the surgery… more than you wanted to know ;)

So I told you I’d let you in on the recent surgery I had… and I have a lot to say on the subject :) (I may have to abbreviate somewhat or it will turn into a book)  I’ll talk about my emotional and physical experience, before/after, and my advice for anyone considering it… maybe not in that order  :)

I want to start by saying that I do not (in any way, shape or form) recommend cosmetic surgery as a tool to lose fat – I also do not recommend it with hopes that it will help you love and accept yourself (it doesn’t work that way) – I firmly believe you need a good foundation of health and fitness and the knowledge and habits that helped you to achieve that before even considering something like this.

I am gonna be blunt, but please remember that this is MY experience, not a judgement of others’ choices, not a recommendation of how anyone else should proceed, not a judgement of the human body itself… it was a personal choice to have surgery, not a life-saving measure, and I am sharing what I went through and my results in case it helps someone else in whatever way that might be AND because I wanted to share my “getting fit” journey with others and feel I shouldn’t leave anything out of that story :)

What I wanted to address:  from losing a significant amount of body fat (60lbs), I had quite a bit of excess skin in the breast region (lovely place for a lot of extra skin with no stuffing to be hanging around) and somewhat less in the tummy area.  I love my newly transformed body and would have been very happy to live in it forever as is, but those 2 parts bothered me, and I thought it would be a nice bonus to address them if we were able to swing it.

pics of tummy and top

Before you say it – not so bad, I agree.  But it’s a personal choice :)   I’d already lost all the weight I could lose and the skin wasn’t going to improve without intervention. {I am purposely fighting off the urge to justify my decision because I know in my heart that it doesn’t matter whether others approve… YOU or society or the lady down the street that did NOT have surgery and wants to make other people feel bad for HAVING it included… I did this for me, not for anyone else :) }

What did we do?  I had a tummy tuck (skin removed, no lipo) and I had a breast tuck (heehee) (skin removed there too) AND we’d discussed that after the skin there wouldn’t be much left after the breast tuck and decided that a little help might be needed so there are moderate implants involved :)   Being a former DDD cup I have to tell you that I NEVER imagined myself considering implants.  I know breast tissue is largely fat but even as a thin 20 yr old I was never that small so I never imagined that so much would leave that area!

This was a difficult decision – that is a lot of money to spend on something that is truly not “necessary” and my always practical brain had a difficult time wrestling with the list of “more responsible” things we could use it for.  It is also a hefty recovery, which I knew just from my research… but even the doctor told me, especially with a tummy tuck, that surgery will “put you down hard” (he was not wrong by the way).   I can’t say exactly what tipped the scales… might have been the daily reminder of a former body I had no desire to be reminded of daily, in the mirror, sitting down anywhere ever, doing planks in the gym hoping my shirt wouldn’t reveal the former size of my skin… my skin just didn’t match ME and so we called to schedule :)

When I called, I wanted to be “all done” by summer so was happy when they fit us in THE NEXT WEEK!  Talk about having no time to fret!  Once I am in with something I forge ahead, rarely giving myself an “out” so we got all ready, got my work affairs in order, rearranged furniture, bought food, prepared the kids for a “recovering mommy”… and the day arrived.

And thus began the adventure called Recovery!

First night wasn’t so bad – all doped up and no need to move or get out of bed…  I was the only over night patient so 2 nurses waited on me hand and foot!  Morning came and time to go home.  Getting out of bed I realize what a “treat” this was going to be – I am bound with padding and “compression garments” from head to toe, drain tube sticking out of places that I really should have been warned about!  When they suggested wearing a robe home, they really knew what they were talking about – there was no way I could have put clothes on.  The short walk to the exit was painfully long and the difficulty of little things like actually getting INTO the car were unsettling to me – you just can’t believe how mad your muscles are at having been tucked and cut and battled around!  they refuse to cooperate in any movement.

