My Breast Reduction Surgery

On Friday, September 1, I was admitted to Grinnell Regional Medical Center in Grinnell, Iowa for a breast reduction and lift, and a Panniculectomy scar revision performed by Dr. Coster.  Going in, I was pretty nervous.  My bra size was a 36G and I was concerned with the extreme reduction I would lose sensation or experience complications.  But I didn’t.  The surgery went well, lasting about 4 hours and under general anesthesia.  Jarrod and my mom were both there for me when I woke up.  Dr. Coster removed about 1 pound from my right breast, and about a pound and a half from my left breast.  Here are photos of the progression I’ve experienced so far.  The results will only get better from here on out.

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As you can see, my Panniculectomy did NOT create the results you’d expect from a plastic surgery to improve the appearance of my tummy.  I was so fortunate to be able to have it repaired.  Also, I’m still really puffy, bruised and swollen from my most recent surgery.  I’ll update with pics in a few months to show how everything heals.  At first I was really disappointed with the small breast size I’m left with now, but the surgeon said it would all heal into a nice D cup, so I’m okay with that.  Not to mention, over the last 3 days I’ve adjusted to having smaller breasts anyway and it is so much more comfortable!!

Already I am experiencing so much less pain and discomfort than I ever did with my previous surgery.  I’m on day 3 today, and I haven’t needed my prescription pain meds, only Tylenol.  I have however been extremely tired and have needed a lot of sleep as I’ve been healing.  Luckily my kids and job are giving me time to do just that.  This surgeon really knew what he was doing, and I will be forever thankful for the wonderful work he did to give me my new body!

Summer Catch-Up

Well, here it is, 3 months after my previous blog post.  It’s been a pretty busy summer around here.  We didn’t have any exciting week-long vacations or anything like that.  Hell, the kids have barely gotten off electronics enough to notice its only a couple weeks away from school starting again.  But I’ve sure stayed busy.

Once I was released to go about my normal activities after my big surgery, I found plenty to do.  Most of it just little stuff, day to day.  Hanging out with friends, going swimming with the kids, going for rides with my man.  I got a job delivering pizzas for Pizza Hut, so I’ve been doing that for a few weeks now in the evenings.  My boss and co-workers are pretty cool about taking it easy on me so I can sit when I need to, to rest my back and my hips.  Its definitely a blessing.

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Andy and I in the front, right, riding the Monster at Adventureland.

We had all the my boys’ birthday parties here at our home.  Andy’s was in May, Evan’s was in July, and Cory’s was this month, in August.  All went well, and smoothly.  For all of them I invited friends and family and grilled burgers and hot dogs out on our deck.  Then we had cake and ice cream, and did the gift giving thing.  I think for the most-part the boys got what they wanted.  Andy’s big present this year was one of the new 3DSs.  Evan’s was a trip to Adventureland.  And Cory’s was a new tablet for gaming.  Photos for all of the birthdays, and everything else I’ve done all summer (and all future activities) can be found on my Instagram.  I update there quite frequently.

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Jake and I at the Freedom Rally, 2017

Jake and I went to the Freedom Rally in Algona, IA in June/July.  It was my first time at any big rally, and I must say it was not at all what I expected.  It was a really chill atmosphere.  Everyone was happy and easy-going for the most part.  We had a really good time.  Good food, good music, and a great weekend of camping.  I look forward to going with him again next year!

Still to come, I’m hoping still to take the whole family camping, maybe next week, if even for only one night.  I have a weekend planned for HearthsOPhyre in Conesville, IA during the last weekend in September.  Its similar to Burning Man, only on a smaller scale and local.  Also, I scored us some Hollywood Undead concert tickets for October, and I’m looking forward to seeing Highly Suspect again in November, as they have become my favorite band.

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Not exactly the results I had in mind from my Panniculectomy. (4 months post-op)

On the health and wellness front: I’ve applied for disability since the outlook on my hip dysplasia is chronic worsening pain for at least another 20 years until they are so arthritic they need surgically replaced.  In the meanwhile I’ve had physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around my hips to better cope with the deterioration process.  I’ve been told since my hips are bad in the way that they are, my other joints will likely have similar problems as I age, and I’ve already starting having shoulder and knee pain.  So I’ve had physical therapy twice a week for the hips starting just recently, and physical therapy for my upper back, shoulders and neck for 6 weeks prior.  That is for insurance purposes to get me qualified for the breast reduction.  Which has been officially scheduled for September 1st!!  3 weeks from tomorrow I will be having the breast reduction to a C-cup, and the surgeon will also be doing a “scar revision” to take off some of the loose skin that was missed when I had my Panniculectomy, and straighten out my belly button.  I’m not too nervous about the belly area because I know what to expect, but I’m extremely nervous about having the breast work done because it such a delicate area.  I want it to be perfect, symmetrical, and I want to keep sensation to the area.  I worry too much about things anyway, but I really want this to be done well.  I have a different and more experienced surgeon this time, so I have higher hopes for a much better outcome.  I would post pics, but that could get my blog in trouble for mature content.  I’ll try to post reasonable, censored before photos on my Instagram before the surgery.

