‘surgiversary’ is a made up word, but here we are

To be honest, I didn’t even think much about the anniversary of my vertical sleeve gastrectomy yesterday. Previous years have been loaded with comparison photos, follow up appointments and little celebrations treating myself to smaller size things or bites of foods I don’t indulge in often.

I woke up on December 1, 2014 and headed to the hospital with my boyfriend and parents. I remember weighing myself one final time before heading out (two seventy something) and being nervous we would hit traffic or something would derail my scheduled procedure. I can’t tell you much else. I remember waking up very tired, there was an incident where my catheter betrayed me and I wet the bed a bit, I barfed some black colored shit after my swallow test and I could barely stay awake any time Steve or my parents were visiting. I don’t remember any pain, and I left on the third day, but not until I could drink some sugar free carnation instant breakfast with a room temperature skim milk. I remember it was vanilla (yuck) and I waited until I could ask someone to track down any other flavor. Oh, and the drains were removed – weird (like, really weird) but not painful.

On this particular December first in 2018, I can’t tell you how much I weighed, I haven’t stepped on the scale in at least a week but my weight has been the same, give or take five pounds for the last few years. I had coffee and some bacon and a cheesy scrambled egg covered in everything but the bagel seasoning with a blob of ketchup. I did some homework, stayed in my sweats until late afternoon and then headed into the same area of the city for a comedy show. I had a cider, most of a slice of pizza from some joint on the corner of the steeet where we parked and then ate a piece (okay, two) of peppermint bark when I was back in my sweats. We stopped to look at Christmas trees because our prelit one ( also 4 years old!) moved to the dumpster after a few hours of tinkering with the lights. I didn’t really do anything special, and to be frank, that’s the very best thing about the whole process.

The one intentional thing I did was decide to revamp my Instagram account. For the last four plus years it has been riddled with comparison photos, nonscale victories, and all the weight loss surgery things. How many photos do I need to hold on to comparing a me that doesn’t look like me now, to another me that doesn’t look like me now? Or wondering if I would have lost the last twenty or so pounds I’d like to, if I kept doing Zumba like that post, or yoga poses in the other post. I can’t discount the role it (and all the people!) played in my journey and the success I’ve had but it just can’t be all I talk about anymore.

I was never trying to “get skinny”.  I wanted to be thinner, healthier, feel better, have more energy and be more active but I was so tired of obsessing over it for what equaled most of my life. I am all those things now, without having to drive myself mad and I still got to eat pizza. That’s something to celebrate.

forty.

In little more than twenty-four hours I will turn forty and I don’t give a fuck.

When I was turning twenty-five, I had only been transplanted in Wisconsin for a year or so from New Jersey and I remember panicking about that big fat scary number. I was sad about leaving my friends behind, about a new place, about everything. A few months before the big day I started seeing a therapist for the first time; I was terrified about getting older, having moved away from my then boyfriend, my parents getting older, finally finishing my undergraduate degree … I was thinking about all of us dying, about what I was doing with my life about how we even got here and everything getting scarier and closer to ending. I was a sad sack who did a lot of talking and only half the doing.

It’s laughable now because at twenty-five the worst things that had really happened in my life were some shitty friendships, less than stellar boyfriends, a series of years where I was starting college (again) and being fat.

I was almost twenty-seven when I thought I met the guy of my dreams and talked about marrying him. I was two days from twenty-seven when I drank entirely too much at a wedding after taking some pain reliever that caused a breakdown that landed me laying on the driveway, sobbing and that guy of my dreams and I breaking up on my birthday.

The rest of my twenties were only slightly tumultuous with a graduate degree, another half-assed relationship, a waitressing job I couldn’t stand but wasn’t ready to leave behind and happy hours and movies and lunch dates.

I panicked about my thirties which were kicked off with another waitressing gig, poor sleep habits, the deaths of my grandparents, the scale creeping uncomfortably over the 250 mark and plenty of other sad and anxiety producing things that I can’t even recall right now ….

because there are so many excellent things that happened ….

