Doing a Thing…

“Every woman that finally figured out her worth has picked up her suitcases of pride and boarded a flight to freedom which landed in the valley of change.” Shannon L. Alder

So…I’m doing a thing. Something I’ve been wanting to do for some time. Something I’ve entertained and talked about for years (but have had orthopedic issues which were more pressing and needed tending to). Something I am hoping will improve my health and long-term quality of life. As someone who has always been into health and wellness, I can honestly say that my lifestyle is all about self-care. And at this point in my life, it makes all the sense in the world to do this thing…it’s been overdue.

Back when I was 40 years old- probably in a place of not really knowing my Self and my worth- I was into heavy weight training, spin classes, aerobics, kick-boxing, step and all things related to body image and achieving that perfect “balance” in body physique. To the dismay of my husband at the time, I got breast augmentation. He could not understand why on earth I would want them because he didn’t feel I needed them. But, you know how vanity and ego work hand in hand. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I did not realize how the beauty industry was such a toxic part of our society and deeply rooted in white supremacy.

Now, 20+ years and several pounds later (and guess where most of THAT weight has gone), I have decided to finally get my breast implants removed. I continue working on dissolution of the ego so, YES, I’m boarding my flight to freedom and landing in the valley of change. If you know me, you know how much I love and embrace change!

As a matter of fact, the explant surgery is scheduled for tomorrow, June 2nd.

If you follow me, you know that I believe sharing is caring, that our stories inspire, educate, and motivate others. It is part of what it means to be human in this web on interconnection. I’m a firm believer in what Maya Angelou used to say, “When you learn, teach.”

So…I am passing along some basic information about Breast Implant Inflammation- otherwise known as BII.You can google it yourself and fall into the rabbit hole- but I’m here to spare you. I just wanted to pass on some info in the event you or someone you know is contemplating getting implants or having them removed.

Disclaimer: all the information regarding BII that follows I got from various sources online.

BII is an informal term that some women — and even some doctors — use to describe a range of unexplained symptoms that women can experience following cosmetic breast augmentation or reconstructive breast surgery with implants. 

Some symptoms may include, but are not limited to:

joint and muscle pain, memory loss, concentration problems, breathing problems, chronic fatigue, sleep disturbance rashes, skin problems, dry mouth, dry eyes, anxiety, depression, migraines, hair loss, gastrointestinal problems, symptoms of EBV, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Sjogren’s, Fibromyalgia, Lyme, toxic shock …and the list can go on and on.

The symptoms can appear any time after implant surgery — some people develop symptoms immediately, while some develop them years later. A lot of the symptoms of BII are associated with autoimmune and connective tissue disorders, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and scleroderma. Some people who have BII also get diagnosed with a specific autoimmune or connective tissue disorder, but many do not. In many, but not all cases, surgery to remove the breast implants improves or completely resolves the BII symptoms. BII is not currently recognized as an official medical diagnosis, and there is no diagnosis code for it. It is poorly understood and hasn’t been studied much as a unique condition.

“BII is a cluster of symptoms that don’t fit into any other classic disease diagnosis,” says Diana Zuckerman, Ph.D., president of the National Center for Health Research and a researcher who studies breast implant safety issues. “We believe that it eventually will be recognized as a medical condition, but that process will take time.” Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the major plastic surgery societies, and other health authorities have been devoting more attention to BII than they did in the past.

In May 2019, the FDA released a statement noting that the agency’s officials are “taking steps to better characterize [BII] and its risk factors, and are considering ways to help to ensure women have all of the information they need to make informed decisions about whether to obtain breast implants or to remove existing breast implants in an effort to reverse systemic symptoms.” In October 2019, the agency published a draft of recommendations to implant manufacturers for new labeling for breast implants. The agency advised manufacturers to include information about the risk of systemic symptoms in a boxed warning and in a patient decision checklist that would be included in patient information booklets.

In addition, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the Aesthetic Surgery Education and Research Foundation are developing and funding new research on BII. To date, there haven’t been any studies that looked at the number of women with breast implants who develop BII. More women have been reporting BII symptoms to doctors and to the FDA during the last few years, which may be because social media groups and media coverage helped to raise awareness of the condition. Thousands of women have joined online communities related to breast implant illness.

From my personal experience, I can tell you there are thousands of stories, experiences, support, resources and tools on these private social media groups. That is a rabbit hole I found myself falling into once I scheduled my surgery. While these groups are informative, supportive and educational, I decided two weeks ago to just stay off socials as I prep for my surgery. Keeping my nervous system regulated is a daily practice, so I’ll go back on after the fact and share my experience with the group. The members are truly very supportive!

Also, I would highly recommend watching the documentary Explant. As described online, Michelle Visage, a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race, author and podcaster, is no stranger to the limelight. And now she adds documentary star to her list of accomplishments with the release of Explant, streaming on Paramount+ Michelle Visage had her breast implants removed after 20 years of unexplained, undiagnosed illness. Now her deeply personal journey is available to the masses, with the hopes of redeeming other women, through Explant.

