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!

 

 

 

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I’m a Unicorn.

Yup. I’m convinced I’m a unicorn.

In September 2017 I had my 2 year post Carotid Artery Dissection (CAD) follow up with my interventional radiologist. He broke up with me that day. He literally said, “We can’t see each other anymore.” I cried a little out of sadness but really was mostly out of pure JOY. My body had healed itself and I was longer in need of his services. I was given the all clear to get off baby aspirin and start exercising again (with some modifications of course). After losing over 140lbs I was ready to tone my flabby bod!

I was feeling so amazing that I joined a gym (which is basically the second biggest commitment of my life next to marriage!). I went 5 times when it happened. A moment that I never saw coming. November 27th, 2017, almost 2 years to the day of my first CAD I had identical symptoms 20 minutes into my workout. First the ocular migraine, an hour later a dull headache that wouldn’t quit. I waited things out thinking there was no way this could be happening again. Carotid Artery Dissections are rare, a second one? Even more so.

The next day after a long discussion with myself about how ridiculous I was being and noticing that my Horner’s Syndrome had returned I drove myself to the ER. A few hours and a CT scan later I was diagnosed with a second CAD but this time it was on the opposite side.

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You can see my left eye is droopy and swollen (Horner’s Syndrome)

I was hospitalized for 6 days. I was determined not to let it be the 19 days it was last time. This time I was better educated about blood thinners and how my diet affected the medications. Being away from my family again was tough but I knew everything was going to be OK in the end. Having a prior experience really helped me mentally get through it and stay positive. I was worried about the kids and how they’d react when they heard I was back in the hospital but they handled it well. I had lots of visitors (including #hospitalbff Amy that I met the first time this happened!).

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Hospital BFF Amy and I!

 

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Even the kids in Violet’s class made me get well cards! So sweet!

I had some issues with roommates again, rooming with a very sick older person is never easy. I felt really bad for poor Arlene! My headache was excruciating and having a roommate that is hard of hearing is never a good combo. I eventually got moved to another room with a better match. Praise God!

When I showed up in my interventional radiologist’s office the following week he was in utter disbelief (as was I!) that I had a second CAD. I was his first repeat CAD patient (lucky me!). He assured me that the exercise I had been doing was perfectly fine for a 2 year post CAD patient considering my age and health status. This is when I knew that I was special. I had done a little research about genetics playing a part in what I was experiencing and he agreed that it was time to get some answers.

I was immediately referred to a geneticist at University of Michigan. It’s not as easy as calling and getting an appointment either. You have to have a referral with pages and pages of documents, family history, medical records and test results for them to even consider you. You basically have to be something super interesting, like a unicorn.

When I received a call a week later that I had been chosen to receive genetic testing I was ecstatic. Finally, an opportunity to get the answers I had been looking for! I spent hours filling out family genetic history paperwork and bugging my mom every day for more information. I went to the appointment, we chatted a bit about the testing process and they took a vial of blood. The sample was then sent off to California and the 2-3 week wait for results began.

So yesterday was day 20 (not that I was counting!) and I got the call. 24 out of 25 of the connective tissue related genes were negative (normal. Great news!). The one that was abnormal was inconclusive. The COL5A2 gene is associated with Classical Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS). There are many different types of EDS including a vascular type (the worst case scenario) and I had been totally convinced this was what I had. It would explain both of my CADs.

All types of EDS can cause connective tissue fragility. With a badly-constructed or processed connective tissue, some or all of the tissue in the EDS-affected body can be pulled beyond normal limits which causes damage. Connective tissue can be found almost anywhere, in skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments, blood vessels, ARTERIES, organs, gums, eyes etc.

Turns out I do not have the vascular type (that’s one of the 24 that were negative) but I could have the classical type. An inconclusive result means there is something different about that gene but they aren’t really sure what it is yet. I’m headed back to U of M for a physical exam where they were check me out for physical attributes of EDS to maybe get a more definitive answer. I’m also aware that there is a skin biopsy procedure that can help diagnose EDS as well. There is no cure for EDS, just more prevention.

