Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Skin Removal Surgery, Part 2: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Click here for Part 1.

Having a lower body lift after losing well over a hundred pounds was one of the best decisions I've ever made. It's been over seven weeks since surgery, and I'm SO HAPPY that I did it! It wasn't all sunshine and roses, however. Here, I will share the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of the skin removal surgery...

The Good
I'll start with the obvious: My mid-section looks a million times better than it did before surgery! Even from the first day post-op, I was thrilled with the results.

The surgery wasn't nearly as painful as I thought it was going to be. The first few days were rough, which I'll talk about in "The Bad" section, but the rest of recovery was pretty easy. My stomach and incision were completely numb, so it didn't hurt. I switched from Vicodin to Motrin after about a week, and I'm sure I could have done that even sooner.

Before surgery, I was very worried about the incision across my back (which is at the top of each butt cheek, very low). It really scared me to have an incision that went all the way around. But after the surgery, I actually paid very little attention to that part of the incision, because I kind of forgot about it. The back lift part of the lower body lift was the easiest part of the surgery.

The compression garment wasn't nearly as annoying as I'd read about online. Actually, I kind of liked wearing it. It's a secure feeling. It's very tight, but I wasn't uncomfortable wearing it at all.

I was able to move easily on my own after about five days.

I was cleared to start running again (or any exercise except ab work) after just eight days post-op (but I chose to wait until 4 weeks).

I feel SO MUCH MORE CONFIDENT in my body now. I don't feel like I have to "hide" my figure, and I feel confident to wear cute clothes and tight jeans. It has done wonders for my self-esteem!

I recovered very quickly. I thought I would be layed up in bed for six weeks, but I was moving around easily by two weeks post-op.

I didn't have a single complication. This might have been luck, or maybe the fact that I followed my surgeon's instructions right to the tee, but I was very happy not to have any complications.

The Bad
I was extremely nauseous after surgery for about 15 hours. I even dry-heaved a few times in the hospital, and it hurt very badly because my abs were sore. I've never experienced nausea like that! It was so bad that I cried (which made it hurt more).
Jerry was so kind to take my picture while I was feeling pukey

My mouth was extremely dry after surgery for about 24 hours. I was told that part of the anesthesia causes you to stop producing saliva for about 24 hours. It was extremely difficult to chew and swallow food because I had no saliva in my mouth. I drank a ton of water just to be able to eat.

It's hard to get comfortable while lying down, and it hurt my abs very badly to turn over. I slept on each side and my back, turning every couple of hours so I didn't get too stiff, but turning over was very painful in my abs.

I was extremely weak. I cannot believe how tired I got from everything I did. For about the first week post-op, I became exhausted from something as simple as taking a shower or walking to the bathroom. I would have to do my shower quickly enough so that I could lie back down. I was out of breath from just walking to the bathroom. It was a weird feeling, because I was in great shape prior to surgery, running 3-5 times a week. I can't imagine doing this surgery if I was OUT of shape to start with. The weakness was probably THE hardest part about the surgery.

The drains are a pain in the ass to carry around. I had four of them, and it was impossible to tuck them into my pants, so I had to come up with other creative ways of wearing them. While at home, I just hooked them to my shirt or waist band, not caring that they were visible.

I had a weird burning pain on my thighs for a few weeks. It was a surface pain that felt like I had been burned (like a sunburn). I don't know what it was from--the skin looked totally normal there--but it resolved after a few weeks.

After taking four weeks off from running, I wasn't able to just pick up where I left off. It was painful in my abs, but mostly, my lungs felt like they were on fire from being out of shape. I was very winded, even going at a slow, easy pace.

My hip bones felt very strange for a few weeks post-op. They weren't really painful, but I couldn't stand to press on them or have any pressure on them. I couldn't wear tight jeans for a few weeks because they pressed against my hip bones and it was a very weird, extremely uncomfortable feeling.

My abdominal muscle repair was the most painful part of the surgery. Like I said, my incision didn't hurt, but my ab muscles were sooo sore for about ten days. I walked hunched over for about a week. Sneezing, coughing, and laughing were pretty painful for a couple of weeks.

I had to eat a ton of protein. This is under "The Bad" because I've never been a "protein person". I don't like meat very much, and it's hard to get a lot of protein without eating meat. I ate a LOT of pan-fried salmon, tuna fish, and nuts to get protein. I had a protein shake every morning, and my snacks were string cheese and nuts. My doctor wanted me to get 100+ grams per day, and I complied by getting probably about 130 grams. That is VERY hard to do!
Salmon and parsley potatoes--my lunch nearly every day!