I found it to be a stellar documentary, so well done, so much research, interviews, internal memos leaked, clips of hearings, lots of history, foul play and press clippings….. It’s definitely worth watching. Had something like this been around back then, I would have NEVER gotten breast implants! If you are contemplating getting implants, please watch this documentary…do your research! If a child, relative or friend is contemplating getting them, recommend the documentary. Hey, I am all for plastic surgery if that is what you want to do or have to do for obvious reasons like post- mastectomy or are transitioning and want to have top surgery. I’m simply a firm believer in being an educated consumer. and knowing your options.

These days, I’m simply not into doing anything that puts my own health at risk anymore. So…I’m hoping that, like scores of other women who’ve had explant surgery, my autoimmune issues may start improving. And if they do, great! If not, it’s still a win-win because I am getting something out of my body that I wish I had never put in.

I’d like to send a shout out to all my supportive friends who are my lifeline…you know who you are, what you do and how you do it! I am truly blessed and infinitely grateful to be surrounded by such loving and badass goddesses, soul sisters and humans who know how to show up and how to rally around you. We are always there for each other because, in the words of my dearest friend Patti, “This is what we do.”

The following affirmation found its way to me, and its timing is perfect:

“I am choosing to commit to myself, my health and my healing. I commit to the practices and actions that help me be clear, centered and grounded. I know that when I take care of myself, everything aligns in my life beautifully.”

See you on the other side!

Infinite love and gratitude, JTC

All Black Lives Matter…no ifs, ands or buts

“The response of “All Lives Matter’ is not understanding that a social justice movement would not have to exist if all lives were treated as if they mattered equally.“  Sit. With. That.

Nikole Hannah-Jones, an investigative journalist known for her coverage of civil rights in the United States, recently wrote an extensive piece that appeared in The New York Times Magazine. In it she writes: 

It has been more than 150 years since the white planter class last called up the slave patrols and deputized every white citizen to stop, question and subdue any black person who came across their paths in order to control and surveil a population who refused to submit to their enslavement. It has been 150 years since white Americans could enforce slave laws that said white people acting in the interest of the planter class would not be punished for killing a black person, even for the most minor alleged offense. These laws morphed into the black codes, passed by white Southern politicians at the end of the Civil War to criminalize behaviors like not having a job. Those black codes were struck down, then altered over the course of decades eventually transmuted into stop-and-frisk, broken windows and, of course, qualified immunity. The names of the mechanisms of social control have changed, but the presumption that white patrollers have the legal right to kill black people deemed to have committed minor infractions or have breached the social order has remained. In a country erected on the explicitly codified conviction that black lives mattered less, graveyards across this land hold the bodies of black Americans, men, women and children, legally killed by the institutional descendants of those slave patrols for alleged transgressions like walking home from the store with Skittles, playing with a toy gun in the park, sleeping in their homes and selling untaxed cigarettes.

Here it is, July 2020, and we continue to see case upon case where a black life has not mattered. There are thousand of names we’ll never know of- we only know of the ones that we’ve been made aware of over recent years thanks, in part, to social media. And despite all this, I still cannot believe how the phrase Black Lives Matters hits a nerve in some of us white people who are quick to point out that All Lives Matter. It’s pretty disheartening to see how twisted and defensive people can get,  given the 400 years that carefully crafted systems of racism and oppression have been dehumanizing, destroying, killing, incarcerating,  and inflicting racial wounds on people of color.

If we stop, feel, listen, be willing to become accountable for our own learning and unlearning, we will see see how saying “All Lives Matter” is a form of racism in and of itself. It’s called White Centering.

White centering is invisibilized and normalized. We can’t dismantle what we can’t see, so unless we consciously take an active part in learning, unlearning and trying to “get” it right (not “be” right), we will fail to see how these norms further marginalize and attempt to erase Black and Indigenous People of Color. That in itself is a deadly aspect of White Supremacy. 

Another dangerous aspect which is at the core of White Centering, White Fragility, White Superiority, White Privilege, White Silence and all matters dealing with racism, is this feeling of being “attacked” some of us white people feel when we are not ready to hold ourselves accountable for how our actions, behaviors, biases, prejudices, stereotypes and the internalized racism we were born into actually harm BIPOC.

We’ve become so accustomed and comfortable with looking away, letting others do the work, or looking at the world with our own set of White lenses, that we fail to see there’s something morally and consciously wrong with how we are personally perceiving equality and justice related issues. We’re unaware of our blindspots. Ultimately, we fail to see how this feeds into the hierarchy that White Supremacy upholds and, therefore, are just as quick to join the All Lives Matter caravan. Or, as we’ve all witnessed on many occasions, a whole lot of silence or spiritual bypassing ensues because God forbid we should feel “uncomfortable.” Remember darlings, silence is violence…as is Whitesplaining!

How have we become so numb to the violence? Are we truly comfortable with the numbness? How is that serving us? How is that serving our health and well-being? How is that serving our society, the world at large and future generations? What stories are we telling ourselves? How are they serving and honoring our ancestors and the work they did in the name of change? 

