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Kathy Ozakovic

Have you ever wondered about the controversial topic of Breast Implant Illness and the Explant Procedure? Join us as we dive into this complex subject with our guest, Dietitian Kathy Ozakovic, who bravely shares her personal experience with breast implant surgery and her journey to recovery.

We discuss the lack of data and statistics on the subject, the surprising effects of implants on the body, and the FDA’s ban and re-approval of breast implants, emphasising the need for further research.

In this episode, we explore the importance of finding an experienced explant surgeon, addressing the lymph nodes in relation to Breast Implant Illness, and the complexity of explant surgery.

Kathy shares her experience with the healing process, the need for drains, and the support she received from Carl at Vitruvian Health. We also delve into the psychological effects of body image changes and the importance of having a solid support system when facing a significant life change.

As we wrap up our discussion with Kathy, we learn about her journey of healing her body and her mindset over the past two years. She emphasises the need to speak out and voice our experiences to raise awareness about Breast Implant Illness and the explant journey.

This episode is a must-listen for anyone interested in learning more about this topic and the importance of supporting one another through challenging health experiences. Don’t miss this opportunity to gain insight and understanding from Kathy’s powerful story.

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About Kathy:
Accredited Dietitian & Wellness Coach Kathy Ozakovic at NuFit Wellness works with individuals and groups to improve small habits that lead to big changes. Underpinned by the latest scientific evidence in nutrition, neuroplasticity and mindfulness Kathy takes a holistic approach to helping individuals and groups heal.

Having a clinical background means Kathy has been exposed to and understands the difficulties of chronic disease. Her personal experiences of an eating disorder and breast implant illness which brought on many chronic and autoimmune diseases including high cholesterol, liver issues, food intolerances, Raynaud’s disease have moulded her into the empathetic and vastly knowledgeable practitioner she now is. She has been able to reverse and thrive from her challenges with natural medicine and mindset guidance.

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Andrew: This is “Wellness by Designs,” and I’m your host, Andrew Whitfield-Cook. Joining us today is Kathy Ozakovic, a dietitian and wellness coach. And today we’re gonna be discussing a very frustrating and controversial condition. This is breast explant illness recovery. Welcome to “Wellness by Designs.” Kathy, how are you?

Kathy: Thank you, Andrew. I’m very well.

Andrew: Thank you very much for joining us today. Now, we’re going to be talking both about what you’ve seen in other patients, but also your experience as well as a patient. So, firstly, let’s go through what we’re talking about, breast explant illness recovery. Tell us what it is.

Kathy: Yeah, so what we’re talking about today is breast implant illness and the explant procedure. So breast implant illness, it doesn’t really have a formal kind of a definition, because it’s actually not accepted yet in the medical field. So it’s kind of known as this collection of symptoms that women who have breast implants are experiencing. And there’s really no limit to what the symptoms are. So it’s very controversial because it’s not yet accepted in the medical field. And we’re having more and more talk about it. And more and more research is coming out in this hope that we actually recognize it.

So there’s not really a lot of data on it, there’s not really a lot of statistics on how many women go through this at all. And I can’t really tell you how many women would go through it. Like, when I personally went into surgery, I was not told about it, I was told that there’s a very small percentage of women who might have a negative reaction to breast implants. Literally, in the kind of surgery papers that I got, it’s a very small percentage of women, it didn’t specify any numbers whatsoever. And it was maybe one sentence. And I really wanna highlight that everything I say today is from personal experience. It’s what I went through at a very young age, and my explant journey as well.

Andrew: Okay. So this is one of the interesting things, if you like, about this condition, is that it’s basically been denied by the medical fraternity for many years, but it was highlighted and it actually changed the arena from patients pushing back, saying, “No, there really is an issue here.” And it’s kind of like the, do you remember the bladder mesh implant, that was just totally dismissed by surgeons, and it was the patients which actually took it to, I think, court. And then it was only from because of pushback by patients that it was recognized. This seems to be a very similar sort of scenario.

