Renew: My 2020 Personal Journey to Wellness – June 3rd Update

Renew: My 2020 Personal Journey to Wellness – June 3rd Update
I’m playing catch up, again, which seems to be my favorite game! I wanted to make sure these updates on my surgery are recorded somewhere other than Facebook, and are searchable for anyone who might be interested. I have had at least half a dozen women ask me about BII, and I am very happy to help in any way that I can. The biggest takeaway is that you are not alone!!
 
This post is from one week post op, so from June 3, 2020. My surgery was May 27th, so I wrote this about a week later.
I didn’t grab my selfie shot for this blog post, but in any case, you can get the gist of how my post-surgery week went! 
 
“It’s been one week since my surgery, and I’ve been trying to figure out what to say. In fact, this time last week, the recovery nurses and anesthesiologists were still trying to wake me up from my “narcoleptic” state (until I finally left around 10:30 – the procedure began around 1:00 and was about four and a half hours total). Literally, they tried waking me up for longer than the procedure itself 🙈 Every time I’d begin coming out of sleep, my oxygen would drop and I’d pass back out. I was on oxygen for a while and breathing treatments, most of which I don’t remember much about. The flashes of things I do remember amuse me though. I’m very grateful for the care I received from the recovery team (Gail, Jorgie, Dr Chris) and of course the patience that Jason and Amanda had while waiting for me, in the parking lot.
 
The week post-op has been really positive overall; minimal pain meds were used, and I feel more alert and have a bit more energy (which is weird to me since I’m on muscle relaxers around the clock and am healing intensely in my body). My first post op appointment was Thursday after surgery and my second follow up was yesterday. My drains were removed (hallelujah 🙌🏼). I’m bruised, obviously have a long way to go to “heal,” physically and psychologically.
I’m sure it doesn’t help that it seems I awoke to a world literally on fire and in <even more> chaos and disarray. My heart hurts for our nation and it seems like there’s no end in sight.
All that to say, I had so much peace about the surgery itself, going in to the surgery, and now will continue to ask for prayers for healing and peace over recovery – mine, and our country’s. It’ll still be a few weeks of relatively restricted activity, and obviously a lot of physical changes will also be taking place. I haven’t cried or even been upset, yet…so I’m hoping to keep it that way. 💞
 
Below is a quick before and after of one week ago to this morning, just in my face; I hate selfies, and no make up selfies even more, but I think it’s good to look back on and to share. A lot of women can do this before/after immediately after surgery…y’all I was a mess until Friday (I still have almost no memory of Thursday, much less have had the ability for a picture where I wasn’t zonked out) and honestly didn’t see the change others see. I had been feeling a lot of inflammation in my body, my hands and fingers, face, etc for a couple years, and from what I’ve seen in BII groups, this is a real thing. I didn’t see it by itself, but I feel there is a difference in my face when the images are side by side. Same bathroom and lighting, even though the before is brighter for some reason. Anyways, I’m thankful for the outpouring of love and prayers and all of the kindness shown to my family by friends! We’ve had so much food sent to us, as well as lot of people checking in and sharing their stories of BII with me.
Love and hugs to all, and if anyone has questions about #BII, I’m an open book.”
 
xx Shelby
 
Phone picture from my dear friend and surgery care giver, Amanda! So thankful for her time and energy spent on helping me get well and be with me through this time. 
Also, my Baby Yoda is a gift which was hand made by my dear friends, the Spiveys! My friend Shelby’s wife, Liz, makes them, and was a total surprise when they conspired with my husband to give him to me before surgery. 

Renew: My 2020 Personal Journey to Wellness

Note: If you aren’t comfortable with complete transparency and personal issues, just skip this post! I’m very real, very honest, and this has nothing to do with photography! I wanted to share because I know others are struggling with similar issues, and no matter how personal, this is an important issue. Sharing might just allow someone to change their mind about how they feel about themselves now, or might open their eyes to possible causes of feeling ill. 