So that’s the update and what’s to come!  I know some of you have been bugging me for an update, so there it is!  Sorry it’s taken me so long to get some time to sit down and type it out.  I know I will have plenty of time to type in September, as I have to take pretty much the entire month off for recovery.  So I’ll seeya then!

Continued Healing

This will likely be my last Panniculectomy surgery update for quite some time because there’s not much left to say.  As of yesterday, Thursday April 27th, I am 5 weeks post-op.  I saw my surgeon for a check up on Tuesday, and everything is well.  The splitting in the middle is almost all the way healed, and the splitting on my side/hip is still open and rather deep, but healing at a fairly quick rate.  The doc said it looked good, and to just keep it clean and dry.  I am officially off of all antibiotics and doing well.  Very little pain, if any.  Just the occasional zing of nerve pain from having a big portion of skin removed which is totally bearable, some muscle aches and pains if I sit still for too long at a time, and phantom itching for the part of my skin that is gone.  But besides that I feel mostly normal again.  I have to continue to wear my compression garments for a few more months, which I am comfortable with since I have some swelling and a lot of scarring at this time.

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On the left: Summer 2015, 270ish lbs. On the right: Spring 2017, 210ish lbs. and post-panniculectomy.

The garments I have are probly about as comfortable as they can get, so I don’t mind wearing them most of the time.  I don’t have to see the doctor again for another 4 months, and that’s just for another routine checkup.  Plus my belly looks slightly lop-sided, and we just want to make sure that’s going away and looking great by that time in my recovery.  If not, I may discuss a repair, but I’m hoping we won’t need to go down that road.

 

I am going to continue to see my nutritionist so that I can continue down my healthy path and proceed with documentation in support of a breast reduction.  I will be eligible as soon as October for that surgery, but I think I will likely wait until at least January just to give myself a break from all the surgery recovery pains, to make sure I’ve lost the weight I want to lose and firm things up a bit, and to make sure I’m not going to miss half of next summer in recovery.

Once that surgery is complete, I will be done with surgeries in regards to loose skin.  For one, I don’t have insurance that will cover anything more.  And for another, I do believe I can firm things up from here with some vigorous exercise and willpower to keep at it.  Since the Panniculectomy I have been slowly losing more weight, even being sedentary.  I think it changed my metabolism a bit, and I look forward to taking advantage of that soon.  At my 6 week mark, which is next Thursday, my activity restriction is lifted and I will be riding my bike and hitting the gym at least a couple times per week.  I’m really looking forward to it.  I don’t think I’ve ever actually looked forward to exercising.  But without that embarrassing belly flap, I have nothing to fear.  I am currently at 209 pounds, and my overall goal is 175 (though government BMI standards say I should be around 135, I think I would look anorexic if I got down to that weight…. I still want some curves!). I know I can accomplish 175 with more hard work.

Thanks for reading along with my surgery journey.  I hope I have helped those of you who were trying to decide if this surgery was right for them.  I hope I have given you what you need for information if you were going through struggles with the recovery.  I hope I have provided support or encouragement for those of you also on a weight loss journey.  Good luck to you all, and thanks again!

How Do You Get Skin Removal Surgery?

So I have had several people ask me “how do I go about getting that surgery?”  So I’ll tell you what I did, and what the requirements are for most insurance companies (in the USA, anyway).

First of all, my weight had been an issue for years.  Ever since I had children, my metabolism was slow and I could never seem to take off any weight.  Admittedly, I was rather lazy and made poor food choices as well.  So after a few years of my family doctor telling me I needed to lose weight, and me genuinely wanting to but never making progress, she referred me to a nutritionist.  However, insurance didn’t cover a nutritionist.  So I was sent to Surgical Associates in Grinnell, IA.  That clinic specializes in bariatric/weight loss surgery, such as the gastric sleeve and gastric bypass surgeries.  I wasn’t really interested in such a surgery, but decided if I couldn’t lose the weight with proper nutritional counseling, it may be something I would consider.