I reconnected with an old crush who kicks that dad jean wearing dream guy from my twenties ass, I moved (a thousand miles) away from my parents for the first time,  I had weight loss surgery and lost (& kept off!) over eighty-five pounds, I had some parts nipped and tucked, I got my shit together and applied to counseling programs like I wanted to do in my twenties, I fell in love with Vermont, I started going to rallycross events, I started buying myself flowers every week, I stopped over-explaining myself, I got over my fear of horror movies and am now obsessed with all the scary things, I learned how to make a killer latte, I embraced minimalism, I became obsessed with Zumba (I gotta go back!), I stopped saying yes to shit I don’t want to do, I went from making tacos without seasoning to having a slew of my own recipes, I started journaling, I started going for walks and hikes in the woods, I got better at following through on what I say I’m going to do, I took a week long vacation with my parents, I started this blog, I went to Colorado and cried when my plane landed and I saw the mountains (MAJESTIC!), I ate good food, I stopped apologizing, I laughed often and never passed up a craft cocktail. I learned things about myself (and others) that helped me grow and change and live what is in retrospect, definitely my best life.

I worried about all these milestone birthdays or getting older and it was for nothing. I can’t control getting older, only how I react to it, and if the next ten years are half as fulfilling as the last ten, I don’t give a fuck about turning forty.

have a seat.

I can’t believe it’s been a month since I sat down to share anything here. If it isn’t the email from WordPress to remind me that my annual billing was coming, it was definitely a conversation last night that brings me back.

We like art around here. Not mass produced posters from IKEA or Bed, Bath & Beyond or the generic bowls of fruit and flower arrangement art; creative, funky, dark, and let’s be honest, horror themed art. We have an acrylic Marion Crane piece and a canvas of Michael Myers in our bathroom and an amazing (almost complete) gallery wall of the best movie related art.

If you’ve known me for a while you might remember a story about a one-of-a-kind airbrushed welcome sign that has a skull and spiderwebs and a rose on it that used to make the old lady who lived upstairs cry every time she saw it. We took it down and it floated from room to room for awhile before landing itself in our storage closet.

I didn’t buy the piece, Steve did long before I even came to this apartment as a visitor and at that same time, or not, he also purchased an airbrushed toilet seat cover from the same artist. It was awesome. It was black and sparkly and the coolest thing in the then white bathroom with faded pink and white linoleum. The toilet seat itself cracked years ago and we couldn’t find one to match the cover, which ended up in storage and then eventually the trash. (Who keeps a toilet seat cover they can’t use?)

It was a mystery, the cracked seat. We had gone out somewhere and when we came home it was cracked and ready to pinch our thighs until we replaced it.

Every time a conversation comes up about Ruth (the old lady) we laugh about the crying from the skull sign, and then talk about the sign in general and Steve brings up the toilet seat. The mysteriously cracked toilet seat and how cool it was and what a bummer to have to have gotten rid of it.

Last night we were putting some things in storage and brought it back up to hang in the kitchen. Steve gets it up and we talk about how cool it is, and laugh about crying Ruth and the time my parents visited and it was on the bathroom door, clinking a bit every time you open or close the door and my mom saying at least a dozen times “you should put some tape on that!”. Then, inevitably he says “Remember that toilet seat cover I had? Man that was fucking cool”

And I cringe.

Silently.

I take a deep breath and then say the thing I had not said for the last six or so years since it had cracked.

“I broke it!”

“What?”

“I broke it, I was in the bathroom before we left and it cracked and I didn’t tell you”

He stares at me, kind of stunned

“Why wouldn’t you tell me? Why would you keep something so stupid from me?”

Silence… us staring at each other.

“I can’t believe you wouldn’t tell me, it’s like you lied for years about it, what the hell?”

I actually got tears in my eyes

“I feel so bad every time you mention it but I couldn’t ever say it, I never told anyone it even happened”

Now, he looks at me more quizzically

“You went out to the car ahead of me because I was in the bathroom, and it cracked … …. ….  I was too embarrassed to tell you that”

He laughs a little, “How did you break the seat though? Did you stand on it?” (so sweet!)

“Dude, I was almost 300 pounds, I had to lift my leg like this (lifts leg and adds in wiping motion) to wipe and I put all my weight to one side and it fucking cracked UNDER THE PRESSURE!!”

He laughs again. Kind of.

He walks over and hugs me. I’m half crying, thinking about all the times I’ve told a story about shitting my pants or the time I threw myself behind a boyfriends car so he couldn’t leave, or barfing on the altar in church. I never told anyone I broke a toilet seat. It wasn’t funny, and I like to make everything sound funny even when it was sad or painful … just couldn’t spin this one.

A weight has been lifted, literally! We joked about it the rest of the night and it still isn’t funny (yet) – but at least now I’m just a person who was so fat they broke a toilet seat, not a liar.