Kathy: Yes, absolutely. And very interestingly, like some of those things that I wasn’t told during the initial surgery of breast implants, getting the breast implants, for example, through my own research, I learned that…and I learned this only recently, in deciding to get the explant done, the body actually creates this scar tissue, it’s known as the capsule. So once the breast implants are put into the body, the immune system attacks the implants because they are a foreign object. And this makes so much sense to me now, you know, seven years later, after so much health and wellness, education, and this journey of my own, it makes sense to me. You’re putting a foreign object into your body, your immune system is attacking it, it creates this capsule of scar tissue to actually protect you. That’s how smart the body is. It is protecting you from the toxins that are available in these implants.

And that’s something that was never discussed with me and that I had never come across, not focused on what are those potential negative side effects of having breast implants be. And my obvious questions were, am I going to be able to breastfeed? And I was reassured, yes. And are they safe? I asked, “Are they safe?” And I was told and reassured that breast implants are safe. It was only through my own research, seven years later, six and a half, to be exact, that I had learned that the FDA in America had actually banned breast implants in 1992 because they were brought up as having causing cancers.

So there was a question then, they were posing the question back in the ’90s. And they were brought back on the market in 2007. I don’t know the ins and the outs of this event. But there was some denial again, of saying, “No, actually, this is not related.” However, just recently, and this is why it’s such a controversial topic and it’s coming up again, just end of last year, the FDA in America has released a report saying that if you do not remove the scar tissue, that capsule, you’re basically cooking cancer. So it’s very important to know the exact procedure of an explant.

Andrew: Yeah, I seem to recall, and everyone out there, if you have any further information, please let us know in the comments of this podcast. But I seem to recall that the original banning was because of silicone implants. But they said that Saline implants were okay. So they were brought back in, but then we saw more and more, as you say, the reaction to the actual capsule. And what my understanding is that sometimes the reaction to this capsule can go awry, the immunological process becomes dysfunctional, and as you say, we’re cooking cancer, and it appears to be a type of precancerous, so I’d say, condition.

Kathy: So it’s, again, because it’s so controversial and because there’s yaysayers and naysayers, we don’t actually have the research yet. And this is what my surgeon is still working on as well, you know, we need funding for this, we need to look into what is this caused by, what is actually happening. But just on a basic knowledge level of the human body, like, it makes so much sense to me now, we’re putting a foreign object into the body, the immune system is reacting to that. And we all have different genetics, right?

So we have different predispositions in terms of what is going to be switched on and off when this is happening. And this is why the symptoms are so varied. What I have seen in myself and what I have seen in other women, it varies. But it all comes back to the fact that what I’ve seen in myself and these women is once we go through the explants journey and the healing journey, these symptoms reverse, symptoms that we’re being told are not caused by the implants. Other thing I wanna highlight about saline implants and why they are not safe as well, because they also actually contain silicone in the shell that keeps the saline inside.

Andrew: That’s right.

Kathy: And there’s 40-plus different toxins in these things to make them into what they are. It’s incredible. I don’t know that off the top of my head, but if you just look up on the Internet, what a breast implant’s made out of, it’s incredible.

Andrew: Yeah, look, we can see various prostheses being used in humans, hips, stents, so on and so forth, what’s interesting is cardiac stents, cardiac artery stents have a chemotherapy drug applied to them to prevent scarring, if you like, the immune reaction over that stent. So it actually inhibits that. Hence, you don’t have the issue of re-closing off or restenosis of that artery that the stent was placed in. But, you know, hips and things like that. They like to say they’re inert. But in this case, it really seems that it’s not the case, at least in a proportion of women.

So I think the issue is that to say it’s safe as a blanket thing, that’s certainly not true. There’s certainly a percentage of women, at least, that have a real issue with it. As you say, we need further research to go into this. And it’s fraught with so many conundrums, not the least of which, is the pressure placed on women from so many sources, whether that be personal, social groups, media groups about augmentation. So how do you talk to other people? What do you find was the experiences of people that you’re in contact with, women that you’re in contact with, about their reasons for doing it in the first place?