I’m glad to finally be getting some answers and am blessed to not had more abnormal genes but frustrated that nothing is definitive. Time will tell, whether it’s more testing or genetic research that needs to be done. I’m still convinced that I’m a unicorn though. Shiny, colorful and rare.

 

 

I got married today!

I got married today. For like, the 3rd time but this time it’s for REALSIES. It’s a long story but here it goes. We got engaged on one of Darren’s visits in from Michigan in 2005. We had planned a lovely wedding in my California hometown of Livermore for September 23, 2006 where I’d always dreamed of getting married. Ravenswood! I was so busy planning the wedding that I didn’t even realize that there was another plan for me for the next 9 months… Yup. I was pregnant. In November I moved to Michigan as planned but 3 months pregnant (not planned).

I had Blue Cross of California health insurance which ends 6 months after you move out of state so come spring I was going to have to purchase independent health insurance to cover me and the baby until our wedding in September. I thought, “this is silly.” We agreed that getting married now and getting me and our son on his insurance BEFORE he was born would be much smarter way to go. So there we were planning a wedding for February 24, 2006 in Darren’s mom’s living room.

1st wedding

Look at us all shiny and happy!

Darren arranged with his best friend Kurt to marry us. I bought a pretty new outfit for my 6 month pregnant belly, bought a bunch of purple tulips, bought Darren a shiny new tie and we said I do! I even had my mom and aunt on speakerphone in the room so they could “attend” from afar. After, my aunt said, “this is by far the weirdest wedding I’ve ever been to.” Indeed! We signed the all 3 marriage certificates, celebrated with champagne (sparkling cider for me!) and had some snacks. It was perfect!

2nd wedding

In September we had our second wedding in California. It was more of a renewal of our vows of sorts, some guests knew we were legally married already but many of them didn’t. It didn’t really matter to us, it was the celebration we had been planning for almost a year. Nolan was 3 months old and stole the show in his tuxedo. It was an incredible day spent with friends and family that we’ll never forget!

Fast forward 11 years when my mom asked for a copy of our marriage license for a change in the trust account that I had signed with my married name back in the summer. The original forms had been signed with my maiden name so the attorney requested our marriage license. We had no clue where it was. Somewhere in our house. We hadn’t seen it since our first wedding 11 years prior. We dug through the basement, bedroom, garage, office. Couldn’t find it. Our officient couldn’t find his copy either.

I gave up after a couple weeks and ordered a new one through the county website. 5 minutes and $15 later it was done. So I thought. 2 weeks later (and while in the hospital mind you) I received an email from the county that said, “We have no record of your marriage in Macomb County.  The note on the license said it was NEVER used.” Um. Yes it was. I have photos of us holding them!

Apparently the county never received their copy so it was never officially filed. This meant that we weren’t really married. Flashes of our lives, buying a house, cars, life insurance, filing taxes… all of it a lie! We were given an option to have 2 witnesses from that wedding to sign a letter saying we indeed got married. Before we could get those letters done and notarized I found our marriage license copy in a random box in our living room.

So today Darren made us official and submitted the license to the county so it can be officially filed. I had a 5 minute bachelorette party at the salon and we celebrated our 3rd wedding over a text message. Talk about a weird wedding! It feels good to finally be official! #truestory #nolongersingle

6 months in!

6 months into my new health program with a personal health coach and I am so close to my goal weight I can taste it! I’ve lost 43lbs since February (which makes for a total of 135lbs lost to date) and who know how many inches (why didn’t I measure myself?! Oh I know why. I thought this would be another program that wouldn’t work…) but I went from an XL/Size 16 to a Medium/Size 12. I have about 25lbs more to go to get to my initial goal weight of 160. Check this before and after out!

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My non scale victories (NSV) have been probably more rewarding than the numbers on the scale.  My energy level has been through the roof, my mental clarity has returned after having kids and clothes shopping is actually FUN now!

