Surgery, Uncategorized, Weight Loss

The Surgery

I realized about a week prior to surgery that our kids, who are 10 and 12, had been hearing us talk about “the surgery” for months. They’d watched me food prep for weeks but I wasn’t even sure if they knew WHAT I was having done. We sat them down one evening and just asked, “Do you know what surgery I’m having done?” Our son Nolan thought long and hard about it and said, “Your wrist?” It made me chuckle a little because I hadn’t ever complained of wrist problems but made sense considering I’ve done nails for 26 years. Nail technicians are prone to wrist issues.
I gave it to them straight. Giving them all the details but in ways that they could comprehend and not scare them at the same time. I explained that when you carry excess weight for a lifetime and have big babies (Nolan was 10lbs 1oz and Violet was 9lbs 5oz) that the stomach muscles stretch out and don’t return, it’s very uncomfortable and the only way to fix it was surgery. I never wanted them to think it was their fault so I took most of the blame for mistreating my body for so many years. They remember me at my heaviest and have seen me shrink to half my size and their father lose over 100lbs too. I ensured them that it was a safe procedure and prepared them for the pain I would be in. They understood I would need help standing up at first but it would get easier with time and I’d be better in time for camping season!
My husband Darren had a total knee replacement 8 weeks prior so they were already familiar with the drill. They were so amazing during that time. They were so patient, helpful and understanding. We did a household bootcamp of sorts training them to do their own laundry, empty and load the dishwasher, clean the litter boxes etc… I know, I know, all things they should have been doing anyway. We are less than perfect parents.

 

 


Our kiddos have been great through the last 2 weeks and have been super helpful once again and they’ve let me rest. I think our pups have taken it harder actually since they can’t be in our bed until I’ve healed a bit more. “The surgery” has been a roller coaster so far, but so far it’s worth the pain and frustration. I look forward to feeling more comfortable in my own skin and certainly don’t miss the skin infections under my mommy flap!

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Surgery

I Should Sue…

When I began my journey to lose 165lbs (that’s HALF of myself!) no one ever discussed the ramifications. My health coach Salina never once mentioned the fact that I would be replacing every stitch of clothing I own, yes even my socks (I wore plus size socks). She also never told me that I’d have all this hanging skin that would cause all kinds of issues like infections and all the extra effort and garments it takes to shove it all into pants. If you didn’t know already, I’ve scheduled an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) for exactly a month from today. I’ll have about 2 weeks of hard recovery that I will need around the clock assistance.

When I had my two Carotid Artery Dissections (2 years apart) it was easier to accept help because it was a very sudden and serious medical emergency and obviously had zero time to plan for the 19 days and 6 days I was in the hospital. We gladly accepted the meal train to feed our family, go fund me (which helped supplement all the time off that we both had), housekeeping, laundry etc… but this time feels much different because it’s an elective surgery.

It’s something I’ve been really struggling with and stressing about the past few weeks. We have such little family in the area (mine is out of state) and I am just uncomfortable asking for help in general. People are busy with their own life stuff and I can’t imagine I’ll be the most fun person to hang out with while I’m recovering.

I already had a few close friends lined up for the first few days after Darren goes back to work, but I still had a week that I planned on just winging it and hoping for the best alone. I considered hiring a care taker but it was crazy expensive.

Her words, “Want me to fly out?” warmed my heart and I just couldn’t believe that someone would do that for me. Within the hour she had booked her flight from Tucson to Detroit to stay for the entire second week of my recovery. She is a full time health coach and has the freedom work from anywhere. I am so excited to have her here with me!

Salina has been my rock for the last 21 months of my life. Helping me lose my last 75lbs, somehow managed to talk me into becoming a health coach after repeatedly saying, “No thank you”. A decision I don’t regret it for a second now that I’ve helped hundreds of people lose thousands of pounds. She saw something in me that I never did.

In the process she became one of my best friends. Not many days go by that we don’t chat. Our husbands (who we are convinced are the same person) finally got to meet this past summer and have developed a close friendship as well. It’s so amazing to have people in our lives that truly care and will do anything for you. And darn it, she did this to me in the first place so she should come and help take care of me. She’s lucky I didn’t sue. 😉

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Surgery

Call Me Selfish. (I dare you!)