Kathy: Yeah, and this is gonna vary between person-to-person, woman-to-woman, it’s gonna vary. And I only know from my personal experience and the women that I’ve talked to about this. So, personally, I went through an eating disorder from the ages of 14 to 21. And my breasts never grew. And I felt a little bit like a boy. And I felt like I was missing out on this very important development stage into becoming a woman. And I was never comfortable going to the beach, I was never comfortable going into shops with my mom. And she tried to reassure me so many times, she said, “They’ll come through, you know, maybe when you have kids, I was flat-chested, too.” And I think that my mom had a lot of compassion for me when I did come to her and speak to her about breast implants, and that I would like to do this, because also, she could feel from her development, how she felt back then, you know, and I’m really, really grateful that I’ve had very supportive parents throughout this whole thing.

And at the age of 21 when my esthetics was so important to me and I felt I was missing out, I looked into breast implants, I found all the information. You know, I’m a scientist at heart as well, having studied dietetics, and I did my research, I did my research on breast implants. However, I was not focused on the negative side effects. I was focused on, like I said, “Will I be able to breastfeed? And are they safe?” And everything that I was reading was reassuring me that, yes, they are safe, and I will be able to breastfeed. So at that very tender age of 21, that’s still so young, I had decided to get breast implants for those reasons. And at the time, it may have been the right decision for me because I was in a completely different mindset that I am in now, you know, like, I had known different things now, I live a different way now. And it gave me the confidence boost that I wanted. It gave me the confidence to walk into a bra shop and enjoy my experience.

However, it was the symptoms that really got to me, it was being 21 years old, and my mother turning around and saying, “Hey, your face is a bit yellow, what’s going on there.” So the first symptoms that we really noticed was jaundice, I had developed this yellow skin complexion around my mouth and my hands, and we kind of just brushed it off because I went to the doctor and I checked my liver enzymes, my bilirubin was a bit high, and he didn’t panic. But we rather did an ultrasound, there was no scarring on the liver. And he said, “Just don’t worry, you don’t drink, you don’t do drugs, you’re very healthy and fit. This might just be you.” And it’s very unusual to me that this would just be me when, for 21 years, I’ve never had it.

And then, later on, the joint pain started and these joint pains and just the cold really got to me as well. So I started supplementing with omega-3s to help with the joint pain. So, at this point, I’m learning more about nutrition and dietetics. And I’m just masking the symptoms by myself with the techniques that I am learning about, right?

So I had jaundice and liver issues, high cholesterol, which runs in the family. So we brushed that one off as well. And I managed it with nutrition and fitness. Joint pain, which, again, it’s like, “Oh, mom, has joint pain, so I’m just experiencing at a very young age.” Anxiety and depression, so mental health issues, really looking back, I think to myself, “How much of that was breast implant illness and how much of that was growing up?” You know, because we all go through our mental health kind of struggles as we grow up.

Poor absorption of nutrients, like iron has always been an issue for me for the seven years that I had the implants. Even though I didn’t have a regular cycle because I had birth control, I could just never get the iron back up with whatever I tried. So there was stuff going on there, and IBS symptoms, massive intolerances to foods that I never had issues with before. And a lot of these things I had learned to about and figure it out myself and kind of healed myself. But like I said, I was masking the symptoms, I had never came down to this kind of work. What is causing it? Because my GP was saying, like, “Oh, it’s just you, oh, don’t worry about it.” But deep down, I kind of knew like, this is not normal. This is, “I’m 21 to 25 years old, and I’m getting all these things. I’m not meant to be getting all these things, and I’m into health and wellness, what’s going on,” right?