 

 

you can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna jae

A few years ago, at least six or seven by now, while eating lunch at work, I found a bone in the tuna sandwich I had made for myself the night before.

Not a little teeny splinter of a bone, a full-on, looked like a golf tee, solid as shit almost cracked a tooth BONE.

I threw the sandwich out and when I got home I wrote an email to the tuna company and let them know this happened and while it was gross and unacceptable, I’m moving on and hey maybe just check your tuna better so some old lady doesn’t choke to death in the future. They reply and couldn’t be nicer, explain how tuna is caught and all that stuff I don’t need to hear if I have hope of ever eating it again. Then, the coupons. Scads of free cans, money off, all the discount tuna you could ever want.

The envelope of bargains arrives a few days later, and Steve comments that it came from a company that wasn’t the brand of tuna we had used. Umm, what?

Yea, I emailed the wrong company about my fish bone blues.

The only thing to do? Email the right company and tell them what happened, leaving out, of course, the part where I blamed it on another company and made out like a tuna bandit.

You know what they say in their apology email?

Yea, you do …. LET US SEND YOU SOME COUPONS …

I decline, because I have plenty of free tuna coming my way, but they insist. So I express my gratitude and when the envelope shows up with an entire ocean of free tunas, I pack them and the others up and send them to my parents. Because honestly, I am never eating tuna again.

I think a year or so later I decided it was ridiculous to have given up something I ate pretty regularly because of a fluke. So, I go for it and make one of my favorite lunches; cucumber slices topped with tuna, bacon and a drizzle of Italian dressing. I got myself a plate of them made up, got comfortable on the couch for some trashy day time television and by the third one, I had forgotten all about the skeletal difficulties of the past.

Ahhhh.

I pick up the fourth one … mid chew, I’m like woah this bacon is over cooked.

NOPE.

FUCK.

BONE.

Not kidding, couldn’t make this shit up if I tried.

I couldn’t get past it and I scraped the rest of it into the trash.

What are the odds of that happening —- twice?!

I really haven’t eaten tuna since. Don’t show it to me, don’t talk about it. It’s bony and gross and I just have to pass.

Fast forward to today;  it’s a million humid degrees and I am not turning on my oven, or cooking on the stove longer than I need to. Steve says, “We have everything for those tuna boat things, right? Why don’t we have that for dinner?”

I stare at him, into his soul “Really??”

“Yea man, they’re good. ..and we haven’t had them since you were fat” he laughs (we use this as a measurement of time around here).

“They tried to killllll me. TWICE!”

He stares back waiting for me to realize I’m a bit absurd.

Fine.

I make the bacon, I make the tuna. I assemble them and I fearfully take a bite of the first one. Well, I put the whole thing in my mouth because I’m a monster but guess what??

BONE FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

So was the second one, the third and the fourth one I had.

I didn’t have more than that, but I think I would have been in the clear if I did. Looks like I’ve got ninety-nine problems but tuna fish ain’t one!

 

 

brave-ish

A few months ago, after hearing my tale of woe as the struggling fat girl turned weight loss success story, the woman I was speaking to sat, mouth agape, finally saying “How brave!”

In my memory of this afternoon I cocked my head like a dog does and she clarified “to go through all of that, just to be happy in your body, that takes bravery.” I smiled and shrugged so I didn’t comment in a fashion that seemed ungrateful for her acceptance, or her pat on the back.

Brave is hardly the word I would use to describe my experience. Without sounding like a poor me, self-deprecating kind of gal, I have never walked into a burning building to save anyone, battled cancer or worked in a job where I put my life on the line every day in a way that would show some kind of bravery. I was fat and now I’m not, I don’t think there’s anything brave about that.

I forgot about this instance until recently, in two separate conversations with other losers who have also had plastic/skin removal surgeries, I admitted that not only did I not feel brave about the whole thing, but in fact, kind of sad.

Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled to no longer be battling a weight nearing 300 pounds, or questioning every piece of food I put in my mouth. I don’t weight myself two and three times a day after eating or going to the bathroom, I’m more comfortable in my skin and body than I have ever been but I don’t see that as an act of bravery. Necessity, maybe. Cleaning up a mess, definitely.

