2 Weeks to Explant...Bye, Bye Boobs

Explant is finally just 2 weeks away and I am a mix of excitement and shear terror at the thought of my original mastectomy scars being opened up for the 4th time. The excited part of me cannot wait to get these toxic goo bags out of my chest and start healing from their effects. The panicked part of me remembers the physical and emotional trauma inflicted not only by multiple surgeries, but by that little voice in my head that was judging and sizing up every part of my scarred and changed body.

I have been fairly quiet on social media since I discovered breast implant illness back in February and I haven’t blogged since then either. I realize now, that I needed the time to gather my thoughts and sanity for my impending surgery. In that silence, I also came to the conclusion that there needs to be a sequel to Bittersweet: A Vulnerable Photographic Breast Cancer Journey©, because that book ended with a new set of dream boobs and gorgeous tattoos to cover my scars. The reality is that the dream boobs after breast cancer have become a total nightmare. There are multiple new chapters that continue that story and I am living and writing them as we speak. I am already on chapter two of my second book, Bye, Bye Boobs: Breast Implant Illness and Explant.

I didn’t know that I would be forced to remove my breast implants and go completely flat as a result of the autoimmune symptoms I am living with and to regain my health. I had decided that I would have these implants for the 8-10 years that they were considered safe and then I would either replace them with a new set or I would remove them and go flat. The choice would be mine and mine alone at that time, but after only two years and nine months the plan has changed and it no longer feels like a choice.

After discussions with my primary care physician, oncologist, a general surgeon, and a plastic surgeon, the decision to explant was considered the best option to reverse the breast implant illness symptoms (BII). As the general surgeon said, “You are definitely having a reaction to the implants and they need to come out.” He and the plastic surgeon both recommended not putting in another set of implants, because the reaction would probably be faster and greater due to my bodies distress over the toxic foreign objects.

I turned 50 the first week in April and feeling thrilled to have survived my forties. They were extremely challenging since I had both a heart drama and then breast cancer. I am oddly excited for this new change as it will remove the cause of over 40+ symptoms and give me my body back. As beautiful as the implants originally were, they never really felt like they were a part of me and they no longer look like the beautiful photos in the final chapter of Bittersweet©. My breasts have been squeezed and deformed by capsular contracture which is causing me daily pain and discomfort. I am going totally flat and my plastic surgeon is motivated to save my beautiful cherry blossom tattoos during explant and second reconstruction to remove the remaining breast tissue, so I am not lumpy and bumpy.

I have no illusions about the seriousness of this surgery, but welcome my true self and my whole body back with open arms. I know I will shed many tears from pain and frustration, but this life is worth all of it. My husband of 25 years and best friend, Wiley, and our eighteen year old son, Vance, are worth all of the heartache. Being able to wake up every morning with them in my life is all the motivation I need to continue pushing forward.

I have pledged once again to stand up and continue to speak out to bring awareness to those with breast cancer, but also to those with breast implant illness. I am grateful to have my life and voice and need to continue to use it to educate and support women.

My explant surgery is set for May 17th, 2019, so hold me in your thoughts. Prayers are warmly welcomed. Follow my explant journey on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/hollykthrasher or on my Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/hollykthrasher/

I will see you on the lighter side…

Why are you removing your breast implants...they look so amazing?!

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The photo on the left is what I looked like as I was healing from my double mastectomy in 2016. I am smiling, but that was not easy for me at all. In fact, I was having a very hard time emotionally being flat, bumpy and scarred. My self esteem was at an all time low and I could not wait to have breast reconstruction and get my breasts back. If you have read my book, Bittersweet: A Vulnerable Photographic Breast Cancer Journey, you know that the process was long and painful to get to the final results you see in the photo on the right.

I really do believe that my plastic surgeon is brilliant. My breasts are beautiful…but they have come at a cost that I was never warned about. I did so much research before the implants and I felt like I was asking all of my doctors the right questions.

Is there a risk of cancer from the implants? NO! I was told that only the textured implants had that risk and the implants I was getting were smooth with absolutely no cancer risk. The FDA announced last week that ALL implants, saline or silicone, pose a risk of a very rare cancer, BIA-ALCL. It is NOT breast cancer. It is a cancer that has only one cause…breast implants and women are dying from it.

Are there any other side effects I should worry about? No! These are the safest, most natural implants on the market. My Allergan brochure confirms this by saying “Silicone gel-filled implants are among the most studied medical devices. They are the subject of literally thousands of studies and published reports.”

I have found out through personal experience that neither of those claims are true. I don’t blame my plastic surgeon, because at the time, that is what he was told by Allergan, the implant manufacturer and it was backed up by the FDA. What makes me angry is that both Allergan and the FDA knew that there were problems with implants and that is why they were pulled off the market in 1992 and should never have been put back on the market in 2006 without extensive studies and full disclosure of autoimmune illnesses, implant ruptures and deaths caused by a rare implant cancer. The FDA is meeting in March 2019 to discuss breast implants and all of these issues.


