My year of surgeries…

Though in my ideal world, 2022 would have been a year blessed with the wonderful news of a pregnancy (honestly, it would have been 2021 and even 2020 on my terms); it has instead been a year of surgeries.

Now, I’m quite familiar with surgery, and this is not the only time that I have had 2 or more surgeries in the same calendar year. However, this round of surgeries was different in a few ways.

After our second child was conceived with only 4 months of trying (contrasting with over 2 years and fertility help for our first), I had hoped to be pregnant pretty quickly. In fact, when we moved houses locally in Indiana in 2021, I packed all the baby items in a very accessible place, thinking that we would delay our move to the West coast until after a new baby was born.

While waiting and hoping for a pregnancy in 2022, I had also been asking God for healing and direction when it came to my health and what doctors to see, since I seemed at a dead end with my current specialists.

On the women’s health side of things, I had not really ever had a specialist who drilled into the problems with my cycle (and in turn, my overall health). When I first started my cycles as a young girl, I was quickly put on birth control to deal with the awful symptoms. The unfortunate reality of this approach is that it simply suppresses your cycle during many years when you could be investigating the root cause of the problem. So when I finally went off of birth control due to the many side effects I was dealing with, all those symptoms were still there. Now that we were ready for babies in my marriage, the doctors simply focused on achieving a pregnancy with fertility treatments (where they control the ovulation portion of your cycle) instead of looking into my pain and problems in women’s health. Then I did get pregnant, praise God! I even had a natural pregnancy for my second child shortly after my first and was in the pregnancy/nursing loop for about 4 years. This baby-mode for my body allowed my cycle issues to go a bit more dormant for a while.

The need to surrender my health decisions over to God became much more clear in 2021 as my body did not re-calibrate at all after nursing my 2nd child and the OB doctors were content to ignore it. I began a winding path to answers that God so clearly directed in retrospect.

I began to focus on getting more in tune with my body and methods that supported that. I focused more on my health, with a recognition of infertility as a symptom, and trusted that the pregnancy would happen in God’s time. I ended up with a virtual women’s health specialty team located in Indianapolis that actually honored God and recognized His beautiful design of a woman’s body. They worked WITH my body and finally began diagnosing and treating the root causes of my thyroid and inflammation symptoms. After 8 years, a careful investigation of my regular monthly cycle identified several core issues that needed to have the balance restored. I want to point out that all of this could have been done years ago if medical teams worked through these problems from their onset instead of shelving the problem with birth control.

At the end of 2021, when we had done everything we could through supplementing my cycle with proper medication, my doctors recommended a second surgery to look for endometriosis, sure that it had been missed 8 years ago. Since I still hadn’t had a baby yet, I agreed to the surgery but figured I would just call off the surgery if I became pregnant (as a sign I maybe didn’t need it?).

In February, the surgery time came and that doctor prayed with me before going into surgery–an experience which was a first for me. And he found and removed the endometriosis that had been there all along. Though not the baby news I had hoped for, I felt so grateful that the path I was guided down led to relief from a lifetime of problems that had never been adequately addressed since I first “became a woman.”

I thought relief was finally coming to my constant inflammation. To read more on my difficulties in women’s health, go here.

And I thought I was done with feeling awful and ready for babies now…

But suddenly, it was time for us to move to the West Coast…without the baby delay keeping us in Indiana (and bonus time with friends) that I had mentally prepared for. In conjunction with moving across the country, I had to get established with healthcare in a much different, almost hostile medical environment.

I’m so thankful I began to shift my focus to God-fearing medicine BEFORE we moved our whole family to a state where our medical freedom is restricted significantly and God-honoring medicine is hard to find because I was wrong about my women’s health issues being over and it all hit at the worst possible timing…amidst our move.

My inflammation in my whole body was still incredibly high and I wasn’t having the relief I expected after the endometriosis surgery. I ended up at the ER due to pelvic and back pain, realizing that I now had 2 large cysts on my ovaries. My back was flaring up continually, seemingly also related to inflammation. I was incredibly overwhelmed by how to manage all of this in the natural approach I wanted when we were still in transit to a new place.