In one of the conversations where I am talking about my occasional lackluster feelings toward my arm scars (and maybe, depending on the day, the results in general), I say – that in my frustration about this, I am more mad than anything. Mad that I was even in a position to need all the things I’ve done or had to do to have a “normal” body. Mad that maybe it could have been prevented some how, mad that obesity is a thing that happened, or I let happen to me. Mad that in the last four years I missed a total of  14 weeks of work to recover from surgeries. Mad about how many hundreds (or thousands!) of dollars disappeared from my bank account to fully cover one of those surgeries, and part of the others, and co-pays and pain pills and protein bars and vitamins. Mad when I think about what things and experiences could have taken place in those weeks off or with that money.

Maybe, swimming in my usual sea of unpopular opinions, I don’t think of the word grateful to describe how I feel now, but that doesn’t mean I am not. I see other weight loss surgery patients, or people who didn’t have surgery agonize over their loose skin and how they wish they could afford it, and I know that I am lucky I was able to do any of these things. I have gotten messages from people asking about the process for weight loss surgery itself, for the future, because they don’t have insurance right now, or a job that allows them time off.

I know that I am fortunate.

I revel in my size medium shirts, my ‘normal’ store clothes shopping, my belly fat and floppy arms not holding me back from things. I still do a double take when I see myself in photos taken by others or see my reflection in something new. I am proud of my transformation and the correlation between my confidence and accomplishments is not lost on me. The life I am living now feels like the one I always wanted to be living and I am in awe of that all the time.

I’m more than happy to field emails and phone calls from other patients going through the same program at my hospital, and I tell them in no uncertain terms that I would do this again and again to change my life for the better.

I don’t regret the decisions or the results, in any way. I just sometimes wish it wasn’t something that even had to happen. Who knows, maybe there’s a little bravery in admitting that.

irony.

A couple of months ago I sat in the very same examination room where I had first met my primary doctor a few years prior. I was here for my yearly physical and I had been having some headaches, which I wasn’t overly concerned about but mentioned, since I had a dizzy spell and fallen the week before.

It was no big deal, and in retrospect, probably my own fault. I was handing out prizes during a Q&A session at the weight and wellness expo I was participating in and did a sort of squat to not be a distraction and ‘walked’ backwards in my chunky heeled shoes in said squat position until my feet went out from under my throwing me down and back into a table where I hit my head and bruised my arm.

Embarrassing, but I survived. So much for not being a distraction.

Anyway, here I am with good old Potter telling him about the previous year and everything looks good and oh what’s this about headaches. He immediately insists on a brain MRI, which makes sense because he is old school and very thorough, and he leaves to let me get dressed. When he returns he says that he noticed a lump in my throat and could he check it out. Oh, what, not just an MRI? An ultrasound of my thyroid now?

COOL.

I remember leaving the office and my eyes were teary, but not because I was scared, but because, THIS is how my luck worked. Fat for years without a single real health concern but some high blood pressure and snoring, and the taunting of the onset of diabetes… lose nearly ninety pounds, have excess skin removed, have consistently normal blood pressure, take all your vitamins, need no medications for anything but oh hey your brain and your thyroid might wanna fuck shit up for ya.

Please hold.

Also, please postpone that arm surgery you have scheduled temporarily, it’s not a priority if, you know, there’s a tumor.

I had the MRI which I hope to never have again because one Ativan was no match for that tube and the headphones they gave me barely covered the noise and I swear I was in there for three hours (it was 30 minutes, maybe). I kept thinking, what if someone comes in and shoots the place up and I’m in this tube and can’t get out and calm down you watch too many movies.

I also had to have the ultrasound of my thyroid, which was no big deal at all, except they kept asking me to stop talking. Story of my life.

The results of the MRI come back with no issues regarding my brain. Looks like I have full sinus cavities, and a partially empty pituitary something or other which means there is an endocrinologist in my future. Okay, sure.

Oh, and that lump he felt? A three centimeter nodule on my thyroid, we’re gonna need to biopsy that. Wait. What? Why?

To determine if it’s cancerous.

“Do you think I have cancer?”

“I have treated patients with thyroid cancer for over thirty years and they’re all still alive, so let’s just get that biopsy scheduled.”

”So, you think I have cancer.”

:deep grandfatherly sigh:

“What I think doesn’t matter without the biopsy”

”And, my arm surgery?”

”let’s just wait on that…”

”..because you think I have cancer…”

”You’re one of my favorite patients, you know that?”

He proceeds to give me his personal cell phone number so I can text him later that day or weekend when I inevitably think of something I need to know or forgot to ask.

