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The Pain of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery

I know that a lot of people have questions about the reconstructive Plastic Surgery aspect of the weight loss journey. With that in mind, as I write about my experience with Reconstructive Plastic Surgery over the next few blogs, I want you all to know that I will do a final wrap up blog where I will answer any questions that you all send in. So if you have any questions about the Reconstructive Plastic Surgery aspect of the weight loss journey that I can answer from a patient prospective, please send them to me at pandora@desperatelyseekingslender.com or leave them in the comment section on my posts.

I’m currently three days out of my most recent surgery, a thigh lift, and as I wrote yesterday, it is by far the most painful of all the surgeries that I’ve done. Today, is better than yesterday. Each day is a little better, today I can walk without having to hold on to someone else and I’m not hunched over in that way that makes you look like a 80-year-old woman with osteoporosis. This is quite an accomplishment for me. I feel like I have made great strides since in three days I’ve gone from “HOLY CRAP THAT HURTS MORE THAN I CAN TAKE IT, SIT ME DOWN, SIT ME DOWN, SIT ME DOWN,” too, “Alright, this hurts, but I can take it and by the end of this year I will be running a half marathon wearing shorts in public. That’s my newest goal. Though I am working on a few.

So to give you guys an overview of my Reconstructive Plastic Surgery Journey, I’m going to give you an overall outline of the process over the last year.

  • 07/2011 – First Consult with Plastic Surgeon
  • 11/2011 – Second Consult with Plastic Surgeon
  • 12/2011 – Consulted with Second Plastic Surgeon
  • 02/2012 – 1st Reconstructive Surgery:
– 8hrs of Surgery, Two days in hospital
– 360 Body Lift
– Butt Lift
– Brachioplasty ( Arm Lift )
– Liposuction on Outer Thigh
– Outer Thigh Lift
– Removed 12lb. of skin
– This surgery had the most complications and was extremely painful.
– My Insurance covered this surgery at 80% with no denial or appeal process needed.
  • 08/2012 – 2nd Reconstructive Surgery:
– 6hrs of Surgery, One day in the hospital.
– Side Gather Abdominoplasty ( Tummy Tuck )
– Breast Lift
– Removed 3lb. of skin
– This surgery had the least amount of complications and was a rather easy recovery.
– My insurance covered this surgery at 100% because I had reached my out-of-pocket max for 2012.
– The insurance denied this surgery when we first submitted because they did not have enough documentation on rashes and skin irritations being treated by this particular surgery. There were also originally a breast augmentation (Implants) in addition to the breast lift. My insurance denied the augmentation but approved the rest once the implants were subtracted.
– We didn’t have to submit an appeal, the insurance company requested a letter from my Surgeon confirming that we were treating area’s that had a history of skin rashes, sores and legions due to skin on skin contact. As soon as they had a letter from the Surgeon stating the surgery was a medical necessity, we received the approval.
  • 11/2012 – 3rd Reconstructive Surgery:
– 3hrs of Surgery, Outpatient Recovery no hospital stay.
– Thigh Lift
– Removed just over 3lb. of skin.
– This surgery was the most painful, and the hardest to get comfortable after, but once you do get comfortable the pain is almost non-existent and VERY manageable.
– My insurance covered this surgery at 100% because I had reached my out-of-pocket max for 2012. There was no denial or appeal process necessary.

Alright, I know that A LOT of people want to know how we got my insurance to approve my Excess Skin Removal. I’ll be doing an entire blog post on just this subject later and will come back and link to it here for those that want to read it. I just feel like that is such an important issue that it should be addressed separately.

Now, I’ve posted blogs after each of these surgeries, or close to it. And I think each of them shows a pretty good example of my emotional mindset during each of these surgeries. When I posted about my first Reconstructive Surgery back in March, the focus of my post was sort of “What can go wrong will go wrong.” and there was a lot of Woe is Me and a lot of feeling sorry for myself. There was also A LOT of complications during that recovery. I had so much swelling that I ended up back in the hospital about 3.5 weeks post op on IV diuretics to try to get rid of all that water weight I had taken on in swelling that wasn’t going down.

The post after my second surgery, which really had no complications other than a little hiccup with my drain site, was much more upbeat and much more “I got this, what’s next?” – that was quite a change in my emotional state of mind. But something that I think is really important to note here is that it was this Reconstructive Surgery in August that really allowed me to look in the mirror and start seeing the real me again. I think that my being able to do that was a pivotal moment in my emotional weight loss journey. For the very first time, after this surgery I started to see the “skinny” and “thin” girl in the mirror when I looked in it that my friends and chosen family all assured me they saw.