So, how did I get to the conclusion that my implants have to be removed? When I was going through breast cancer, I documented every phase of it for my book. I took notes at every doctors appointment and I even have voice recordings of appointments with doctors. My friend, Kathleen, a breast cancer survivor, joined me to Breast Implant Illness and Healing by Nicole on Facebook about 10 days ago. There are 64,000+ women worldwide in the group and that continues to increase as women find out about breast implant illness. When I started to read the posts and comments I was absolutely floored! The Breast Implant Illness symptoms that women were describing were my own. I knew something was wrong 2 1/2 years ago, but when I spoke to my Primary Care Physician, my Oncologist, my Plastic Surgeon, and my Physical Therapist, all of them told me that the symptoms were due to my age, the effects of chemo, or menopause. You can also check out Healingbreastimplantillness.com, the official page for information.

I went back through all of my notes and created a timeline of events to better evaluate when I actually started to notice the symptoms and document how they progressed and got worse. My implants were put in August 2016 and my first complaints started 2 months later in October. A little over a year later in November 2017, I felt like menopause was really kicking my ass! I told my oncologist at the time, that I had shortness of breath, anxiety, exhaustion, heart palpitations, joint and muscle pain, constant sinus congestion, I was bloated and gassy, I bruised easily, and I had insomnia. Once again, it was written off as menopause. I was a little shocked at the time that menopause was so brutal, but had no other theories, so bought it hook, line and sinker.

I have had the breast implants now for 2 1/2 years and my symptoms have become debilitating. I have woken up on more than one morning and wished, to myself, that breast cancer had just taken me. That is hard for me to admit, because I used to wake up every morning with a smile on my face and most days singing. Even after 4 rounds of chemo, I was still a positive person. I love my life and I used to look forward to every new day. Several family members have suggested that maybe I am suffering from depression, but I know that I am not. My depressed feelings are a result of physically feeling awful all of the time! I have not been complaining much anymore, because nobody wants to hear about menopause! Now that I know that breast implant illness is real and that implants are causing women all over the world, including quite a few of my personal friends, auto-immune diseases, I feel a renewed passion for helping women going through this.

Here is a full list of my current symptoms and yes, I am sure that some of them are probably worsened by menopause, but let’s get real…I am 49 years old, not 90 and something is really wrong! Keep in mind, I did not have any of these symptoms after chemo was completed and before the implants were put in. I was already in menopause from chemo, so if they were all related to menopause, I should have been experiencing them prior to the implants.

• Anxiety • panic attacks • fatigue • heart palpitations • memory loss • insomnia • shortness of breath • sharp breast pains • swelling in breast tissue • back/neck pain • joint pain • muscle weakness • dizziness • blurry vision • sinus issues • frequent urination • chronic UTI • dry mouth • mouth sores • excessive thirst • weight gain • paranoia • achey teeth • swelling around my eyes • inflammation • difficulty walking • dry skin • vertigo • feelings of despair • Some days I physically feel like I am dying.

Believe me, I have not made the decision to explant lightly. Look at the before and after picture! This is going to be fucking brutal and I am angry! I already had to say goodbye to my breasts once! I never thought I would ever have to experience that again! But…my health is far more important than my looks. I am glad that I am weeks away from turning 50 because I have a deeper understanding of age and beauty now. I have grown so much as a person in the last 3 years since my diagnosis.

Our culture is constantly bombarding women with the message that our breasts aren’t big enough, our stomachs aren’t flat enough and we have to be perfect to be worthy. Social media only amplifies our failings by comparing us to women that can afford to change every physical trait they feel bad about with the help of their plastic surgeon and gobs of money.

I do not want to live my life feeling bad physically because of these silicone implants in my chest. I know that if I keep them intact, I will be one of the women that is diagnosed with an auto-immune disease, I think I am well on my way. I also do not want to look in the mirror and wish that my ass was smaller, my arms more toned, my legs thinner and I don’t want to hear a voice that says I am not sexy without breasts! I am rebelling! I have started to stand in front of the mirror naked and tell each part of my body that it is beautiful, that I am beautiful and that no matter what, I am worthy!!! No matter what our shape or size, we are enough! I am preparing myself for change and I don’t think it will be easy. I will struggle, but I am determined to accept the body that I am given once the implants are removed, because the biggest gifts that I can give myself are acceptance and love.

Keep following my blog as I share information about breast implant illness, the FDA, implant lawsuits and my process of explantation. For more information please go to, https://healingbreastimplantillness.com/ , this is the official website for breast implant illness.

How Common are Mistakes in Diagnosis?

In November 2015, right before the holidays, I received my breast cancer diagnosis. From the beginning I was told that my cancer was Stage 1 and that I had caught it very early. My tumor was classified as T2, which is Stage 2 because of it’s size. I questioned whether I in fact had Stage 2 breast cancer, but I was assured that I had caught it very early. I chose to be very aggressive with my treatment out of the knowledge that my level of cancer cell aggressiveness warranted it. I knew in my gut that a total double mastectomy followed by chemotherapy was needed.