I’ve been personally coaching about 25 clients with this program over the past few months and overall they have lost over 200lbs! I absolutely LOVE helping others achieve optimal health and feel incredible! My own coach has been such an integral part of my success and she has been such an incredible mentor and friend.

One of my favorite clients of course is my husband! He’s lost an incredible 40lbs and is seriously on a mission to relieve the pressure on his bad knees as he prepares for a knee replacement. He may have been the toughest client yet but I’m super proud of him!

I truly believe that this program has transformed my life. As I continue with my journey to optimal health I realize I will not be a “new” person as I reach my goals. Instead I am shedding layers of doubt, fear, and negative self talk that have existed for so many years. The more I progress, the more I am feeling connected to my true self. I hope you are too! If you’re not, let your journey begin today. Don’t wait another minute.

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3 months in…

So a lot has happened in the last 3 months since trying out a new health program! Month 1 I lost over 10lbs, Month 2 I was at almost 20lbs shed and by month 3 I decided it was time to become a coach myself since so many people were noticing my incredible results and asking me what I was doing.  Here is my before and after for the first few months.

17880518_10154507627073097_735795765422978222_oIncredible right?!?! I had no idea how much my body had changed in that time since I look at myself every single day. This is why it’s so important to document with measurements and photos along your health journey!

My experience with the program and being a health coach has enlightened me in so many ways. I’m much more accountable and really want to be a good example for all my clients. I absolutely LOVE helping others achieve optimal health and feel incredible!

Are you ready to transform your body and mind? I can help! Email me at jillannclark@gmail.com and lets chat!

 

Week 1 Results!

Just completed Week 1 of working with a health coach and here are my results! I’m thrilled!

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I stayed 99% on track (I snuck 2 bites of pineapple while cutting one up for the kids) and it was so easy. Eating 6 times a day has really made a huge difference.  I’m not starving at any given time.  Just when I’m starting to feel a little hungry it’s time to eat again!

I’ve loved finding out that a couple friends are doing the same plan, one is 4 weeks out (down 28lbs) and the other 6 (down 17lbs) which is super encouraging and helpful! This plan has an amazing community.

I’m really enjoying cooking hnew recipes (especially the “dupes” like this one) and can I just say that my energy level had kicked up about 26 notches?! On day 5 the fat burn kicked in and hasn’t quit since. I’ve slept better (as good as i can with a 3 month old puppy) and really have a lot more motivation to get things done.  I haven’t had this much energy since I had my kids over 10 years ago. That alone has been worth it!

Week 2, here I come!

My Silence Ends Now!

I’ve been quiet. Too quiet. I can’t explain myself. I shouldn’t have to. I’m an adult. However, I do feel sort of a sense of responsibility to my friends, family and followers. I’ve struggled for the last year to get back on track. I became bored of Weight Watchers but loved the sense of community it brought me. Some of the nicest people I’ve ever met sat next to me every Wednesday morning in that room.
 
It was a hard decision to cancel my WW membership. I hated making that phone call. I am however excited to have a new plan that I’m trying and will be journaling here about my experience and results.  I’ve maintained my weight loss for the most part, I’m still around 90lbs lost which is a feat in itself. I knew that I needed to shake things up a bit to get past the “Set point” in which my body has been in for most of my life.
Today is day 1 of my new plan and so far so good (I’ve been awake for 2 hours ha ha!). I’ve distracted myself with shoveling the 1 inch of snow we got from the driveway and walkways (some might consider that unnecessary, I consider it a mere distraction from the evil that lurks in my kitchen (left over pizza from last night).
I want to take a moment to thank all my friends and family who have supported me for the last 4 years through this journey and have reached out to me to say that I have inspired them in some shape or form. Or those that have met up with me to exercise at one point or another. It’s such a neat experience to have “followers” who have been inspired by my success but the pressure to keep it up can also be tough.
My original goal was to be at my goal weight by my 40th birthday. It’s in August. I now have 6 months to lose approximately 80lbs. While that may be a stretch, I plan to be as close as safely possible and really get down to business. Enough is ENOUGH!
Here is to a new journey, one that will bring fabulous to my 40th!