Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at his disposition, and listening to His voice in the depths of our hearts. – Mother Theresa
The bodybuilding exercises my friend Camille incorporates into our powerwalks along the St. Charles River include simple movements like sit-ups and squats. I wish we would skip the jumping jacks; we’re older now and jumping up and down like this can make a woman pee her pants. Last summer, I would have skipped the push-ups. Not for fear of peeing my pants, of course, but rather for fear of busting a breast implant.
« T’as pas remarqué que j’ai perdu mes seins ? » I ask her, Camille, who would happily have given me half of her D-cup breasts if she could. She had noticed. She just figured I’d lost weight. In a way, I had. 1.38 pounds worth. The best weight I’ve ever lost.
Breast Implant Illness (BII) is, for the moment, an anecdotal clinical entity. Mine started with migraines. Monster ones that could hit two or three times a month and last anywhere from three to four days. After that, the indigestion and the cramps, the loose bowels, the irregular periods, the night sweats. Oh, the night sweats. Then came the yeast infections and the bouts of bacterial vaginosis, or something in between. My primary care doctor could never be sure; the tests weren’t always conclusive. She just kept giving me antibiotics. At 38, I suffered a mild case of shingles. At 40, a second less than mild one. The doctor at the CLSC on rue St-Jean who treated me the second time around was perplexed. “C’est pas normal,” she told me. Old people get shingles, or people with highly compromised immune systems. “Vous n’avez pas le SIDA?” she asked.
Not AIDS, come to find out. Lichen Sclerosis. And like AIDS, there is no cure for Lichen Sclerosis. Only steroid creams, which work fine until they don’t, and then you’ll want to kill yourself. But only after spending thousands and thousands of dollars on consultations with a naturopath, two Chinese herbalists, three acupuncturists, an allergy specialist, and a chiropractor who dabbles in applied kinesiology and functional neurology, as well as giving up all of the following just to keep the symptoms at a dull roar: alcohol, coffee, chocolate, dairy, eggs, gluten, sugar, grains, legumes, white potatoes, strawberries, tomatoes, nut butters, corn, and eggplant, not to mention anything including soy, canola or sunflower oils or that include additives of any kind. Like I said, you’ll want to kill yourself.
Neither my primary care doctor nor any of the specialists I saw in both western and non-western medicine ever mentioned the idea of BII. What if they had? What if one of them had suggested removal of the implants as a potential cure to my disease, the way my sister would after watching a documentary on it shortly after I’d moved from Brooklyn to Providence? Would I have taken the advice?
“Je suis pas sûre,” I tell Camille. You need to be ready to hear that kind of thing; you need courage to act on it. I loathed the way I looked before the breast implants, enough perhaps to accept continued suffering if the doctor who mentioned it couldn’t guarantee that I would be cured if I had them removed. Diseased and ugly? No thanks.
So what pushed me to listen to my sister? Camille wondered.
“L’art,” I tell her.
Painting came into my life at about the same time my heart opened to the idea of a living God whose role, like that of a loving parent, is to offer me his help and his guidance. I had tried everything against my disease. Everything, that is, except ask God to help me. According to the literature, there is no cure for Lichen Sclerosis. The chronic symptoms, the pain, the draconian dietary restrictions I’d adopted to keep it under control: I didn’t want that to be my life. What can it hurt, I remember wondering, to ask God to help me? So I did. Every day, I prayed to him. Every day, I asked him to show me what he needed me to do to help him help me. He heard me, and he spoke.
The women in the paintings, they’re flat-chested. All of them. And they are so beautiful. Have faith. You will be beautiful without your implants. Beautiful, and because you asked, free from your symptoms.