Let’s get something straight right up front. I am grateful for this body. This body has produced and birthed 2 amazing children. It survived 2 major life threatening injuries in 2 years and fully repaired itself. The human body is a beautiful vessel that is life giving, resilient and forgiving. I could not be happier than where I am today. There is no BUT here. Just AND.

I made the decision a long time ago that if I reached my optimal weight goal that I would reward myself with a tummy tuck. Losing half my body weight has been a journey in itself but what I didn’t anticipate was the aftermath. The mental battle of entering the maintenance portion of the ride, replacing my entire closet (necessary after going from a VERY tight size 28 to a 6) and the excess skin. Lots and lots of extra skin. Saggy and flappy skin in places I had no idea were possible.

I’ve maintained my “half my size” status for over 6 months now. I went from 321 to 156lbs. That is 165 pounds lost total. I’ve been very transparent along my journey and have not been particularly quiet about my intentions to get plastic surgery. I get a lot of messages about what an inspiration my story is on a daily basis. The most common inquiry is, “how did you do it?!” I also get lots of questions about the loose skin situation. Do I have it? Yep. Responses like, “I’m afraid to lose weight because of the loose skin.” Really?! I would rather be at a healthy weight and have the extra skin! Don’t let the negative ruin all the positive things that happen when you live a healthier life! The positives outweigh the negatives by far. When you lead a healthy life you have more energy, less inflammation, pain relief, mental clarity, less or no medications, less sickness… the list goes on and on.

No, insurance will not cover any of the procedure. Apparently there are 3 criteria for insurance coverage. You must:

  • Have lost 100 pounds or more. (CHECK!)
  • Kept it off for over 6 months. (CHECK!)
  • Had bariatric surgery. (NOPE! All natural here.)

To say I was a bit disappointed to be disqualified for insurance coverage is an understatement. Don’t get me started on the fact that the bariatric surgery itself would have cost more than my tummy tuck, let alone any complications that could arise. I saved them a ton of money for doing it myself and should be rewarded right?!?

Once I forgave the health care system I was able to move forward and begin making plans. There are many reasons for my decision to have a tummy tuck but here are my top 5:

  1. Ewwwww. I’m gross.If you’ve never been obese and lost a substantial amount of weight you aren’t aware of the problems with excess skin. A flap of skin develops in the abdomen area that I’ll call the “apron”. It hangs down and over my girly parts. Then there is the bellybutton that folds into itself. (my stomach folds inward vertically when squeezed into pants). These areas create the perfect environment for yeast growth, infection and horribly painful sores. During the summer it’s exacerbated of course and no amount of showers can solve the issue. Gross right?! I’ve had my dermatologist record all my irritations in hopes it would help my cause when it comes to insurance but unfortunately it doesn’t matter.
  2. Clothes don’t fit right.Image may contain: one or more peopleThis may be vain, but really it’s about my comfort level. The struggle is real though. I’ve got a crazy daily routine just to get into my clothes. Every day I’ve got on several layers just to contain all the skin so I can simply fit into my clothes. I range between a size 6 or 8 depending on the brand and would most likely be a 4-6 without the skin. It’s extremely difficult to find bottoms that fit right to accommodate the excess skin and fit well everywhere else. One day, if I’m brave enough I’ll do a video for my followers to show how on earth I squeeze all my saggy skin in to look semi “normal”. My secret to attempting to hide it all is smoothing camisoles and high wasted shapers (if you haven’t tried Ruby Ribbon’s braless camis and shapers they are crazy good at smoothing and shaping!).
  3. My muscles are shot.So when you’re obese and/or you have kids (I’ve had 2 BIG ones. 10Lbs 1 oz. and 9lbs 5oz.) the abdominal muscles become distended and pull apart, called diastasis. Muscles stretch to accommodate the growing baby when you’re pregnant and they stretch so far that they separate. A million crunches cannot bring them back together and it can only be corrected with surgery. This separation causes discomfort for me if I’m not wearing a support garment. I’ve spent years “sucking it in” to relieve the discomfort and I just don’t want to do it anymore. Luckily this is something that be corrected with the tummy tuck procedure!
  4. I want more self-confidence.I’m not trying to be a swimsuit model. I just want to be comfortable in my own skin. I want my outside to match what I feel on the inside. I have always had a certain amount of confidence but it’s always been overshadowed with feelings of self doubt and shame. I will never be perfect, no one is. I’m always striving for progress and not perfection.
  5. I deserve it!When I reached my 100 pound weight loss I treated myself to a pair of special earrings with 100 stones (50 on each ear) and they’re an excellent reminder of how far I’ve come. While my excess skin is also a reminder of how far I’ve come in my journey, it’s also a reminder of the years I spent abusing my body. Obesity isn’t all physical abuse. It’s mental as well. So this procedure will be for my mental and physical health. I’ve worked so hard to improve my well-being by developing healthier habits (by replacing the unhealthy ones), gaining a healthy relationship with food and adding in healthy movement whenever possible. It’s easier said that done sometimes, trust me! I believe this is the ultimate reward for my consistency and utter persistence.