I definitely needed help around the house for the first five days or so. Luckily, I have a super supportive mom and husband. They took great care of me! When Jerry was at work, my mom came over and did housework for me and helped me move around. Jerry waited on me hand and foot. My parents kept my kids for a few days. This surgery would be extremely difficult to get through if you don't have someone to help you.

The Ugly (I was going to post a lot of the "ugly" pictures from post-surgery here, but a lot of my pictures have been winding up on Pinterest lately, and I really don't want my surgery pics on there.)

Initially, the incision looks kind of gross. There is a lot of dried, crusty blood, but I didn't want to peel it or pick at it for fear of opening up a wound.

My belly button still looks red and irritated, but it's just the color of the incision right now. It doesn't hurt (and never has) but it looks kind of gross for a while. When I first came home, I had gauze packed in there with tape over it.

On each side, just behind my hips, there was a spot in the incision a couple of inches long that looked puckered. I asked my surgeon about it, and she said that it was normal and after the sutures dissolved, it would smooth out. (She was right, it has smoothed out now). But the first couple of weeks, it looked gross--wrinkled and kind of gathered on the bottom half of the incision. My surgeon said it was from the bottom half being larger than the top half--which makes sense. Of course the skin isn't going to line up perfectly. So it was wrinkled while it healed.

My back was very bruised (from about the middle of my back all the way to the incision line). This was from the small amount of liposuction that my surgeon did on my lower back. The bruising didn't hurt, but it sure was ugly!

The drain tubes coming out of my body didn't bother me, but I guess many people would consider it ugly ;)  There was one on my left hip, close to my butt, two just under my pubic hair line (one of the left, one on the right) and one on the front part of my right hip. The one on my left hip was pretty sore and I was relieved to have it removed.

My belly button looked off center at first, and I was worried about having to get a revision down the road to fix it. But it must have been because of swelling or something, because gradually, it centered. It's still a little off, but that's how it was before surgery. The surgeon doesn't actually MOVE your belly button--they just move the skin around it.

The swelling is pretty bad for a few weeks. Immediately after surgery, I was excited to see that I wasn't swollen at all. I thought I was just lucky. Then it hit me after about a week, and I swelled up a lot. Even now, I'm seven weeks out from surgery and my very low abdomen is still swollen--it looks like a bump.

I think that pretty much sums up everything I can come up with about the surgery! Of course, I'm happy to answer questions, so feel free to e-mail me.


  1. I felt like you did on my first runs after I broke my foot. It has pretty much come back now, thank goodness.

    Best of luck as you keep healing!

  2. I'm one of the freaks that like to see the ugly! I used to love a show on TLC called 'The Operation.' My husband can't stand when I watch stuff like that! Can you believe it's been 7 weeks???

  3. I wouldn't mind seeing pics either. I'm thinking of getting a tummy tuck sometime in the future.

    I sent you an e-mail the other day. I'm not sure if you got it or not.

  4. I can't believe it's been 7 weeks already! For you it probably has felt like a lifetime though! How many times can I tell you how happy I am for you? Really?! Can I say it again? It's the first time in 2012...KATIE I'M SO HAPPY FOR YOU!! :)

  5. Oh my Lord, people are pinning your surgery pics?! Can you get them off of there? People need to have a wee more couth.

  6. It's inspiring that the experience has had a positive spin on you emotionally as well. Thank you for sharing, love the details, I feel like I was there!

    Just curious, how do your pics end up on pintrest?

  7. This is a great post. Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us!

  8. Wow,, you are such a thorough person,, Loved it. So glad all went well for you,, you certainly deserved it Katie .

  9. I actually think it's cool that you've been pinned. lol! Of course I haven't pinned you. But I have shared your blog via FB and emails. I think you are such an inspiration. I wouldn't be offended by the pinning. I mean really anything you put online, you should be comfortable enough for all the world to see. Otherwise don't put it out there. I think people are just inspired by you and sharing you with everyone they know. :) That being said, I'd like to see as many pics as you are comfortable with. Every time I take a shower I look at my flab and think how cool it would be to get surgery. I have lost 70-75 lbs depending on the day. I'll never reach 100 though I don't think. I'm too tall with too much muscle. Last night was the first time I found myself wishing I had been fatter to start with! lol I'm a hot mess! :)

  10. Katie,
    I hope you don't mind, but I told a couple people on Spark about your latest blogs. They were talking about having sagging skin and wondering about skin reduction surgery. I don't think I've ever read such a comprehensive description of everything a person goes through during that kind of surgery as what you have written here. What a service you have done for anyone considering it. Thanks again Katie--you're great!

  11. HI Katie,

    You have been through a lot!! I am amazed.

    I would like to see your pics as well . . .

    Thanks for your inspiration . . .

  12. Thank you for writing about the different aspects of the surgery. I had a question pop in my head after I woke up...How was it driving in the car on the way home? Did you have to lay back? How long was it before you could drive?