Physically the first few weeks of recover went something like this:
5 days I was literally bound to a recliner, unable to get into or out of it on my own.  This means being totally dependant on someone else not just for food but potty breaks, showering, medication.  Even dressing was such a chore I literally wore a sheet for the first 7 days.  (My mother in law cared for me – what a saint!) There was no way to prepare for that level of disability – or the ache that came with attempting to do any of those things yourself.  Even rubbing my hands together to wash them was painful!  Oddly enough, my back ached so badly, the front didn’t seem that bad!  With such a long suture line and the skin pulled so tight I could not stand or walk or sit upright for several weeks – talk about a back ache!  

Walking up and down the hall for 5 minutes was an excrutiating chore; I had to take breaks during showers from the exhaustion of trying to hold myself up for more than 2 minutes.  Showers were followed by  dressing changes and drain tube cleaning, re-padding and re-binding. (Tummy compression binder was with me for 6 weeks!)  Day 7 saw the drain tube go bye bye which made showering and potty breaks a lot more tolerable. I was also able to go downstairs – yipee!  Day 10 I finally showered by myself.  Still sleeping in recliner.  Day 15 finally made an uncomfortable move to the bed, as long as I had support pillows on my back, my front, my legs.  This was a necessary blessing as the recliner 23.5 hours a day does a number on your backside – TMI I am sure but I had a bruise the size of a baseball on my tailbone that took 3 weeks to go away!  It really helped my back to be able to lay down also! Seems every 5 days brought a significant improvement.   The normal daily living activities took a while to ease into – even wiping down the counters or doing dishes took several weeks to be able to do with the disrupted chest muscles.  Sitting on the couch or anywhere without proper support did a number on the tummy muscles.  Everything is slowly coming back though… I am 4 months out now and I can still feel the muscles trying to get used to their new positions – the tummy is expected to take 8-12 months to feel “normal” and are not allowed to be exercised until then.  The tummy DEFINITELY takes a lot longer to heal than the breast area.

Emotionally recovery was all over the place.  The moment I woke up I knew I had done something irreversible (well duh – but it kinda hits you).  The next day when I got out of bed to go home I knew I’d done something irreversibly STUPID!  And if you’ve read anything about this surgery to prepare yourself you know that those are perfectly normal things to feel.  So I sucked it up.  But it was HARD!  As I said above, there is no way to prepare yourself – even if you’ve heard someone else tell you about it – for the ache, the total inability to care for yourself much less anyone else or the normal things you take care of as a mom/wife/business person.  That on top of a tremendous amount of guilt for the burden you have become (and cannot UN-become), and tremendous amount of guilt for knowing that what you’ve done was “elective”, the guilt that maybe that money would have been better put to use down the toilet for the way you are feeling!  And after the year and a half you’ve spent eating right and exercising to get your “new body”, now you can’t even walk down the hallway?! What did I do to myself?  I expected a week or so to be hard but it was many weeks before I could stop reminding hubby that he had to drive carefully because I can’t stabilize myself in the car and every bump just HURT, or that we had to go home from the festival because the heat + the binder + the walking was making me swell (and want to faint). It was 4 months before we went on our favorite date night – dancing! And even after that my tummy was a bit swollen and sore in the morning…

I went on an emotional roller coaster regarding the results too… you look at your “new” new body to discover the scar – 18 inches wide and red/purple – very frankenstein looking. It’s expected but then again, it’s not :)   What have I done to myself??  The tummy is still swollen (4 months later), the “girls” are too high, then they are sitting too low, then they are too big but maybe when the swelling goes down – nope still too big.  Wait a minute – did you see my butt? OMG there is so much extra skin there, it looks like I have 2 butt lines!  Didn’t think surgery was going to help that but there is an expectation that after all that misery and $$ you’ll be perfectly happy with your body – that’s not the case.  I still have skin from my heavier body all over – my butt, my elbows, my calves, my thighs, my back, my face!  What – my face!?  Doctor asks every time I go in “so what do you think?” all excited that I will praise him for his meticulous and fabulous work… to which I say “I think I’ll reserve judgement cuz right now I am just happy to be alive and showering by myself!”  (and I think you made my “girls” bigger than we talked about… but he probably doesn’t want to hear that…)

