Saturday, December 28, 2013

Skin removal surgery Q&A

I get a lot of emails with questions about my lower body lift, and recently, a woman named Andrea sent me a list of questions that she asked me to post about. I had nothing to write about today (it was a very nice rest day!), so I figured I'd answer those questions. Hopefully other people will find this helpful, too!

Q. How long was it until the swelling was completely gone from your abdomen? Did you  "know" when the swelling was completely gone?

A. Before my surgery, I read a lot about the swelling, and I was expecting the worst. I thought I would going to look like a giant water balloon. But I actually didn't notice it much on a day-to-day basis. I could definitely see that I looked swollen when I compared pictures from one day to the next, but I really just felt a little puffy in my abdomen. There was never a day where I woke up and thought, "Ahhh, relief! The swelling is gone!" I noticed in pictures of my stomach that I looked less puffy. I think the worst of the swelling was on Day 12, and looking at it now, I don't think it was all that bad! 
Q. Was it difficult to maintain eating healthy/not gaining weight without the exercise (in that burning calories from running allows one to add calories back into his/her diet). 

A. I actually dropped about 10 pounds after the surgery, which I think is due to the fact that I took my doctor's dietary instructions very seriously. She told me to eat a TON of protein to help my body heal, so I focused on nothing but protein after surgery. I wasn't counting calories or Points, or anything; I just tried to eat as much protein as possible. I didn't limit my carbs at all, but because I was eating so much protein, I probably didn't eat as many carbs as I was used to. From my experience, I believe that weight loss comes mainly from diet, and very little from exercise. I can train for a marathon and gain 20 pounds (as evidenced while training for my first 26.2!). I wasn't worried about gaining weight due to lack of exercise after surgery, and I focused my diet on healing my body rather than losing weight, so it worked out well :)
Q. Was it easier to notice weight loss (i.e. the last 15 lbs or so you lost post-surgery) after the surgery, because of the lack of excess skin, or did it not really make a difference in that respect?

A. I think the surgery made a huge difference in the last bit of weight loss. My doctor only removed about two and a half pounds of tissue, but after surgery, I think the decrease in size around my abdomen was very noticeable. Even now, when I gain a couple of pounds, I find it very noticeable! I get love handles if my weight gets to 138-ish, but below that, they're gone. It's so weird! Before the surgery, I never would have noticed a weight gain there, because there was so much skin hiding my form.
Q. Did you wear a compression garment and a binder, or was it a single item?

A. It was just a single item, like a huge (very tight) pair of granny panties. There were hooks along the side (like the hooks on a bra) as well as the crotch, so it didn't have to be removed to go to the bathroom. It was actually very comfortable, and I felt weird when I took the compression garment off to shower. Here is a link to the exact one that I had. It was the one my doctor told me to get; different doctors prefer different garments, though.
Q. Do you think that the surgery produced a visible change for people who just see you every day in regular clothes (i.e., should I expect that people who I have not told about the surgery may notice it)?

A. I don't think the change was hugely visible in my clothing, but I always tried to hide the excess skin before my surgery. I didn't wear tight jeans and form-fitting shirts; I could wear tight jeans and a loose sweatshirt, or jeans that would hide my skin and a more form-fitting shirt. After the surgery, I didn't want ANY baggy clothing! I wore tight jeans and fitted shirts, and I still do a lot of the time. But I don't think that people who I saw from time to time would've noticed that I had skin removal surgery. Here is a photo from before surgery and after surgery in the same clothes:


You can see a difference if you're looking for it, but I don't think anyone would have noticed if they hadn't known about my surgery. Without clothes, however, is a completely different story! ;)

Q. How long after the surgery did you start training for your marathon? Did you have any time after you started running when you were just running "for fun," or did you go right into it? 

A. I had the surgery on November 14, 2011, and I "officially" started training for my first marathon on January 16, 2012. I started running again just shy of four weeks after surgery, and I took it very easy for a couple of weeks while I continued to heal from surgery. My doctor actually cleared me to run on Day 8 post-op! But I wasn't much in the mood to run, which I'm sure she expected ;)  By the time I started marathon training, I felt 100% back to my normal self. I still continued to wear my compression garment when I ran, just because I felt more secure, but it wasn't necessary.
Q. About how many post-op appointments did you have in total?

A. I spent one night in the hospital, and my doctor came to see me before I left. Then there was the embarrassing trip to the emergency room about five days post-op. My first "real" post-op appointment was on Day 8, when I had three of my drains removed. My second post-op appointment was on Day 17, when I had the last drain removed (my doctor told me to come in when my drain was producing less than 30 cc's a day). I had one more post-op visit after six weeks. There was a tiny spot on my incision that needed a minor revision (the skin had folded over slightly as it healed). I went in for an appointment where my doctor fixed that in the office, which only took about 10-15 minutes. I made another appointment for her to check out that spot later, but it healed really well, so I just called her and she said there was no need to come in. That was the last appointment.
Q. Do you remember about how long it was until you stopped feeling any real ab pain, and only felt some soreness, or felt nothing at all?

A. The ab pain was terrible for the first couple of days, but it got much better as the days went on. I can't remember exactly when there was NO muscular soreness, because it continued to get better and better each day, but I think I was pretty much pain-free after a couple of weeks. The worst of it was over after a couple of days post-op, though.

Q. How long was your longest drain in for?

A. I had four drains, two in front (left and right) and two over each hip. I had three of the drains removed on Day 8 post-op, but the last one was in for 17 days! My doctor didn't want to remove it until it was producing less than 30 cc's of drainage per day. I couldn't wait to get that thing out! Even though my body was feeling much better, and I was wanting to try on new clothes and all that, the stupid drain was in the way. I felt much more like myself after the last drain was pulled. And I could sleep on my stomach again! :)

I'm now a little over two years post-op, and I am still SO SO SO glad that I had the surgery! My scar isn't nearly as bad as I imagined it would be, and across my butt, it's practically invisible. Clothing is much more comfortable, without having to push and poke my skin around to fit into my pants. Running is more comfortable, because I don't have to worry about the skin bouncing (that used to hurt!). And even though the outward change, while I'm wearing clothing, isn't drastically huge, I feel a million times more confident in how I look. I used to be so self-conscious of my saggy skin, and I hated always trying to hide it. I would do the surgery again in a heartbeat!

5 comments:

  1. Thank you very much for the honesty of all your answers. I am hoping that sometime in the near future I won't get to have the same surgery. The loose skin does make it very uncomfortable to run. I look forward to the day that I can someday run free of discomfort and wear the clothes that I want. Were you able to get some of the surgery covered by insurance? If so how did that work? I have lost over 90 pounds now and somehow still feel like my journey to well being is not quite finished bc I only see loose skin in the mirror not the actual size I am.

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  2. It is an obvious difference between the two photos! You look great.

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  3. Reading your blog it's hard to imagine you being bigger and the huge journey you've made!

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  4. Thank so much for sharing so much about your surgery. I lost 110 lbs over 18 months (2011-2012) and I am having an extended tummy tuck on FRIDAY! I read your blog when I was just thinking about it last summer and I just read through all the surgery stuff again tonight. It helped me feel a lot better. I hope I get similar results, although I am not as slim - 5'6 155 lbs, 31" waist, 41" hips right now.

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  5. Thank you so much for posting this. I had already read all of your skin removal posts before but I loved the reminder. I'm at 116lbs lost now and am getting more and more nervous about getting skin removal surgery as I inch closer to my weight goals (I have about 40lbs to go). I'm sure I'll beg you for advice when the time comes haha. It's good to hear that you'd do it all over again!

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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! :)