By Bianca Alexander
Continued from Part I: “Beyond the Pink Ribbon“
They called my name for the biopsy. I’d never had surgery before, so Michael accompanied me into the pre-operating room, holding my hand while we waited for the doctor. Surprisingly, she was a woman, which put me somewhat at ease. Like me, she had breasts and had no doubt endured dozens of mammograms. I felt like she was on my side. That is, until she suggested inserting a small, metal, staple-shaped pin into my breast during the procedure. She said the marker would help a breast surgeon locate the calcifications should I require further surgery — like a lumpectomy.
I thought of everything I’d learned on my spiritual journey about the power of intention and affirmative prayer. Every religion I’ve studied from Christianity, Islam and Buddhism to Kabbalah and even Scientology teaches that thoughts are things. Whatever you think, believe and affirm eventually comes to pass. Accepting the possibility of a lumpectomy felt like abdicating defeat before the battle even started. Like a “mark of the beast,” the last thing I wanted planted in my consciousness—not to mention my breast—was a foreign piece of metal predicting the location of a future surgery. My intention for the biopsy was a clean bill of health.
Still trying to be the good patient, I politely declined the stainless steel marker. Perhaps irritated that I wouldn’t cooperate with “standard” procedure, perhaps surprised at my resolve, she proceeded to give me a serious sales pitch. By this point Michael, who had been sitting quietly the entire time, started to flare up. Feeling vulnerable and totally overwhelmed, we told her to leave the room while we discussed in private.
I wondered what stake the surgeon had in the game. Was she a consultant for the pin manufacturer? Did she stand to lose a hefty referral fee from the breast surgeon? Or would billing me for an unnecessary procedure help she and the hospital make more money? It may sound paranoid, but the entire process felt like a massive conspiracy against my body. Call me a feminist, but if the rates of testicular cancer were as high as breast cancer, there’d darn well be a ”cure” by now. After all, what man do you know who would let a surgeon cut even a part of his balls off unless absolutely necessary? While we “race to find a cure”, women all over the world like Angelina Jolie are routinely getting preventative double mastectomies in the hopes of gaining a few extra years on life.
Several minutes passed before the surgeon reentered the room. After a hefty argument (and a three page signed waiver), she reluctantly backed down and prepped me for the operation, a stereotactic biopsy.
Michael left the room as I scrambled up a long, high-set hospital cot that hung over the surgeon’s head like a small loft. My left breast was exposed in perfect view through a round hole on the operating table. The doctor told me to take a deep breath. I said a prayer for us both, affirming spiritual protection and a steady hand. Next came the prick of a needle, followed by numbness in my chest. My breast was firmly compressed between two plates while more X-rays produced stereo images—of the calcified area from different angles—to determine their exact location. The surgery itself went smoothly.
The surgeon slowly removed tissue with a hollow, mechanized needle. Thankfully, the anaesthesia blocked out any pain. During the entire operation, I felt nothing more than slight pressure. My body was numb, but senses remained sharp. The sounds were harrowing. Steel instruments clicked coolly on the table below. Then a high-pitched drilling sound, sharp enough to sever a slice of flesh in my breast the width of a piece of yarn. And then it was over. They patched me up with bandages and a crescent-shaped ice pack for swelling, and promised to send results to my doctor in two weeks.
When I finally got the call, my heart dropped into my stomach. Nonchalantly, the nurse told me the results were benign. Benign. Sigh of relief. But I wasn’t out of the dog house yet. The biopsy had captured only 50% of the calcified areas. On a scale of one to ten, one being white healthy cells, ten being dark (cancerous) cells, mine were grey. “What did that mean? Why were they grey?” I asked. She couldn’t tell me. The doctors knew nothing about my lifestyle, diet or prior health history. Nevertheless, she told me to make an appointment with a breast surgeon as soon as possible. “Why”, I asked. “To remove the other 50% of the calcifications.” From her perspective, it was the only way to be sure the other cells weren’t malignant, and to ensure they wouldn’t eventually morph into cancer.
A breast. Surgeon.