Andrew: I’m glad you had the fortitude and the cognition to question, because so many people just simply want to get rid of a symptom. And this is the…I mean, it’s the foundation of natural medicine, to uncover why things are happening. But it’s also probably one of the biggest frustrations as to why natural medicine or integrative medicine isn’t considered the first approach in any medical system, in the Western world, at least, you know? People want a quick fix, they wanna get rid of the symptom now, because it makes them feel yucky without any regard to why that symptom presented itself in the first place. So I’m glad you had that intestinal fortitude to question things, that scientific mind. But as you’re speaking to other women, do you find that that was part of their issue, that they weren’t questioning early enough?

Kathy: Absolutely. And keep in mind, Andrew, that between the ages of 21 to 28 now, these last seven years, as my symptoms worsened, I had also simultaneously been learning more about nutrition, and fitness, and about natural medicine. So anything that I learn, I apply it to myself in my life, and how can I improve my health and wellness. That’s how I had started discovering this. But the biggest thing for me was…and this was early on last year, 2022, I had started noticing my lymph nodes were getting swollen. And I, at this point, didn’t know much about the lymphatic system. However, I had clearly noticed that my throat, my neck area was getting very swollen. And I was complaining to my coaches about it. And at this point, I had a fitness coach and I had an empowerment coach. So I had started complaining and saying, “My lymph nodes are really swollen, my neck is really swollen. I don’t know what this is from. It’s not going down. This is not me.”

And there was just this feeling also of this is not me. Something mentally, I was just not feeling as sharp as I usually do. And that’s when I started questioning what’s going on and started talking more openly about how I’m feeling. Because with fitness coaching and with empowerment coaching, I have these weekly fortnightly check-ins. And I raised these things with them because there are people who are actually helping me be my best self. So it was through conversation that I had actually admitted to my empowerment coach, Paula. And I said, “Paula, yeah, I have breast implants.” And she just said in the most compassionate way, “Honey, have you heard about breast implant illness?” Like, she had just had a really close friend go through this experience. And I’m so grateful.

Andrew: What a serendipitous meeting of you with that empowerment coach. Kathy, I first want to ask you about the lymph nodes, because that’s really interesting. Was it localized around the breast around the pits, or indeed, were they more diffuse? And something that interests me greatly, which I have no data on, but I think it’s interesting from an anatomical perspective, is that there’s a collection point of lymph that’s found in most people called the cisterna chyli. And that cisterna chyli, interestingly, drains three-quarters of the body from the left side and one-quarter from the right. Why, I don’t know, but anyway. It’s interesting to me that in women…for getting breast implant illness, in women, there are more left breasts implicated in breast cancer than right breasts. Question for you is, were the lymph nodes more pronounced on your left-hand side, right, bilateral, tell us.

Kathy: That’s such an interesting question, Andrew, that I haven’t thought about at all. But just thinking back on my experience now, at one point, I had thought that it was normal. You know, I knew that my neck was swollen, and I knew that wasn’t normal. And that’s the one that I was really complaining about, to the point that leading up to explant surgery, I actually couldn’t physically see my neck. It was just all very swollen. And during the pre-surgery consultation with my surgeon, she did the examination. And once she started feeling those lymph nodes around my armpits and breasts, that’s when I felt for the first time how painful it actually all was. Because I didn’t go down that route. I didn’t question it. I didn’t know much, like I said, about the lymphatic system and it didn’t occur to me that this pain that I’m feeling is not normal. But I can recall that it was definitely my left side that was more sensitive. Because I remember when she went in for my left side armpit and I was in a lot of pain. And she asked me, “Are you not feeling this?” And I was like, “Oh, yeah, I’m feeling this. It’s very painful. But I thought that was normal. I thought that this is just what I’m meant to be dealing with.”

Andrew: Wow. So this is a very interesting point about the journey to finding an explant surgeon, somebody who would, A, listen and be… Sorry. A, had an interest, an avid interest in it. And I’ll say this one to the nth degree, you were so lucky in the person that you found, but also, the willingness to follow you through. So tell us about that journey. How did you find this person, in particular, how broad was your search? How many did you find that you could have gone to? Tell us through that? Take us through that?