This was a huge moment in my emotional journey. It was the first time that my mind raced forward and tried to catch up with my body. I love to run, I get something out of it spiritually and emotionally that it’s hard for me to explain. But when I run, my feet just go, they don’t need my mind working with them, it’s the one time during the day that I can honestly say my OCD mind actually slows down. I get to think, really think about things. What I want to write about, how I feel about something going on in my life. Just as an example, as I sit here today writing this blog from the recliner I am resting in after surgery, I look around me and my first several thoughts are…

I really need to find a way to make that cat box being in this room more discrete. I wonder how soon I can get back to work. I need to not be nodding off constantly first which means I need to ween my way off the Oxy very quickly. I’m really glad that we ended up buying the TV for this room when Heather moved here, it’s been great having it in here after my surgeries. I wish I was making more money at work though, then maybe it would be paid off by now. Oh I bet the no interest on it is almost up, I should look into that and think about moving the balance to another card that will offer me lower interest rates. I think Discover is doing that right now. I should tell Siri to remind me to look into that next week. Where is my phone? Ah there it is. Man I really need to clean my phone. Oh I should clean the MacBook at the same time. And I need to reorganize that laptop bag so it’s easier to find things in. And shoot I still need to send last month’s giveaway present to Joy because I didn’t get around to doing it before my surgery. Maybe I can have Heather do that for me next week. Oh we need some things from the store today, I should make a list so that nobody forgets things, and it’s getting close to the time that we said we’d try to give me my first post operative shower…

I have an entire new “To Do List” to make and it took less than 3 minutes of me sitting here silently. That’s just how my brain works. But when I run, it’s different, I can actually stop thinking about all those things and focus on something like, “I’m angry about this, how should I deal with it.” or “I need to think of some ideas for my next blog post,” or better yet, “I need to find the inspiration for this book I want to write.” When I run, its like my head is clear and I can see clearly without anything getting in the way. The second reconstructive plastic surgery that we did in August, it was a very similar experience for me. The skin that was removed from my body after that surgery let me clearly see what was left behind from the hip up when I looked in the mirror. I could see the skinny me for the first time. I could see the thin girl that I always told people I believed was hiding inside me. It was the same clarity I feel when I run, only I wasn’t moving, so I figure my mind was running, and it needed to, my mind needed to run and catch up with my body and start allowing us both to be on the same page again. It was a breakthrough moment for me.

This surgery, I find myself in a completely different place emotionally. I’m not in a big hurry to look at my incisions like I was before. I’m not in a big hurry to inspect them and scrutinize them, I realize that 9 months from now, let alone a year from now they are going to look completely different. I’ve also decided that I am going to spend 6 months concentrating on body toning to the areas I am unhappy with before I commit to a 4th round of plastic surgery that will be entirely on my dime because my insurance isn’t going to cover anything else from here on out and I’m 100% sure of that. (I’ll discuss this more when I do the piece on insurance aspects of these surgeries, I promise.) I find myself much more positive and patient during this recovery and once again I can only say that my time in Dallas at the OAC Convention and my time in California afterward, changed me. It put me on a whole different path and right now I find myself more focused on healing so that I can get moving on this new career and start working on all the things I want to do to help others with their weight loss journeys.

My emotional journey has been amazing this year. It really has, and I think that journey has been very evident in my healing and recovery after each surgery.

From a pain perspective, I really have to stop and consider which surgery I think was the most painful. For the last three days I have insisted that this one was the worst. But honestly I think that is incorrect. I think that for the last three days I’ve been in pretty excruciating pain, it’s not fun, but each day has been notably better than the day before, and I have been more mobile each day. I hardly have any swelling, maybe a little in my feet, and I couldn’t say any of those things three days after being home from the hospital after my first surgery. I was miserable, swollen so bad I could hardly move.

I have a picture that I sent my mother a few days after the first surgery and the look on my face screamed “I’m in so much pain my eyes are rolling into the back of my head and I’m blinking repeatedly to keep from crying and screaming.” Then I look at a picture of myself yesterday and I can clearly see that I’m not in any pain, I was in a very comfortable position. Now when I move, the pain at first made me cry and made my knees buckle. I guess the most honest thing I can say is this. When comparing the first three days of pain after all three of my surgeries I would say that the Thigh Lift is by far the most painful. I think however that in comparing my pain levels here to the pain levels during the recovery of my first surgery I would have to say the first was more painful.