At Surgical Associates, there is this amazing nutritionist/nurse Stef Noun.  She is the most upbeat, amazing weight loss cheerleader I have ever met.  She was always so inspiring to me, and every visit I had with her made me that much more motivated to take off the weight.  And since she was so encouraging, I never wanted to disappoint her.  She taught me how to eat properly, for nutrition rather than just for pleasure.  She taught me that I shouldn’t deprive myself of what I want, but I should use strict moderation.  She helped me cut out soda, limit carbs, focus more on protein, and really set me on the right path for my nutrition.  She also encouraged me to be more active, and always wanted to know my plans for diet and exercise at every visit, which was once per month.  At those visits she also documented any issues I was having with my sagging fat and skin, such as rashes, headaches, back aches, and things such as those.

For most insurance companies, all it takes is 6-7 months of regular documentation of following nutritionist instructions and proving you can change your lifestyle (losing at least a little weight) to be accepted for bariatric surgery.  I went ahead and submitted to insurance my request for the bariatric sleeve.  I was approved.  I refused the surgery because I thought I was doing pretty well without it.  And within a few months I had lost too much weight to qualify anymore.  I was able to use Stef’s tips and encouragement to lose the weight myself.  I know that is not possible for everyone, and that is why there are programs such as theirs.  My story just happens to be that I was able to lose it on my own.

Now, when it comes to the skin removal surgeries, most insurance only covers the Panniculectomy and Breast Reduction.  The Panniculectomy is the removal of the pannus, or the skin beneath your belly button that hangs over your pubic bone and hip area.  It does not include the repair of any muscle splitting from childbirth or obesity.  In order to have either of those skin surgeries, you need to have a steady weight for at least 6 months, and 6-12 months of documented health concerns directly related to the sagging skin, such as rashes or skin infections.  Once you have met those requirements, you’re eligible.

If any other skin removal surgery is desired, such as arms, thighs, back, buttocks… that’s up to you to pay for out-of-pocket.

And for those of you curious, I have state insurance – Medicaid, and it payed 100% for my Panniculectomy.  I plan on having the breast reduction as well sometime in the next 6-12 months.

Disclaimer: this was MY experience.  I’m sure insurance requirements and coverage can change at any given time.  So be sure to check with your healthcare providers and insurance companies for the up-to-date requirements and coverage.

Surgeries

On January 31st, after about 3 and a half years of having an unknown lump in my back just to the left of my spine, it was surgically removed.  After waiting nearly 2 weeks for pathology to come back from Mayo Clinic, they determined it was a very rare tumor called a Myoepithelioma.  It was declared benign, but there is always the chance of a malignant regrowth.  So the recommended course of treatment was to have a second surgery to remove the surrounding tissue creating larger margins, and remove the scar tissue from the first surgery.  That was done about a week and a half ago.  This time rather than just steri-strips holding closed the incision, they used staples.  And I also had a drain since they removed so much tissue, leaving a nice hollowed out spot in my soft tissue around my spine.  I got the staples and drain removed today.  I must say the drain was disgusting to deal with, and the biggest nuisance to have attached to me for all those days.  However, it won’t be the last I see of those awful things…

In just 3 days, on Thursday, March 23rd, I will finally be having my Panniculectomy!  For those of you who don’t know, I’ve lost about 50 pounds in the last year, and it has left we with a disgusting apron of hanging skin and fat around my waist.  A Panniculectomy is the removal of that apron.  It was already there after having had 3 children and not losing the weight from my pregnancies.  But the recent weight loss has made it much more saggy and in the way.  Trying to do any sort of exercise with that hanging in front of me is very uncomfortable and extremely embarrassing.  So having it removed will not only make myself feel more confident in my own skin, but it will give me more physical freedom to continue improving my healthier lifestyle.  I am getting pretty nervous about having the procedure done, as it will be a major surgery and I’ve been told the recovery can be pretty rough and painful.  But I’m hoping my experience with c-sections will give me the experience to be able to handle the pain I will feel, and I’m hoping it won’t be quite that bad since there will be no cutting of my muscle involved.

What the surgeon told me what he will do is cut at my bikini line all the way across and about halfway around my hips, and then across the top “bulge” of my belly to make an oblong shape.  He will then cut around my belly button and move it higher onto my belly.  When he brings the 2 edges together it will bring my belly button down to where it is supposed to be, and bring some of the sag below my bikini line up, and it will make my whole belly about as flat and firm as I am around my bra line / ribs.  So it IS a major surgery, and recovery time is a minimum of 6 weeks.  I will have to wear a binder around my abdomen for about a month, and very tight fitting clothes like Spanx on my belly for another month or 2 after that.  Just to make sure everything heals together in a cosmetically pleasing way, and to reduce swelling and fluid build-up in the area.  I will be in the hospital likely for around 3 days.

So that will happen Thursday.  I will do my best to post frequent updates and photos surrounding the whole deal, so if you’re squeamish about wounds, staples, drains, or anything of the sort, be warned now.  Wish me the best of luck in surgery and recovery!