So 4 months out – I think I am happy with the end result (when it arrives – probably another 8 months to look/feel normal) – my tummy looks awesome and the “girls” and I are becoming accustomed to each other.  The scars are starting to lighten.  I cannot honestly say that I would do it again, knowing what I had to go through – sometimes it may be better not to know huh?  And now that I feel human again, the guilt for the $$ is coming on full force.  I am not happy that I cannot work my abs or my chest – the idea for this new body was to build some solid muscle and see a 6 pack for the first time EVER – wouldn’t that be awesome!?  I expected some down time but there are a lot of exercises I still can’t do for another 4-6 months and then waiting for the swelling and scars to subside – I’ll be waiting another year or more for the result I am working toward.  Realizing that I was coming along so well with my workouts before the surgery feels like a major setback :(   All in all the midway results look promising, and I am sure I will put on those rose colored glasses later on and think “oh it wasn’t so bad” ;)

Before/after (click to see larger)

I do have a lot more pics that show quite a dramatic difference but they are “revealing” so I ain’t sharin’ … but it makes me think of the pic we took right before I went “under”… all marked up with green sharpie the lines they were gonna cut and pleat and sew… was funny then, when you wake up, all those (many many) lines aren’t so funny any more hahahaha

My advice if you are considering such a procedure:

I was completely fit and below my goal weight for a year before I had this done – I went in and came out at the same exact weight – surgery did not earn me this body – *I* did!  having said that my advice is not to use this to GET to your goal, only to enhance it.  The things you learn regarding nutrition and exercise are lessons you need to learn the hard way – I saw some AMAZING transformations in the album in my doctor’s office, which not only got rid of skin but a whole lot of fat and it sounds so tempting… but I firmly believe that route is a lot less maintainable than someone that has to learn their way to the goal.

Practical advice – be SURE it’s what you want.  There is no magic about it – it hurts and it takes a LONG time to heal and you do not get off scott free – you are trading unsightly skin for an unsightly scar that will be there FOREVER.  Skin also stretches back, so if you gain 20 lbs, your skin will grow again :)   It is not perfect – in your mind you get to choose the bra size you will be and they’ll “support” themselves – untrue.  You are enhancing the human body – skin still stretches, gravity still has it’s effect, internal structures are not symmetrical even when enhanced… there is no way to predict how your skin and your muscle and your body will hold new materials.  Suffice it to say my “girls” are bigger than I wanted, inhibit a lot of chest muscle activity, and I am bound to a bra even for bed for the rest of my life (or until I don’t care whether gravity has its fun or not :)   )

And it does not fix everything – I still have skin that is bigger than my body on my thighs, my armpits, my back and ESPECIALLY my butt – so after all that $$ and pain I still deal with catching something in the mirror that makes me want to cry – we all KNOW we have imperfections (everyone does) but somehow you think after you’ve done something so drastic there would be nothing left to frown about – but there is – and you have to be ready for that.  This is but one SMALL example (I don’t have the heart to show you my a** right now, which is the biggest deposit of extra skin)… but I was all proud to pose in my new “weight lifter” tanktop and am pretty proud of my shoulder muscles, but even my shoulders have lots of wrinkles left over from a bigger body … and it’s just a reminder I’ll have to learn to accept :(

If you are sure – interview several doctors – I chose my 4th one.  See if they really listen to you (or listen too much!).  I had doctors that told me “yep we can do that” to every question I asked and it seemed like they were really in tune with me – and the ones that told me “well this isn’t what you want to hear but this is what is really gonna happen”.  I actually tended to believe the latter!

Be prepared at home for a tough and long recovery.  Mostly make sure that your caregiver and your household and your spouse are TOTALLY on board – you will depend on them for EVERYTHING for many days and 90% of things for weeks after that and it will be stressful for you and for them if they don’t understand that.
I can email you more on things I found helpful in preparing if you want  – just contact me.  Seems weird to put it in a blog :) (as if the above were completely normal!)

**If you have any questions please feel free to ask – you can find my contact info at the top of the page !  And if I seem to get a lot of the same question I’ll post an update here… I just tried to tell what “inquiring minds” want to know but your inquiry might be different than mine!**

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