For the first surgery my pain level for the first few days was around a 7 I think, before pain meds kicked in or if I went too long without them I’d be sobbing and hyperventilating in pain. I had incisions all the way around my body which made it hard to get comfortable no matter what position you laid in you were always laying on some part of the incision. The pain tapered off during days 4-7 but when complications kicked in at about day 15, it was hell, pure hell and I spent a good week coming back from that and fighting a pain level that was a constant 7 again.

The second surgery was a walk in the park, the incisions on the side and under my breasts made it very easy to get comfortable and very easy to stay off the incisions. For the first few days I’d say my pain level was a 6 or so but it dropped off quickly in days 4-7 to like a 4 or so and then within another week it was more like a 3 during the bad times. In the last couple of weeks I’d put it at a one or two though and it was pretty much an easy 6-week recovery.

This last surgery, when you are experiencing pain, it is the most excruciating. It’s a pain level that is like twice as painful as everything else that I’ve been though.  The good news is that you don’t have to be in pain too often. You can avoid the pain a good 60% of the time. By not moving.

At the time of I’m now, 5-days post operative reconstructive thigh surgery I’m still limiting most of my movement to getting up every 2 hours or so and walking to the bathroom. Yesterday I did the whole sponge bath while standing at the sink thing even though I am released for a shower, I know my thighs are not ready for that yet and that my legs needed a couple more days to commit to the promise of holding me up in there. So that’s what I decided to do. I’ve made two big commitments during this recovery; that I would listen to my body and that I wouldn’t freak out over weight gain. I’m doing really good with the first part of that. But my body issues are heavily at play today. I wish I could figure out what is wrong with me, why my head works the way it does, but today I’ve been obsessing for hours about the loose skin that is leftover after the skin relaxation of the first surgery. I also did my first walk de la apartment, that’s my little official lap from the guest room door down the hallway into the living room so I can see all the Christmas decorations we have up and then back. It’s not far at all, maybe 100 ft. total. But it’s my first walk, and it was an accomplishment for me. Now I’m back in my “recovery recliner” admiring the pretty little Christmas Tree that Heather took the time to put up for me to make sure I got to enjoy the holiday season while I’m stuck in here recovering.

Tomorrow I plan to do 2x the laps I do today, so probably 3-4 tomorrow. Plus tomorrow is going to be a full on shower. Then I have my follow-up with Dr. O’Brien on Wednesday the 5th. Tonight, I’ll be watching TV, focusing on pain relief and enjoying Authentic Lebanese Food from one of my all time favorite Portland restaurants, Nicholas. If you are in Portland and do not eat at this restaurant, you’ve committed a crime. From their Lentil soup to their, whole wheat pita bread to their lamb pizza, EVERYTHING is delicious. Man, with as much as I mention all the companies I love you’d think some of them would start to love me back. LOL, fat chance.

Obesity Action Coalition Convention 2012 Day 1

So I had every intention of writing blogs and doing a video at the OAC Convention, then I got there and realized how incredibly busy I was going to be and how many new friends I would be wanting to spend time with and decided the writing must wait.

So we arrived in Dallas on Wednesday. Heather and I got checked into the Hilton Anatole and got our room in the Tower area of the hotel. The room was very nice, the hotel was very nice too, very large, it had several restaurants, shops, a spa and fitness area a running trail, two bars, pretty much anything your heart could desire. Even a Fed Ex place to save my butt and get my business cards that were left at home.

HJ and I decided to have dinner at the Media Grill were we planned to take advantage of their free Wi-Fi, I’d planned to get a blog written while we had a drink but I decided to check in with Rain Hampton from AfterTheFat.com, someone I was very excited about meeting, and low and behold we were seated about 3 tables away from each other in the restaurant, she and Linda we’re having dinner there too and being the lucky girl that I am I met one of my new besties my very first night there! Rain, Linda, HJ and I spent several hours sitting and talking and dancing. Rain and I stayed out late, talking, sipping on cucumber water and dancing. In fact we danced so much we both left the restaurant sweaty and certain we’d gotten a workout in.