I have the strangest moment of my life, as if I’m watching a movie and I wonder if I have cancer. What the fuck. Is that why I have these headaches, is it related? This lump in my throat feels like a soccer ball and no, I don’t have any pain when I swallow, right? I’m hyper aware of this teeny mass and I just cry thinking about how fucking sad it would be if I died.

How morbid, I know.

How ironic though, that I’m finally in a place where I feel good, I feel like my life makes sense, I’m ambitious in a way I never was, I’m doing things, I’m happy …. and maybe I don’t get to be after all.

I’d be a damn liar if I didn’t say I spent the rest of the afternoon laying on my bed weepy and overthinking all the possibilities like always.

I’m extra emotional because we’re going to my parents for Thanksgiving a few days later, I cry about that. I cry about what Steve will eat for dinner when I’m dead, who will know how to make his coffee, will he be too sad to move on, will my parents survive this possible tragedy… what will people say about me when I’m gone, do I need surgery …what will happen … am I overreacting, probably, what if I’m not, what the fuck kinda shit is this anyway.

Then I cry about all the people I’ve known (and not known) who had afternoons like this being scared or feeling sorry for themselves and not living to tell about it. Then I cry for their parents, and their Steve’s and I text my cancer riddled actively dying neighbor who talks me off the ledge and offers me some xanax.

I get it all out of my system and stop feeling sorry for myself for something that’s nothing so far.

I have the biopsy,  which is done by needle, and I hope you never have to have one. They took multiple samples with a long thin needle and I watched it on a screen, neck bent, not allowed to talk (you’re killing me here!) wondering what the different colors and flashing things meant. The same woman who did the ultrasound resting her hand on mine to keep me calm, she knew there was something there before any of us.

I get a phone call the week before Christmas, 2 weeks before my arm surgery and it’s Potter. “Merry Christmas, it’s benign! You don’t have cancer”

I’m driving and I’m so relieverd, I cry. “And I can have my arm surgery?”

”Why would you want to have arm surgery with full sinus cavities? Make an appointment with an ENT first…”

I see an ENT a few days before my brachioplasty … she hardly seemed concerned and I said “Dr. Potter insisted…” she prescribed some Zyrtec and antibiotics “That makes sense, he’s old school.”

Like I said, he’s thorough. And two-for-two on saving my life, I’d say.

 

parking lot shuffle

Parking lots are one of my least favorite places in the world; people are walking anywhere they want, backing out of spaces without looking, leaving carts all over the place, whipping into spaces to beat someone else to it, staring at their phones while they stroll  (or drive!) and sometimes pushing their carts too close to your ankles.

The parking lot thing that has always bothered me most is that weird two steps forward-three hops back thing you have to do on your way to or from your car; when someone is letting you walk, but then they’re not … then they are … then not …  and nobody can decide what’s happening and everyone is watching to see what happens next.

Okay, maybe everyone isn’t watching, but it has certainly felt that way.

When you’re fat … well, I can’t speak for everyone, but when I was fat, I was sure that people were looking at me almost all the time. I’m sure they hardly ever were, but I felt eyes on me every time I left the house in an outfit I wasn’t sure of, or was eating in public, or oddly enough since it’s a positive thing, exercising. I digress …

I used to run as fast as I could (think: turtle speed) when a car was letting me cross; I didn’t want to give anyone a reason to honk at me or draw any unnecessary attention to myself. I’d usually make it to the other side virtually unscathed. Out of breath, a little sweaty or red faced, but no real embarrassment. As long as I didn’t make eye contact with anyone while trying to catch my breath on my way in to what always seemed to be the grocery store.

Today I came out of the store and a car was coming toward me, then slowed and waved me on. I sort of ran, maybe more like jogged across the lot to my car.

Wait, what?

I did it because it was raining and hailing and sleeting seemingly all at the same time and the wind had blown the hood of my coat off twice already and I hate wet hair more than anything – I was just trying to get to my car! But, yea, I jogged across a parking lot, effortlessly and without even thinking about it until I was pulling out of the lot and saw the old two step parking lot shuffle going on with someone else.

Of all the times I could swear someone was paying attention to me, or feasting their judgey eyes on my every move, I’m pretty sure nobody even noticed my personal ray of sunshine coming through the cold, gray day.

more than just coats.

My winter coat is too big but I keep wearing it anyway.

It’s nothing so special … your average knee-length, quilted pattern, insulated jacket. Columbia, packable, light, warm, black, size XL.