Today, April 9, 2020, was supposed to be the most freeing, anxiety-filled, yet hopeful day for me. What a mix of emotions, huh? A day that I thought about, prayed for, and is truly what made me come up with my “word” for this year, “Renew.” For some, this may come as a shock because before Covid-19 changed the course of all of our lives, I was going to be in surgery for a few hours today, and that may not seem like a sense of…renewal. So why did I think having an {elective} surgery would be freeing, and help renew me, body, mind and soul? 

What I know now, that I didn’t know 17 years ago, is that my sense of self-worth and self-esteem probably shouldn’t have come from what my external appearance is. Unfortunately, and I’m sad to say it, I am not alone in this. We are living in a world where our appearance seems like it’s everything, and we all want to do things to improve our external selves. From magazine article tips, to spa treatments, to laser therapies to invasive surgeries, we all want to look better. I’m not sure exactly how many want to improve their internal selves, but for me…I’m working on both, in different ways. 

Back to my need for surgery. Like many women, I had a breast augmentation when I was younger. I had gone through my teenage years wondering when my breasts would grow in, and alas, they never did. So, at twenty-three, after finding the love of my life in college and having him accept me fully and wholly for who I am inside and out, I still pushed the issue for me to have a breast augmentation, despite his concerns. I can justify my decision for enhancement out the wazoo — I was 4’10”, zero boobs, little self esteem on my facial appearance, and definitely had issues finding clothes that fit. I don’t care how many will jump on this and say it was/is easy for people “my size”…it’s not. And please spare me the, “you can always try kids’ clothes!” Just don’t go there. It’s not funny. Again, appearance does matter in our society, and my appearance didn’t seem to fit the mold of success nor beauty. I had the breast augmentation and after about 6 months, I finally adjusted to having them — it was amazing how well I could fit into clothes and feel more feminine. Dresses didn’t just drape down off of me, blouses fit my breast area beautifully, and I do feel I had more of a sense of confidence! I could wear (and enjoy wearing) bikinis for goodness sakes! 

Fast forward quickly to the present, before I jump back again to explain my ongoing health issues. After tons of research and thankfully having a friend take the time to express her deep concern for my health, and share with me her experience via message in February 2019, I finally, in July 2019, decided to accept what was probably there for about 10-15 years. My health had been in steady decline, and though others had brought it up before her, it finally sunk it that it’s at least a possibility that I have Breast Implant Illness. I don’t know for sure if I do. My case – as all things seem to be concerning my health – is different. I had started becoming…different…around eighteen years old (pre-implant). I had some negative experiences, and I wonder if either trauma to my body or just timing of my age and onset of diseases began. I’ll never know, and I’ll likely always wonder. Things started happening my freshman year of college that were out of character for me – I’d have tachycardic episodes, I had several situations where I passed out, likely because of the tachycardia, and depression set in, along with other ailments like stomach pains and extreme fatigue. Unfortunately instead of understanding and help, I was met with questioning and negativity from friends (like passing out with friends was…on purpose? Apparently it was thought that I was attention seeking, instead of dealing with a medical issue. Sigh.). It was a couple of tough years.

Thankfully, time moved on, I continued a relationship with my now husband, and with his support through the drama that my body caused for me, I was able to live somewhat a normal life. And to be completely transparent, my husband never wanted me to get a breast enhancement. Truly. Very bizarre in my mind, but he absolutely loved/loves me for me. He’s always complimented my beauty and never wanted/wants me to change. So, we married, he started making a steady income, and I wanted to change my appearance. That should have been a red flag – face palm! I love you honey…thank you for putting up with me! So in 2003, I got my breasts augmented, and despite hating them for 6 months, I wound up loving my appearance with them. Those dresses fit beautifully now. I felt like a woman. Life seemed great. Minus occasional ER trips for stomach pains that had no known origin, then chronic fatigue syndrome (did y’all know that to combat that, I should get a night job? That’s according to a military doctor, and sadly that’s not even the worst advice ever given), then a fibromyalgia diagnosis in 2006, and then a diagnosis of Ankylosing Spondylitis in 2016. Plus fun tidbits like costochondritis, occipital neuralgia, iliosacral dysfunction, a cataract at 38 years old, and honestly the list goes on. And on. It hasn’t been easy, and although it’s been a unique road to travel for my husband, he has supported me and my lack of ability to truly “work” (unless it’s on my own schedule) for necessary income, and he supports my feelings and how I wish to proceed.