Kathy: Okay, so, Andrew, first up, I don’t believe in coincidences, and everything that I have been through happened in its right time, even me getting the breast implants in the first place, and leading up to recognizing my symptoms and planning to talk about it. And the way that my empowerment coach, Paula, PB Success, the way that she coached me through this because a good coach is never gonna say, “Hey, this is what you’ve got, this is what you’ve got to go do.” She just led me on the path. And she said, “Yeah, question this. Have a look at this.” And that is what sent me on this journey into researching more about it and actually seeing Facebook groups where there are 300,000-plus women going through these experiences and these explants, right?

So I learned from them, I seeked out people who had been through this, and Paula referred me to her friend who had been through the experience who had breast implants for 13 years. At this point, I had only had implants for six and a half years and started noticing this is not okay. So I went straight to her surgeon because she’d been through it and she was referred on by someone I trusted. And I researched online Dr. Eva Nagy, she’s an AAMCO plastic surgeon. She is very knowledgeable in this area. She has already done so many explants, but also she comes from biomedical science background. So she understands the immune system. And this is why she has such an interest in breast implant illness and doing more research in the area. I did do a bit of a just light scope of some other surgeons and I sent out a few emails and wasn’t happy with the responses that I got because they were very vague. And they didn’t specify about the scar tissue that I talked to you about you know.

And the problem is that because breast implant illness is not recognized in the medical domain, the explant surgery, I don’t believe as much as I know, the explant surgery doesn’t actually have a rigid kind of a process to follow. So if you go to a normal just general plastic surgeon, they’re happy to remove the breast implants, but they’re not that happy to remove the scar tissue because it is so fiddly. It’s a different level of complexity. And then with the explant surgery, after actually removing the breast implants, it’s also important to have drains. So after the explants, I actually had two tubes draining excess fluid. And this is to actually help the healing process as well. Otherwise, you can imagine, I would have this extra fluid flowing around my body and the healing process would be extended.

Andrew: Well, you’ve got a system, you’ve got a risk of infection there. So can you take us through the, like, from when you found Dr. Eva Nagy, did I get her name right?

Kathy: Yes.

Andrew: Eva Nagy. Yeah, from when you found her, and you’re obviously impressed by her avid interest in this and her knowledge about it, I understand from our previous conversation that you also were impressed about her approach to it as well. It wasn’t just removing the scar tissue and what she thought about it, but also some other aspects of her care?

Kathy: Yes, I cannot talk highly enough about Dr. Eva Nagy because she has the knowledge you want a surgeon to have. Surgeons love to cut. She has the knowledge, she has the passion for it. But also she has this passion for reconstructing the breast tissue as well. And she has so much compassion and empathy. I’m just getting goosebumps right now. Her bedside manner is something that I’ve never experienced before. And I used to work in the hospital setting, you know, as a dietitian on the wards, and she just has this beautiful presence to her that was very calming. And looking back, I really can’t even like believe at this point that I’ve been through all of that. I actually found out a breath about breast implant illness and within three months, I had gone to my consultation and booked in my surgery, gone through with this massive six-hour surgery where I’m sure my parents were just freaking out the whole six hours whilst I was under.

And, you know, all the post-operative, pre-operative, even the follow-ups now, everything has been done with such ease and grace. None of it was easy. None of it was easy. But there’s been this element of ease, and grace, and reassurance that has given me that strength. And that really truly comes from having a good team, including Dr. Eva Nagy, including her receptionist, including my empowerment coach, Paula, and my fitness coach, Carl, at Vitruvian Health. And he actually played a really important role in my recovery and journey as well.

I wanna really share that now because, Carl, my coach from Vitruvian Health, he actually went with me to my consultation to meet Dr. Eva and he asked the questions of how he will support me through this recovery. But what we found out after my surgery when Dr. Eva came to see me the second day when I woke up and I was in hospital, she actually said, “Your pec muscles are amazing.” My pectoral muscles, my chest muscles, she was in such awe and she at one point made everybody stop to have a look at my pec muscles whilst I was under.