  13. @NewJewels

    Good question! I just added it to the end of Part 1 (the blog post just before this one).

  14. Hey! I had the same surgery 3 years ago. My pics (before and after) looked almost identical. Was interesting for me to walk back down that path!! :) I made the mistake of putting my hand on my stomach when they were pulling out my drains. OMG, there's a sensation I was not prepared for. Lol. I'm glad your hip "pucker" sorted itself out....I've still got a little bit of one, but honestly, I don't really care! Thanks for sharing!!

  15. Katie - you're such an inspiration. I've read your SparkPage several times in the last couple of years and seeing you do it makes me think I can do it too. I just started using blogger myself and I just became a follower of yours.

    One question - Does the 100+ lbs lost count pregnancy weight? I was 240 lbs when I checked in to have my daughter, and I didn't weigh myself again until several weeks later, when I was back down to about 215. I can't get to 115, but I can get to 140. Anyway, do you think that counts as losing 100+ for being covered for surgery? I have MAJOR apron belly and it's only going to get worse when I lose another 60 lbs.

    And 30's not so bad - I just turned 30 last summer. :)

    1. That's a good question! You'll have to ask your insurance company (they might have different qualifications anyway). My pregnancy weight was actually 271!! But I didn't count that ;)

  16. Wow... I did happen to find your blog off of a before and after from pinterest, but I'm so happy I did. I can't begin to imagine the journey that you've been on! Reading through your various posts from pre to post surgery I'm given a glimpse into the difficulties that come with this transition but I know that I can never truly understand what you've been through. Thank you for such an informational series on this portion of your life. You are inspiring and, as you said in an earlier post, you got yourself to point of 250 lbs, you also were the person to change. This was an amazing transformation and I am so happy for you. The emotional transformation must be even more spectacular. I wish you a happy, healthy, and bright future!

  17. Hi. Thank you for this blog. I can totally relate and it is so nice to hear other's victories and the fight that led them there. I lost over 100lbs. over 3yrs. ago and had a tummy tuck, breast lift, and lipo in September of 2011. It has almost been 5 mos. post-op and I am still experiencing numbness but my incisions are healing smoothly. You seem to be very confident in your body since your weightloss and surgery. Did you ever struggle with ever seeing yourself as 100lbs. heavier even though you aren't?

    1. Hi there! I actually DO still struggle with seeing myself as much heavier than I am. When I look in the mirror, I see a girl that looks to be about a size 14 (not FAT, but not the size 4 that I am!) It's only when I see photos of myself that I realize I actually am small. It's a very strange feeling. But I DO feel much more confident after surgery, because I don't have to suck in my belly all the time! ;)

  18. Yeah, same with me about the size view issue. I am trying sooo hard to get into a routine of working out but am struggling tremendously to do it and to find what works for me. Actually after my surgery, I kind of went backwards instead of forwards in my journey. I went through some depression which led to weight gain. Such a struggle. Do you have any recommendations for me? Just know that you are an inspiration!

  19. Would love for you to post another update post-sx blog since its been over 6 months :)

  20. I know you hate talking about it but I lost only 50 pounds and feel like I have a lot of extra skin on my thighs. Why didnt you do your thighs? Costs?

    1. The cost was one factor, but mainly because of the scars. The scars on the thighs and upper arms are very noticeable--I wouldn't be able to wear shorts whether I got the surgery or not (either the scars would be showing or the loose skin would be showing), so I chose not to.

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  22. wow im so happy for you i cant wait im having beriatric surgery in two weeks. I need extra help with loosing weight because i take hormones and i have hypothyroidism which i also take medication for and this causes me to gain extreme weight. My doctor recommended me to have the surgery and i meet all requirements for my insurance. Im 22 at 353 lbs and im tired with all the pills and not being happy about the way my body looks its really painful when your the biggest person in the family and my grandmother had 11 kids so i have a big family. Finally i have hope that ill be able to not only be happy but feel happy too. Thank you for sharing!

  23. Hi Katie,
    Thank you for your detailed blog, it has been the only real reference point that I could turn to for answers after my surgery. I keep worrying about the swelling and my husband has to remind me all the time that I'm only 3 weeks post-op. He keeps saying to give it time, I am really happy that you experienced and discussed the same things I am experiencing. It is reassuring to me that I am not alone. Thank you again!

  24. The picture of your drain bulbs brought back instant memories. I had three of those things in me after my surgery. But that's behind me, and now I'm a runner. I was the last person who would have thought that possible.


I'd love to hear from you! I read all of my comments, and if you have a question, I do my best to respond; sometimes, however, I get busy and forget to go back to reply, so if it's important, just email me! :)