I don’t know if I genuinely have Breast Implant Illness. But here are some things I do know: 

I suffer from autoimmune disease
All of my issues revolve around pain in my body
The pain has increased in intensity over the years
My chronic fatigue is debilitating 

Some Symptoms Include (not an exhaustive list):
Inflammation
Joint Pain
Anxiety
Difficulty Concentrating
Memory Loss
Brain Fog
Hair Loss
Depression
Mood Swings 
Shortness of Breath
Weight Gain

Breast Implant Illness symptoms all correlate with what is going on with me

Even if it’s not BII, I want to renew myself with a sense of purpose this year. That’s what I told myself in January. I want to be intentional in how I treat my body. I want to renew the thoughts of my mind telling me my appearance matters that much to everyone else. Seriously, I used to apologize to people for having to look at me. I know I’m not the portrait of beauty in our culture. But I dwelled on that and kept trying to correct it in ways I could. So now, I want to be the kind of beautiful that people like to be around, because I’m good. I’m generous. I’m ridiculously loving. I’m not super fun, but I want to be, and hopefully, even if I have 10% more energy, this surgery will be worth it. I want to be better for my kids. I want to be better for my husband. I want to be better for me. I want to be renewed. 

So, whenever it is that our country opens back up to being social again, and to having elective surgeries, and to having some sense of normalcy again post Covid-19, I will be ready for this *huge,* sort of defining moment for my life. For now, I’m going to mourn what should have happened today, while still realizing there’s a reason it couldn’t happen. God’s always got this. The next surgery date is for May 27th of this year, but obviously all of that is tentative.

And, for anyone wondering, I do worry about having the surgery and it not helping my symptoms. I do! My PCM doesn’t even believe in BII (another face palm), and thinks that despite all of my symptoms, taking out man made toxic bags won’t help anything (and that the breast pain I have is…not real? Like, I’m imagining it). She might be right – not about imagining my pain, because I assure you it’s there, but that I might not feel better. Or maybe my surgeon who does believe in BII is right, and maybe a small percentage of my wellness will be improved. We’ve discussed at length how this surgery may not help my symptoms because my case is different – my symptoms were starting before my implants. But, here’s the thing. At the end of the day, God didn’t make me with those silicone toxic bags. I wasn’t even a Christian when I awoke from my implant and felt that I had disappointed God by changing my body that much. I felt “wrong.” I am hoping that with the explant will come a sense of peace over who I am, who God made me to be, and at the end of the day, will also eliminate the possibility that my pains and heath ailments come from man-made implants that shouldn’t be in my body. 

More on Breast Implant Illness to come. 

And, a huge shout out to Breast Implant Illness and Healing by Nicole. What a truly remarkable group this has been in uplifting one another, sharing stories, and truly trying to promote wellness. Without this group, I’m not sure I’d have had the courage to take this necessary step. That, and to my friend who went out of her way to share with me in February of last year – you really got me thinking seriously about my illnesses, and the possibilities that may lay on the other side of explant. Thank you all for sharing your stories, your hearts, and your beautiful scars – all to help us recovery from this illness. Healing is possible – and soon I’ll join you on the lighter side. 

xo

Shelby 

*Picture of me, from my 40th Birthday Session that my daughter captured for me!