The reason it was so impressive is because it made her job so much easier. And I really wanna highlight that women who have breast implants, who will eventually go through and explant surgery at some age, be it soon, be it in the near future, be it in the far future, depending on your own personal journey, it is really important to develop good pectoral or chest muscles. Because when you think about it, this actually emphasize where the muscle ends and where the scar tissue, that capsule that needs to be removed, where that starts. So my implants were under the muscle, I believe… I don’t know how it would impact implants over the muscle, but I do believe it would be very important as well, just how everything sticks together once it’s all in there.

So that actually played a really important role in why my surgery was easier for Dr. Nagy, why it was easier to reconstruct the muscle itself and attach it back to my chest wall, as well as, I believe, why my excellent surgery in my post-operative kind of healing journey was much easier than what I had read from other women and heard from other women. There are other aspects that would impact that, like my age, the fact that I had only had breast implants for 6-1/2 years versus some women have them for 15, 20. I’ve seen women have them for 30 years. And because I’m relatively young still as well, my collagen would be very good, my skin elasticity. So those are some things to consider as well.

Andrew: The pain management aspect really interests me as well because she does it quite in a unique way. Is that right? She approaches pain management?

Kathy: Yes, yes. So, Dr. Eva Nagy, she recommended I have this nerve block. So it was administered by the anesthesiologist whilst I was under. And it was a nerve block that is, I understand it’s not, again, coming back to the fact that what are the standard procedures often explained when we don’t really know that breast implant illness exists, you know? But this nerve block, it was administered whilst I was under and it functions for about 48 hours to 72 hours. And it really dramatically reduces the pain that one will experience when they wake up. So that is one thing that’s on the practice that she really encourages.

The other thing is that I had paid additional money to have this medicine called Evekeo, I believe it’s called. And it’s used to actually reduce the bleeding. So you can pay to have half the amount or a full dosage, I went all out because I was like, you know, “I’m only gonna do this once, I wanna do it properly. And I want to give my body the best chance of healing.” So I paid additional for this medicine, which had meant that my drains came out in about six days, versus some women have these drains for up to 14 days in their body, because of so much liquid drainage. So that was very, very cool.

Andrew: That’s an incredible process. So there’s so many questions that I need to ask you. So forgive this shotgun question. But we have to cover things like, okay, so you’ve gone through your explant surgery part of your recovery. But then after this happens, obviously, the inflammation goes down, you’re left with body changes. Because where the breast implants were, they’re no longer there, obviously, you’ve got to think about the symptoms. You would think that the assault is now removed, as you say, removal of the scar tissue, but that body, your body, has still has to recover. So you still got the issues with the lymph pain, lymph nodes and pain, the liver, the jaundice, and the iron. So I’ve got to ask you, did they all recover spontaneously? Was it a long-drawn-out process? Are there any residual issues that you’ve got?

Kathy: I’m so glad you asked. And we’re going down this path now. So my recovery was generally really good compared to what I’ve heard. I believe this is because of the way that I took care of my body beforehand, before I went into that surgery. And because on that scale, so Dr. Eva is constantly doing research, and with her clients, she looks at what kind of symptoms they have beforehand and what kind of symptoms after and how fast they’re resolving. So I actually went into this surgery with not that many symptoms. I mean, I listed them, most of them, like that’s a lot of symptoms. But this is like not even how much women come in to her with.

So on her kind of a scale, I only had about 40 points compared to most women having over 100 points of symptoms. So that is also, to me, showing that I know my body really well and I knew to ask and be curious about what’s going on, right? So one of the things why my surgery was successful and why I recovered so well was definitely, I went in early. However, I also supported my body throughout the healing process, and I believe this is why I was able to go back to the gym after six weeks. And like I said, it wasn’t easy. And most women wait about three months, 12-plus weeks to go back to the gym. And that going back to the gym was very slow. I took it in stages. And my first day, I was only able to lift 2.5-kilo dumbbells above my head.

