat (a coconut macaroon).  And underneath the top is a fork and knife.  In this scenario I gave pears, grapes and baby carrots for the first snack and lightly salted popcorn for the second.

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For my third lunch I packed the kids hummus and carrots for their main dish with strawberries and half a slice of bread for their sides.  Then I packed a banana for first snack and an apple for second snack.  I was a little worried that this may not be enough food, but I always check in with the kids and they said it was just fine.  I can typically gauge whether a meal is successful depending on whether or not there are leftovers and if they are “starving” (their words) after school.  This one passed the test.

the_hourglass_project_making_plant_based_school_lunches_04bWe recently purchased our first set of Thermos canisters for the kids so that they can have “hot lunch” at school.  They were very excited to be able to have meals that stayed warm by the time they ate them.  For lunch #4, I made a Vegan Chili with stewed tomatoes, black beans, red beans, chickpeas, onions, corn, and tomato sauce which I then seasoned with traditional chili seasonings.  I also gave a side of bread because I knew the chili was a little spicy and wanted to make sure that they had something to tame the “heat” if needed.  I then packed an apple and hummus with bell  peppers and cucumbers for the two snacks.

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For my fifth lunch I packed two homemade vanilla cinnamon muffins with strawberries and popcorn on the side.  I also sent a Sistema container with grapes, strawberries, and cantaloupe for first snack and a banana for second snack.  Again, I was a bit worried that this may be too little, but the kids said it filled them up perfectly.  I also need to keep in mind when packing lunches that they don’t have a long lunch period, so although it may seem small, when I pack larger lunches they don’t always have the time to eat it all and food ends up coming home or getting spoiled.

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As a bonus, I also added one image of the lunch I pack for my husband.  I pack him a bit more than the kids.  In this day’s lunch I packed hummus and baby carrots, nuts, fruit mix, an apple, a kind bar, sweet potato “fries”, dried mango and a coconut macaroon.  I also pack a bottle of water with each lunch and add a bottle of unsweetened tea for my husband.  He also has snacks at work he can delve into if he is still hungry.

This is just a slice of what we have done so far, but it  allows me to share what seems to be working in our home.  In addition to the lunches shown, I have also packed beans and rice and  gluten free (rice and corn) pasta with marinara sauce, but was in a hurry those mornings and forgot to take pictures.

Other ideas that I plan to send in the future include black bean meatballs with marinara, falafel patties with Tzatziki sauce, various soups as we get into the winter and possibly spring rolls and veggie sushi.

I love a good challenge and I look at creating these meals as a bit of a game.  I try to have fun with it.  A major key to making these lunches work are having fresh foods in the fridge and doing a little prep work on Sunday.  I typically make a big batch of black beans, rice, and chili.  That way I have easy go to lunches.  I also keep fresh washed apples in the fridge and try to keep bananas stocked as well.  I always buy bananas in bulk because I use the browned ripe bananas for lunches and the over ripened ones for baking or smoothies.  And I get a fresh batch of greens on Sundays which allows me to make the salads.

I try to ask for feedback from the kids too.  We’ve had to purchase some new containers to better contain different liquids so that foods do not run into each other after getting feedback that the lunches were “soggy”, “messy”, or just plain “gross”.  The kids are not allowed to bring glass containers, so we found and love the various Sistema lunch containers.  We also recently bought our first Thermos containers so that we can send hot food! For my husband I use glass Pyrex Snapware.  This also allows him to microwave his meals at work without having to change containers.

I have decided to set up an Amazon shop on my site with all the tools and resources we use in our home in order to help anyone that is looking for good products to help them on their own journey.  Just click on the header “TOOLS” to check it out (or click here!).  I am only listing items that we own and use.  If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask!  If you have any lunch suggestions that have worked for you or tools that you use, please share! 🙂