On the way to my Advocacy Training session I decide to head to the gift shop for some hairspray and boy I was so excited when I happen to run into Michelle from The World According to Eggface! I’ve admired and looked up to this woman for so long. I’ve followed her voice through her blog for nearly three years now. Her blog and what she has been able to do for the Bariatric Surgery community through sharing her passion and love for food by providing healthy, delicious and easy recipes for the weight loss community is simply amazing.  Along with Michelle I also met another Weight Loss blogger that I had just recently found and started to follow, Beth AKA MeltingMama the founder of the Bariatric Bad Girls Group on Facebook. I tagged along with both of them and their friend Sarah and we had breakfast together. I also got the opportunity to meet Shawna and Carla, two members of the BBGs for the first time at breakfast. A whole table of what would become new friends by the end of the weekend. And then we were off to the Advocacy training program.

The next morning we were up bright and early for the Advocacy Training program. Now I have to admit, going into the OAC Convention I wanted to get involved. My passion for fighting obesity is limitless and my desire to help others is one the biggest needs I have ever felt within myself. But I had no idea how much attending this Advocacy Training session would change my life. I’ve never been a very political person. I’ve never been the type of person that would get into an opinionated  conversation about a political issue. I’m more the type to avoid Politics and Religion knowing that they often lead to disagreements. But as I sat there and listened to Joe Nadglowski, the CEO of the OAC and Chris Gallagher, the OAC’s Policy Consultant explaining the concept of Marching to Capital Hill in defense of a bill that might affect people with obesity; suddenly I realized, there is a point I will indeed get involved in politics, a point where I care enough. When the politics start affecting the goals and aspirations I have by affecting the people I want to help. You’re damn right I’m ready to risk talking about one of the big No Nos in order to try to make a difference.

The best way I can explain this, I’m the type of person that always roots for the underdog, that always fights for the victim and wants to take down the bully. I’m that girl who will be completely non confrontational with you, I’ll be calm and rational with you, but you mess with my friends and I’ll come out swinging like a mama bear defending her cub. That’s just who I am, I’ve been a fighter my whole life, I’ve fought emotional battles for a long time, I’ve got good training, and I’ll come out with my gloves on to defend someone else so that they don’t ever get emotionally beat up the way I did faster that you can blink.

Several times along my weight loss journey I have had moments of epiphanies. Moments that something hits me and I realized that I have just achieved another mental breakthrough. I love these moments because for someone who was used to having mental breakdowns ALL the time this is a very big non scale victory for me. It shows how much I have grown as a person and how far I have come in breaking the cycle of abuse that plagued my family.

As I sat there participating in the OAC Advocacy Training program; all I could think of was the day that my Personal Trainer first introduced me to Kick Boxing. While we were doing combo punches on that bag I felt so much emotional release. It was a physical manifestation of the anger I needed to release. I beat the heck out of that bag. Ever since I’ve used exercise as a physical outlet for anger and frustration. The more I need to workout the harder I push myself to do it. I saw what the OAC was telling us we could do on Capital Hill as my opportunity to find my emotional release. I believe that our weight loss journey consists of several elements, some physical, some emotional, some mental. I think we need to be engaged in all those ways, and I think; working with the OAC is going to be another way for me to be engaged emotionally and mentally. I’m so excited.

We ended the evening at the meet and greet at the hotel where I got to meet WanningWoman for the first time. You have no idea how excited I was. There are two women in this community whose voices I followed through a time in my life that was full of darkness. It is amazing how much one person’s voice can stand out like that. But for me, when I was struggling through one of the most emotional times of my life after my Father’s death, there were two women who were really able to help me with what they were sharing on their blogs.

Michelle: The World According to Eggface: I could follow her voice and find answers about what to eat and put in my mouth when I was struggling to eat at all, her examples and suggestions kept me trying things and eating rather than sitting in bed crying and grieving.

Keisha : WanningWoman: This woman’s confidence, her take no prisoners approach and her drive and determination coupled on top of her ability to persevere against crazy odds reminded me often of what kind of voice I wanted to have when I was done healing emotionally. Her voice guided me back into the light and every picture she posted in that I’m bringing my sexy back attitude reminded me of the woman I wanted to be. We headed out with Keisha and several of her friends, and I’ve got to say, this Dallas local crowd were the first to open their arms up to me and truly make me feel welcome. The moment I hung out with these women I knew I had started to build friendships that would last.

I got to meet both of these women my first day at the OAC Convention and both of them were just as genuine in person as they are on their blogs. I’ll always admire these women greatly for what they were able to give to me trough sharing their voices on their blogs and websites. I’ll always credit them for inspiring me to do the same. But now, after visiting the OAC Convention I have the privilege of calling these two amazing women my friends.

My first day at the OAC Convention was amazing. But it just got better and better each day…

Stay Tuned for day two!

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About (Pandora) The Author

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender
Jaime "Pandora" Williams

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