Everyone knows a breast surgeon has a single tool in his tool kit. A scalpel. To a tradesman who has only one magic weapon, a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Statistics was never my favorite subject in college, but to me it seemed rather unscientific to assume that the other 50% of my calcifications were cancerous and needed to be removed just because the initial sample proved benign. It also seemed odd that the only way to handle the ambiguity with my grey cells was to cut them out. There had to be another option, but if there was, my doctors weren’t sharing it with me. So I prayed for guidance. And meditated on it. Michael did, too. During one of his meditations, he thought of an old friend he’d worked with years ago—a naturopathic doctor and his wife, Ian and Kelly Kennedy. Apparently, they were quite the healing duo. For years, they’ve used a holistic modality called European Biological Medicine to help patients with degenerative diseases from cancer to autism. They were often the last resort after traditional doctors were stumped by undiagnosed symptoms or simply gave up hope. My grey cells fit their patient profile.
Over an initial consultation via skype, they asked me a strange question: whether I’d ever had “silver” mercury amalgam fillings. Four years ago, I learned mercury fillings were toxic and decided to have them taken out. At the time, I was living in Chicago and drove out to a holistic dentist in Schaumburg who replaced them with non-toxic resin instead. I shared the story with Ian and Kelly.
They looked at each other knowingly, then suggested I come into their clinic, True Wellness in Montgomeryville, Pennsylvania for tests. Concerned that mercury could be the culprit behind my breast calcifications, I did some research. Mercury is a heavy metal and known neurotoxin that is found almost everywhere in our modern world, from everyday appliances and CFLs to thermometers and vaccines. According to the EPA, humans are exposed to the largest amounts of mercury through air pollution from coal-fired power plants, mercury in fish, and lo and behold, dental amalgams. Once mercury enters the human body, our immune systems can’t break it down through normal elimination processes. Trapped inside, it bioaccumulates in fatty cells and can wreak havoc on delicate tissues. This includes regulatory organs like the brain, thyroid and intestines, and detoxifying organs like the lymphs and breasts.
I felt like I was onto something. I found several studies linking mercury in teeth to neurological diseases like autism, ADHD and Alzheimer’s. Parkinsons too. It has also been found in breast cancer tissue.
Yikes. Many European countries have banned its use in dental amalgams. But if mercury was so dangerous, why were dentists in America still using it? Despite compelling science to the contrary, the American Dental Association has claimed for years that mercury is harmless. I don’t blame them, just think of the law suits. It’d put 99% of the dentists in America out of business. I staggered to think that my entire breast ordeal could have been caused by cavities I got at the age of six. Not to mention the fact that for as long as I can remember, mom has had a mouth full of “silver” fillings. It was a lot to process.
A few weeks later, Michael and I drove up to Ian and Kelly’s clinic. From the outside, True Wellness looked just like any other medical office. Inside, there were private treatment rooms with inspirational quotes above the doors. Rows of nutritional supplements lined the walls. Over the course of a few hours, I learned just how different is was. One test, geared to measure my heart rate variability, required me to lay down and rest then get back up with a meter attached to my stomach. Another scientific test used a thermometer linked to a computer and measured over 100 temperature points all over my body—first clothed, then unclothed, analyzing how well my system regulated when placed under stress. I even did some emotional release work through muscle testing, a form of kinesthesiology that speaks to the body directly to access the emotional (and often hidden) factors contributing to dis-ease. The tests were thorough, scientific and highly diagnostic. According to Ian and Kelly, they all pointed to one thing: heavy metal poisoning.
But there was hope. True Wellness specialized in “cleaning up” people exposed to heavy metals with a multi-layered detoxing process that entailed homeopathic supplements, emotional work, dietary adjustments and therapeutic IVs. After carefully reviewing my test results with me, they recommended I follow the same protocol. I was skeptical this could help my breasts, but humble and scared enough to find out. What other option did I have? From where I stood, it was that or the breast surgeon, and surgery was simply not an option.
Stay tuned for Part III: My Heavy Metal Detox