Do I have fears about going under the knife? Of course I do. The biggest one being my family. We’ve all heard stories of mothers dying during plastic surgery – articles describing children left motherless because their mothers decided to have elective surgery. I did my homework, asked for referrals and visited 3 surgeons before finally choosing one that I fully trust and respect. It came down which one truly had my best interest and safety in mind.

The surgeon I chose is experienced, comes with excellent references and referrals, was the most professional out of the 3, was honest in expectations and is not the cheapest. My favorite part about him was when he personally called me the week after my second consult with him and he had been thinking a lot about my case after I left and he’d changed his mind about doing a combination of procedures we had discussed. He wasn’t comfortable having me under for that long. While I was bummed about having to recover twice, I totally respect him for speaking up and ultimately putting my safety first. I’m not sure either of the other 2 doctors I consulted with would have done the same. I also love what my dermatologist said about him, “His nurses hate working for him because he’s a perfectionist. If he isn’t 100% happy he fixes it until he is.” As a self proclaimed perfectionist I can appreciate that!

So January 15, 2019 at 8am will be this life altering event. This is the next chapter in my journey and I appreciate all the love and support that I’ve received so THANK YOU. I’ll need all the support I can get as the date gets closer!

Surgery

Not As Seen on TV

It was midnight when I read an email from a friend with an opportunity for pro-bono plastic surgery from a local “celebrity” plastic surgeon. He was looking for deserving candidates for a TV show. I have been 100% transparent in my health journey and had no issues with exposing myself on TV. If I could help just 1 other person I was all in.

I had already looked into seeing this doctor when I was researching surgeons and I knew it was $500 just for a consult with this man. I couldn’t see spending that kind of money for a consult but didn’t see that I had anything to lose by submitting my HUGE weight loss story and seeing what happens.

I sent an email to the supplied address and by the next morning I had a reply from the office manager who gushed over my progress and said what an inspiration I was and she had already forwarded my email to the doctor. By 5pm that night I had a reply directly from the doctor and he was very interested in submitting my case to the show. He asked for pictures (the horror!) and a more detailed story. He wanted me to basically explain why I felt like I deserved this surgery more than someone else (the horror!!). How on earth does one do that when you don’t believe you are more deserving than anyone else? Everyone deserves to be happy and free of what’s holding them back, whether it’s excess skin, emotional baggage or a bad tattoo.

I tried to dig deep. My shovel was dull. I thought about who would be able to help me get my story written in a way that no one could refuse my plea. My long time friend Liz has seen me grow and shrink over the last 10 years and after seeing each other every 2 weeks she knows me pretty darn well. Not to mention she is a brilliant writer. I begged for her help in writing this letter to the doctor:

Dear Doctor,

One chilly February morning I walked the 6 houses back home from dropping my son off at the bus stop. I was exhausted and out of breath. My 4 year old daughter Violet could walk faster than me. I was 321 pounds and terrified. My type 2 diabetic mother and brother were both diagnosed around my age, my father had passed in 2004 from Melanoma and my current situation was grave. I was scared for my kids. I could hardly move to play with them. I avoided activities all the time because of my weight.