And rewinding back to the first day, few days that I woke up post-surgery, I was not able to lift an empty mark, an empty mark, I was not able to lift it by myself. So there is so much more information to share that I am open to discussing with women, and women come to me to talk about this as well, about the preparation of the support that you’re going to need going through this major six-hour surgery. I was really, really lucky that nerve block worked really well. But when that nerve block wore off, I still didn’t have much pain at all. I was prescribed heavy painkillers, slow-release and fast-release opioids, which I didn’t have to take at all. There’s a reason they give you opioids, most women hate them. I did not have to, I didn’t have the pain, I only took Panadol. And I only took it for about four days because I felt I can wean myself off it. And I went straight to some natural medicine.

So, think curcumin, or turmeric, or curcumin, and Boswellia. So I used that to help me with the pain after a week. And I also supported that healing journey with collagen because I knew collagen is important in wound healing. And Zinc, vitamin C, straight away, I jumped back onto my omega-3s and vitamin D to help with the inflammation as well. And I supported my body throughout the next few weeks in stages. It’s so important to mention that you can’t just take a whole heap of natural medicine at once because you’re gonna put your body under so much more pressure and work more, when right now is a time of healing. And the body has this innate intelligence to heal itself. You’d think when you get a cut and when you’ve been through surgery, you are healing straightaway. And what we’re doing with natural medicine is supporting that.

So there’s a particular sequence that I followed to support my body through this. I started off by focusing on gut health, and gut health is my thing. I love working with clients to improve their gut health. But you’d think I was also prescribed antibiotics, and I didn’t argue the antibiotics at all, you know, I don’t want to risk any infection. So I took the antibiotics. However, at the same time, I took probiotics and I knew exactly what strains are gonna help me. So LGG, you know, and also, you know, the side effects of pain meds and antibiotics with constipation.

So I was taking lactobacillus plantarum with partially hydrolyzed guar gum to help those bowel motions, as well as magnesium citrate to help those bowel motions. And I can happily say I was not constipated ever. And I was so happy about that. Because you can imagine, it’s so difficult to heal through this, I can’t lift an empty mug, it would have been so hard that if I wasn’t opening my bowels, I would have been feeling so much worse. And then, so…

Andrew: Indeed, even after surgery in the thoracic area, if you like, you know, straining at stool can create intense pain because of the core that you have to engage. So it’s like you’ve done quite a dramatically good recovery. Kathy, forgive me for having to skip over this, it’s just that we’re running out of time. But can I ask about further recovery, things like later on down the track, your iron, for instance, is your iron on an equilibrium now, is it well absorbed? Are you utilizing iron now? Or do you still have any residual issues?

Kathy: I am still working on the iron, and it looks like, finally, I’ve gotten my doctor to agree for me to have an iron infusion because there has been absolutely no progress with whatever supplements I have been taking. And I took liquid iron as well. And I did all the things. I did include vitamin C with my iron. I did include lactobacilli lactobacillus which has been shown to improve iron absorption. I did all the things. I don’t drink caffeine anymore or coffee. So there was nothing really there to interact with my iron absorption.

However, my surgeon, Dr. Eva Nagy, because she has such an understanding of it, as well, said, “There is evidence of leaky gut syndrome with you, you are not absorbing your nutrition very well,” because we did the blood tests beforehand. We did the blood tests afterwards, my cholesterol had dramatically reduced as soon as I got the implants out. It was at 5.7 and I went down to 4 straight away, my lymph nodes had reduced straight away, Andrew, when I woke up after that surgery, I straightaway put my hand on my neck, and I couldn’t believe that I could feel my trachea. It was amazing.

Andrew: Wow.