Flash forward three years and three oncologists later, I found out last week that I was originally classified wrong. My new oncologist told me that I was in fact Stage 2 from the beginning based on my test results. It makes total sense considering that I had “infiltrating ductal adeno carcinoma.” Infiltrating means the cancer had spread out of the duct to surrounding tissue. Stage 1 breast cancers have not spread and usually Stage 2 breast cancers have not spread to lymph nodes, but sometimes they can if they are close to the tumor. The size of my tumor was definitely Stage 2.

When I spoke to a close friend of mine that is a cancer survivor about this misdiagnosis, she told me that she was originally diagnosed as Stage 2 or 3, when in fact she later found out that she was Stage 4. I began to wonder if this was common. A quick internet search revealed that 1 in 3 cancer patients are misdiagnosed. The National Academy of Medicine reported in 2015 that most people will receive an incorrect or late diagnosis at least once in their lives. Sometimes with serious or life threatening consequences. The report cited that an estimated 5 percent of adults who seek outpatient care — are misdiagnosed annually. That’s roughly 12 million people. Yikes!

I don’t want to scare you, but it makes being your own advocate that much more important. Looking back, I did question the original staging, because my research kept showing that it was possibly Stage 2. I was scared, new to cancer, and overwhelmed, so I deferred to my doctor and let it go. Even the second oncologist I saw didn’t say anything, but my new oncologist was very thorough with my records and questioned me about it. Lucky for me, that misdiagnosis did not impact my treatment or outcome, but it could have if I had decided only to do a lumpectomy and not remove my breasts or if I had decided to not do chemotherapy. I am glad that I went with my gut and attacked my cancer with everything they had, but looking back, a second opinion would not have been a bad idea.

If you find yourself questioning a diagnosis or not feeling comfortable with any medical information that is given to you. Get a second opinion. It cannot hurt and ultimately, it is your right to ask questions and gain information about your condition and treatment.

Bittersweet is My Silver Lining...

I thought I was going to be Ojai’s “Candy Lady” until my hair went grey, but apparently it wasn’t meant to be. Closing Kingston’s Candy Co. to focus on breast cancer treatment was the right decision and I knew it at the time. My life was flipped upside down the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer, but it will be three years this November and I feel like I have flipped it right side up. It took a couple years to actually feel like myself again physically and I was scared to plan any future events for fear I wouldn’t be able to fulfill them. I also had absolutely no idea what my next career move would be. Kingston’s had felt like it was my one big idea and I couldn’t see past that. I had to regain my energy and motivation before I could even contemplate my next move.

The idea of writing a book was a lightbulb moment, just like the idea of opening a candy store. All of the events and people that I met during my candy days and into my cancer nightmare led me right here to this moment and I am grateful for that. I am not grateful for cancer. There was a time when I felt like it was a gift, but I can see now, that it was not and never will be a gift. Cancer sucks! I am an eternal optimist, so I am always looking for a silver lining in even the worst moments. Writing Bittersweet and now getting to promote it and speak about my experience feels like the next big thing for me and that is a gift.

Not only did I write and self publish a book, but we sold our home of fourteen years in Ojai and moved to the California desert. So much change can only mean one thing…I have embraced having a future again and I am looking forward to many more years.

I hope to see you at my book launch in Ojai. I have made so many amazing friends and contacts and would love to reconnect with everyone on Saturday, October 6th at the Ojai Valley Woman’s Club. It is going to literally be a SWEET event!!!

Bittersweet: A Vulnerable Photographic Breast Cancer Journey

I am putting the final touches on my book, Bittersweet: A Vulnerable Photographic Breast Cancer Journey, to get it ready to go to the publisher next month.  I never intended to write a book and share the photos that my husband Wiley took of my breasts until a fateful meeting seven weeks after my double mastectomy.  I was attending the Lavender Inn's Inncourage cancer retreat and met Nicole Jones.  She inspired me to share my story.  Here are a couple paragraphs from that chapter.

  • Chapter 3
  • Total Double Mastectomy
  • November 27, 2015

             I was seven weeks post double mastectomy and felt self-conscious about how I looked.  Nicole Jones, a vibrant, young, mom of two teenagers introduced herself and shared that she was a couple weeks away from a double mastectomy.  Once she realized that I was newly recovered from a double, she asked if I would show her my scars.  To that point, I had only shown my mother-in-law and two sisters, so I wasn’t sure about showing someone I had just met.  Nicole told me that she was very scared about her pending surgery and that was all I had to hear to agree. 

            My other new friend, Martina Albert wanted to know what they looked like too.  We walked into the pantry off the Lavender Inn kitchen for a little privacy and I removed my shirt.  Nicole’s hands immediately went to cover her mouth.  I took that as a bad sign, but Nicole let out a sigh of relief and said, “That’s not so bad.”  It isn’t?  Both she and Martina were so positive and supportive toward the two enormous scars blazing across my chest.  Nicole said, “I can totally do this.”  It was the moment when I realized that I didn’t actually look like Frankenstein and that I could share what had happened to me to help other women.  The idea for my book, Bittersweet, was born right then and there.  Thank you, Nicole.

Thanks for reading, more coming soon!  Now I need to get back to designing the book cover, editing, formatting, and planning my book launch.  See you there!  Saturday, October 6, 2018 at the Ojai Valley Woman's Club in Ojai, CA.  Ticket and event info coming soon.