Change and growth are not comfortable. Trauma is not comfortable. Social Justice is not comfortable. Activism is not comfortable. Not getting it right is not comfortable. Speaking up is not comfortable.  Feeling frustrated is not comfortable. Constantly seeing BIPOC killed again and again should not be comfortable, acceptable or excusable!

If we were to stop, breathe and tune into our bodies every time we feel “uncomfortable” we will sense different things going on in our body and that’s because our nervous systems are on high alert. The nervous system is sensing for danger, the protective brain takes over,  and it’s ready to fight, flee or freeze. It’s important to take a pause here when in this state and check ourselves. Allow ourselves to feel. Allow our pre-frontal cortex to take over. Allow ourselves to question why we are feeling this way. Allow ourselves to put ourselves in another’s shoes. Allow ourselves to open our minds and hearts and  be willing to look through another set of lenses… that aren’t White Centered. 

Darlings, if there is anything that has become apparent as I continue to learn, unlearn and learn again and again these days, is that proclaiming to be a “good white person” is not enough today. This work we are being called to do is life-long work we need to commit to doing. While I’ve always been saddened  to see how some people aren’t committed to self- growth or aren’t willing to keep learning and evolving, I can now clearly see the harm those behaviors inflict on BIPOC when we are unwilling to take personal responsibility for our own anti-racism education. It’s White Apathy at its best! 

Instead, we white people have the audacity to feel “attacked” when asked to  be accountable for our antiracism education and grow in our understanding of White Supremacy and what dismantling it looks like. We become defensive, silent, or even put an end to the conversation. Why? Because God forbid we should feel uncomfortable! 

During this historic moment of our lives, one that will define what kind of white people we were for future generations, we are being asked to put ourselves in uncomfortable positions. We are being asked to do things differently. We’re being asked to question everything. We are being asked to stop making excuses. We are being asked to engage. speak up, and have hard conversations amongst ourselves, our families, friends and co-workers. We are being asked to hold ourselves accountable for learning and unlearning. We are being asked to accept responsibility for being complicit when we didn’t even realize we were doing so. We are being asked to show up. We are being asked to disrupt our thinking and our behaviors in the name of racial equity.

We are being called to accept that anti-racism works starts with us, that is uncomfortable as hell and more complex that we  could have ever imagined. Failure to do any of these things just feeds White Supremacy. 

Those of you who know me, know that I’ve always turned towards the discomfort. For me, discomfort signals that change is needed. That growth is awaiting. This is a space of possibility, of expansion, vision and alchemy. I tend to thrive in this space. Being committed to life-long learning sets me on fire. It brings me joy. It shakes me up. It’s one of my passions. More importantly though, it humbles me because there’s so much I’m learning and want to learn.

How much time do I have left on this earth? I don’t want to squander it! I know I’m here to make a difference, and I’ve always taken that responsibility to heart. “How can I serve?” is a question I’m always asking myself. 

Darlings, as I noted in my previous blog, There is No Neutral, we have knowingly or unknowingly been complicit in the participation of institutionalized racism and systems of oppression that were intentionally created  to uphold white dominance. Whether we want to accept it or not, it is truth….an uncomfortable one albeit. Just remember, comfort is not the key here. We have a responsibility to humankind to sit in our own discomfort and unpack layer upon layer of uncomfortableness in the hopes of creating a better world for future generations.  

If after reading this blog you still don’t understand the All Black Lives Matter social justice movement, and continue to rally that “All Lives Matter,” I will leave you with the following, which has made its way around social media, in hopes that you will see through a different set of lenses:

  • When the Boston Marathon was bombed and everybody’s profile picture changed to “Boston Strong,” nobody said “All Cities are Strong.”
  • When the Las Vegas shooting happened, people changed their profiles to “Stand with Vegas.” Nobody said “Stand with Everywhere.”
  • Have you ever seen someone counter a breast cancer post with  “Wait, what about colon cancer?”
  • But for some reason if someone says “Black Lives Matter” it turns into an all inclusive “All Lives Matter,”
  • This is not an either/or proclamation. When there is a crisis, we have always rallied around that particular group/city/cause. It does not diminish any other group/city/cause, it just brings awareness and support where it is needed.
  • No one is saying all lives don’t matter, but right now our Black friends, families, colleagues, neighbors and strangers need our support. 

Are you willing to do the work? 

Darlings, I started my blog almost 3 years ago as a way to inspire, love and serve: hence, the name. I’ve always shared resources, practices, and tools that have gotten me through the darkest and most challenging times of my life and that have allowed me to be resilient in the face of adversity and hardship.  I’ve shared my stories, life experiences and wisdom gained and have always encouraged the reader to “take what you need and leave the rest.”  I will continue to share the work I’m engaged in and things I continue to learn or that call to me. I hope you stay along for the ride, that seeds of change continue to be planted, and that we all collectively and consciously work to create a better and just world for future generations.

May we continue to move forward in love and with intention, curiosity, unity, and hearts and minds wide open, JTC

PS- Shout out to all my friends, family and teachers who are holding spaces for us to dig deep, do the work and engage in difficult conversations. You inspire me!