I’ve been overweight my entire adult life. I was an overweight child, then an obese teenager with food issues. As an adult it didn’t get any better. For years I struggled with depression and anxiety over the way I looked. On the outside I seemed happy. No one knew the inner struggles I had with myself on a daily basis. I would have done anything to lose the weight. At that point it made me sick to look at myself in the mirror. Pretty ironic for a woman who works in the beauty industry.

I made the decision that day to join Weight Watchers. I immediately went inside the house, signed up and found myself in a seat at a meeting an hour later. It took me over 3 years to lose 100 pounds. It felt amazing to hit that huge milestone but I still had a long ways to go. I prayed that the skin on my belly and arms would tighten but it just hung there. My breasts deflated and I actually started to feel worse about myself.

I started to exercise thinking that healthy movement was the missing link and about 2 weeks into my membership something happened that nearly killed me. During a class (at Jazzercise mind you) I had the first symptoms of what nearly became a stroke. I wound up in the hospital for 19 days with a Carotid Artery Dissection. 2 aneurysms, blood thinners, debilitating headaches and movement restrictions knocked me right down. I was the healthiest I’d been in my entire life and this is what I was rewarded with. Feeling sorry for myself, I gained 10lbs back and had pretty much given up.

A year later I was introduced to a health coach who set me up with a nutrition plan and I quickly got my momentum back and released an additional 72lbs for a total of 162lbs! I also began helping others to get healthy, including my husband. I’ve helped over 100 people lose over 1700 pounds since May 2017. Walking along side my clients has been such an honor and has really helped me to stay on track and move forward in my own health journey. They inspire me every day.

I was feeling so amazing and this past September I received the all clear to exercise after 2 years of recovering from my CAD. I quickly joined a gym and after a week of working out it happened again. My symptoms returned and I wound up in the hospital with a second Carotid Artery Dissection on the opposite side. We weren’t sure if the first one was exercise induced but it was confirmed with this second one that I was officially unable to exercise beyond walking, biking or swimming. Ever. My hopes for toning my flabby body were crushed. I was thrilled and lucky to be alive but nonetheless I was devastated.

I was never looking for a quick fix, which is why gastric bypass wasn’t even an option. I knew that I’d have to change my eating habits regardless so I didn’t see a reason for invasive surgery. The after effects of weight loss coupled with health scares beyond my control are completely demoralizing. I have hanging skin between my legs, saggy boobs, flabby tummy and (what my kids call them) waggling arms. Pants never fit right. Bras have empty space. Shirts are too tight on the arms. I have skin issues no matter how often I shower. It makes it extremely difficult to be intimate with my husband with all the excess skin. My ultimate goal was to get healthier and happier but it seems to be the opposite of what is really happening.

Life is short and I want to be my best self. For 25 years I have dedicated my days to making other women feel beautiful when I myself felt lost within my own body. This has evolved into health and wellness for my family, my own weight loss, and giving myself to others. Even writing this is difficult because I am usually the one to give to others without asking for anything in return. In addition to my gratitude I’d love to be a resource for your patients and anyone else who wants to get healthier and feel better. We are all in this journey together. Whether we are big or small, have extra skin or winkled skin, no matter who we are we just want to feel good in our skin. Shedding my excess skin would be a dream come true and would finally help me to look how I feel on the inside!

Jill Clark  

I reluctantly had my husband take some photos with no clothes on so the doctor could see everything and pass it along to the show with my letter. I put off sending it for a week. I was ashamed and nervous. When I finally hit the send button I became even more nervous. I knew there was a big possibility they wouldn’t even consider me because of the blood thinners that I’m still taking. When I heard back from him he simply said, “Although you have a lot of skin and can benefit from a tummy tuck, my experience is that it is probably not extreme enough. I will be happy to send along though and let you know if you are chosen!”  I’ve lost 162lbs. Not extreme enough?! I was once again devastated. I never heard from him again.

So my story continues and as long as my artery heals enough in the next few months I will be cleared for surgery! My plan is to have a mommy makeover in January of 2019 during my slow time at the salon. For now, onward and upward!