I asked, once again, for God to guide the path to finding doctors that would help. I’d love to pretend like this was because I recognized the need to give it to God on my own, but it was honestly brought on more from sheer desperation in not being able to find anyone to help and giving up with trying to figure it out on my own.

My women’s health team from Indianapolis stood in the gap during our move transition and helped me work through a plan to deal with the cysts naturally and avoid surgery. I realized that there were even more answered prayers than I had ever thought by finding them. They recommended I find a pelvic floor PT in my area and so I went on a search.

The place where I landed for PT has been the launching off point for several of the providers I have found out here. More answered prayers.

Still, I just couldn’t understand why my body was so “angry”. The inflammation seemed out of control despite the endometriosis being (hopefully completely) gone. I knew my stress levels were very high with the move and living arrangements while we built our home. My body was not doing well.

I tried pursuing a spine specialist for my back issues and nothing was coming together…something I was trying to recognize as a closed door rather than a lack of answers.

Finally, I grappled with the reality that my body might be responding to something else it didn’t like in my body…breast implants. It feels taboo to even announce this, especially as a Christian woman. It’s obviously something I’d rather keep private. However, it’s an increasingly common story for many women who have them, especially with autoimmune issues so I think it is important to share.

I got the implants 10 years ago. A few years later, I developed a new understanding of breast implant illness and the increased problems with them while we were trying to conceive my first child. I had so many health issues during that time that just didn’t seem to have answers. It was likely a combination of the endometriosis which was “ruled out” at the time, stress, fertility treatments, and possibly the implants also. I wanted them out starting at that point 7 years ago in hopes of ruling out their contribution to my health problems, but I was pregnant by then and it wasn’t recommended. This ultimately means that I have wanted to have them out for most of the time I had them in.

I thought I understood the risks when I chose to get implants. However, there was much more to it than I appreciated at the time. I felt that my decision to get them was made from a grounded place, still accepting my body as beautiful and from God, and not viewing it as a necessary change to “like myself”.

Even so, it has made the investigation of health problems more difficult to work through, an outcome I didn’t expect. As an example, I have had persistent pain in my chest that has increased since getting the implants. I was never able to order an MRI because it was perceived as trying to check on the implants through insurance (another expense often expected to be taken on personally). Plus, any concern about breast cancer was more difficult to look into.

Additionally, with the reality that implants need to be replaced every 10 to 15 years or risk of issues increases, that is not a financial burden that I understood I was adding to my entire family down the road. Because God has been kind to us, it has not been a financial burden to us, but I certainly would prefer to assign $10,000.00 to other priorities at this point in my life.

Despite developing/discovering several auto-immune issues a few years after the implant surgery and feeling convinced for many years they were making me sick, I felt a bit trapped with the timeline to get them out because I didn’t want to risk messing up nursing for future children. The surgery to completely remove all impacted tissue (En Bloc) with the implants is fairly invasive so I thought it would be better to wait until we were done having children. And then 3 years of infertility happened. I didn’t know how long or if our prayers would be answered the way I wanted for pregnancy at all. I was worried that I might have to wait 5 more years and that was, honestly, scary. Plus my implants had gone out of warranty for rupture (at 10 years) which meant the risk of issues was rising…

I asked God to help again and tried to pay attention. If I didn’t get pregnant soon (who knows how long that is), then I’ll take that as an indication I should move forward with the explant surgery. I didn’t get pregnant for another 3 months. Finally, I committed. We would stop trying for children so I could see about getting this done. This needed to become the priority, not a backup plan. And I tried to get set up with a local doctor in the PNW. His wait was 7 months total for surgery. God, what do I do?

I went out on a limb and checked back with a specialist in Chicago that I had almost moved forward with more than a year ago. At the time, I prioritized the endometriosis surgery and so I didn’t move forward with the explant. Maybe she could fit me in sooner and she recognized the many women who had breast implant illness. So I made the call…

I had a virtual consult that week. She assured me that nursing should be fine for children so long as I didn’t do a lift, an easy accommodation in light of my different priorities at this point in my life. And she was able to schedule me in a month during my already scheduled visit to Chicago. I was almost shocked at how smoothly it all came together. I even found out that miraculously, my surgery had been accepted by my insurance, which is almost unheard of for this so-called elective, cosmetic surgery. Yes, it’s considered elective to get them out even if they are making you sick because the insurance companies feel that the implants can’t be proved to be the cause, and since I had them put in electively in the first place.