Kathy: I cried out of relief when I woke up after that surgery. It was like this fog had lifted off my brain, my mental health felt so much stronger and healthier straightaway, it felt like, “Well, this is the real me, this is who I am.” And I really need to highlight that the

Andrew: Forgive me, sorry. And how long after surgery are you now?

Kathy: I am about 17 weeks post-surgery. So just over four months, and the scar tissue, the capsule, they actually send that off to pathology. And it actually showed micro leakages of silicone. So, it’s not safe. It’s not safe. There were micro leakages of silicone even though there was no rapture. There was also evidence of severe inflammation. And I grew some sort of a bug in my right side. And they don’t know to say what kind of a bug this was, what kind of bacteria. But from what we know of how important our microbiome is, it would have been impacting me in some way.

Andrew: Well, there’s an issue with biofilms, is a total other topic. Kathy, one last quick question. And I know that you’re comfortable answering this, everybody with Kathy and I’ve spoken prior to this podcast, but about body image. So women are going to be faced with a change in body image. If you had an issue prior that caused you to get the implants. Obviously, that’s now removed. So what sort of psychological support have you had to undergo? Have you… Like, you’ve done a lot of work with yourself, your empowerment coach. So you’ve actually got this real mind to heal yourself. But what would you recommend to other women who are going to go through this process?

Kathy: Yeah, this one is huge. And I’m gonna keep it brief with just a few points that would have helped me as well, that helped me along the way. Like I said, I had prepped myself body, mind, and spirit going into this explant surgery with the support and the team that I had. Join the Facebook groups, there are breast implant illness support Facebook groups that are invaluable to the experience that we go through. And we all share and we all support each other. And it’s a huge change and straight after the surgery, it’s a huge change and the body, over the next few weeks as you are healing and the breast tissue, everything just changes.

There are so many different things that can happen. Like, even having indents in the body at some point, and just trusting the process and supporting your body through this with compassion and with love. The other thing I would really highlight is be your own advocate for health when you are experiencing these symptoms, stay curious about it, bring it up. If you don’t like what someone is saying, talk to someone else about it. Really, you need to feel heard.

Also, there’s no shame in writing a wrong that your younger self didn’t know about. There is absolutely no shame in going back and saying, “Hey, I didn’t know. I was wrong. I have learned new stuff. This is what I wanna do now.” And also, yes, I went into getting breast implants having thought I was recovered from an eating disorder, having thought that this was gonna help with my body image complexities. But it was really the next six and a half years of having those breast implants that I had started healing properly and doing the work properly on my mindset, and it’s only been about two years that I was working with, it’s coming up to two years now that I’ve been working with my empowerment coach and my fitness coach. And that’s where I saw the biggest shift in my mindset.

And the explant surgery came about a year and a half after working with both of them, only about a year after working with my empowerment coach and learning about it. But that support is so invaluable. And I can see now that it was so important for me to go through that experience in leading up to this surgery. I also had a phycologist that I spoke to as well. So that was huge. And it’s so important to speak out loud, and to hear yourself, and to voice yourself. Because unless you talk to yourself with someone there to bounce these thoughts off, you’re never gonna realize that, hey, you’re 27 years old and you have joint pain, and jaundice, and limps are swollen, what’s going on here? I’d never voiced myself before this.

Andrew: Kathy, I can’t honor you enough for being so strong throughout your whole journey. Call it serendipitous, call it not luck, call it destiny, whatever, but thanks also to your empowerment coach, your fitness coach, and, indeed, your surgeon, for their care, their curiosity themselves, and, indeed, them speaking up, acting on your behalf, your empowerment coach who said, “Listen…” That was quite fortuitous.

But thank you so much for taking us through your journey and the journey, indeed, that other women are having with breast plant illness and the explant journey today on “Wellness by Designs.” Very much appreciate you.

Kathy: Thank you.

Andrew: And thank you, everyone, for joining us today. Remember, you can get all of the show notes and, of course, the other podcasts on the Designs for Health website. This is “Wellness by Designs.” And I’m Andrew Whitfield-Cook.

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