The trip to Chicago was hard. I had hoped to have more time with friends, after many failed attempts at reconnecting since we moved, and the surgery swallowed up most of the visit. But even with limited time and all of us catching the flu, God worked in that visit in some incredible ways.

About a month after surgery, I realized that my back wasn’t as inflamed anymore, despite the driving and travel that so often causes flare-ups. My whole body is finally starting to feel more calm…less irritated.

For me, these implants have been a detriment and a choice that I have regretted. Someone without the health issues that I have may have no problems with implants, and I’m not saying that getting implants is wrong depending on the reason. I’ve had other beauty treatments that I recognize as extremely valuable although not needed (like laser hair removal).

This was a decision I made when I was younger, focused on appearances. However, when I look at all of the long-term impact in my life of the decision to put something foreign in my body, it is not a decision that was even remotely worth it. Ultimately, my efforts to enhance (pun intended) my physical attributes has resulted in far more of a compromise in the look of my body now and all of it was for an “improvement” for a relatively short time period. I maybe achieved the “ideal figure” I desired for about 2-3 years before my body changed in other ways and I had babies. Plus, it’s a private area so it wasn’t visible to anyone other than me and my husband. It was a very limited benefit for all the negative consequences that followed.

But God is kind to us in our missteps, even when we do things that overall bring a detriment to us. I’m not sure that I would have taken the steps to have this surgery now without all the sequential problems that seemed to push me in that direction. God seemed to make very clear that getting them out was a good thing to do and that waiting wasn’t the best plan.

If you are considering implants or getting them out, and would like to discuss this further, I encourage you to reach out to me directly. There are also many pages to find out more about Breast Implant Illness (BII) by simply searching that title. For a public post about my body on the Internet, this is as much as I intend to say.

And as we close out the year, my medical specialists for my back are getting finalized. My issues are not over, as I’m currently laid up for issues with my upper back, but even that seems to hold some purpose of pushing me toward getting chiropractic care established.

As my close friend has said many times this year, it has been a hard, but blessed year. God has been right with me in the struggles and answering prayers over and over. That doesn’t mean that it has always gotten easier, but it does mean He is with me through it.

I don’t know what my health will look like going forward or if this surgery will finally “solve” my medical issues or if implants truly caused so much of the sickness I’ve had. But I do know I have been so comforted by God’s guiding hand through all of this. He is the healer. He is the one who sees all and knows the body which He has made. He is more trustworthy than any doctor. And He cares about us so much that He can help, if we give it up to Him. I have hope for my health, not because of the doctors but because of the reminder that God is over this process, if I only yield it over to Him.

His answered prayers didn’t look like I expected. I am still not pregnant and I may not be again. But God has redeemed this last year in an incredible way. I was able to remove 2 things that were toxic to my body and contributing to my health problems. That is a beautiful gift. So I am grateful that in the window where I haven’t gotten my wish for another child, I’ve been able to deal with some health issues that could only be dealt with during a time I’m not pregnant. I didn’t have to wait until after menopause to deal with these issues and my potential for a healthy pregnancy is now better because of both of these surgeries, if the Lord wills for it to happen.

“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”

Ephesians 5:15-16 NKJV

I love the verses that talk about redeeming the time in the Bible. Though it has a lot of applications and my situation is not about the evil in our time, it is still true that God redeems time in many ways as you walk with Him. It is often only by looking back that we can see it clearly.

My body is finally free of two toxins that have plagued me for years, one of which was my own doing. I have so much to be grateful for this year and I have so much hope looking forward. Not necessarily in an answered prayer for another child, though I do hope for that. But hope that God will guide my steps right where they are supposed to go.

I hope to let go of defined outcomes and look with a heart more open to God’s possibilities in this season where everything is new. I hope I can see the doors opening for new directions, maybe even ones I never expected. I pray my faith would be strengthened as I learn to rely on Him, so that if harder times come, I can be ready to rely on His strength to persevere.


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