I bought it in 2015, and it’s probably been too big since the end of the following winter, if I’m honest. I bought it one cold afternoon when the threat of snow reminded me that I had thrown my last coat in a donation box earlier that year because it had gotten too big.

I spent years wearing heavy sweatshirts fleece jackets and scarves to avoid the winter coat situation. No coat was flattering, at all, and I hated feeling constricted, bulkier and just overall uncomfortable – I always felt ridiculous – think Randy a la Christmas Story! I broke down and got a not-too-puffy puffy coat at Burlington Coat Factory at some point before moving to Massachusetts and I wore it to death, out of necessity mostly and believed that it looked good – for what it was.

Fast forward to the winter of 2013, Steve decided he wanted to get a new winter coat and I thought that I could probably stand to replace mine as well. We went to REI where they were having a huge sale, and Steve said if I found a coat I liked he’d buy it for me. We split up and went to our respective departments where I tried on easily half a dozen winter jackets and coats. Every style I liked I tried – the largest sizes in some only went up to XL and they wouldn’t even zipper halfway. He walked over with about 4 jackets for himself that he was trying to eliminate and I must have looked like someone ran over my dog, because he started asking what was wrong, what happened.

Embarrassing to admit nothing fit.

In an entire department of winter coats and jackets not a single one fit.

He didn’t believe me, or pretended not to for my benefit, and picked out a few more for me to try on. I tried them on to the tune of nope, no way and get the fuck outta here girl this will never fit you.

Maybe the men’s department has something? Who cares where you get it if you like it and it fits?

I oblige the suggestion and roughly twenty more minutes of taking jackets and coats on and off, sweating, being frustrated, probably being hungry, because why wouldn’t that be the way when I couldn’t jam myself into any clothing I was trying on? Men’s jackets were either too tight or too big, and the too big was sort of a nice feeling until you acknowledge that the tag is a 2x.

Not being large enough to fill out a men’s 2x was not the silver lining I needed.

I gave up.

I got mad.

I got shitty and we checked out and left. Steve with two new jackets he would try out and get down to one and me with nothing but a reignited hatred toward winter coats.

I guess I still wear it because is kind of special in the sense that after hating all things winter jackets and coats I walked into a store, picked it out, tried it on and it fit. No asking if they carried it in a large size, or had anything in the elusive “back room”, I didn’t have to choose another style because this one wasn’t flattering. I didn’t have to take a gigantic breath to try and zip it, it just fit, just like that. I didn’t need a men’s jacket, or a  special order from a catalog or specialty store. I just made a decision and walked out happier than I had ever been in the winter coat arena.

I think we reminisced about it once since then, maybe when I hit the fifty pound weight loss mark or got my new coat; at a point when it was less sad, and just factual. In the end though, this jacket is too big and it will be the last winter I wear it. On the upside, I’ll be able to go into a store and pick a new one right off the rack, and that’s a pretty sweet trade off.

I asked him earlier today if he remembered that night, and he thought for a minute or two and said “Vaguely … I know I couldn’t decide and bought myself two coats and then had to return one … I offered to buy you one but you couldn’t decide” – bless his heart.

 

 

 

 

recover(y)(ing)

I’m four weeks post-op from my brachioplasty today and it sort of feels like I just got home from the hospital, but also like it was last year.

The day itself is blurry, I remember us leaving around 5 am to get into the city without too much traffic, which is kind of impossible no matter when you leave, and then having to wait for three months until they took me back.

I remember being hungry – “staaaaarving!” – anxious and freezing.

Despite it being my fourth surgery in the last five or so years, I questioned the anesthesiologist about the likelihood of my waking up during the procedure, I made jokes that a tired nurse laughed at, and someone put my nose ring in a biohazard bag. Three different people promised to go out and get Steve for me, but didn’t.

I remember feeling more anxious but simultaneously relieved when my doctor came in, by the time he finished measuring and drawing on me with a sharpie, his pocket tape measure unraveled and he laughed and he tossed it on the table in a way I remember being so funny – a la Andy Samberg throwing a piece of cake on the ground, but underhanded and not so aggressive – I’m a little high. He told me about his favorite nurses and his excellent intern that would be with him, we talked for a few more minutes since we’re old friends now, and he got Steve and we basically all said goodbye.

Rubbery plastic Bane-esque mask over my mouth and nose that smelled like a beach ball, “You can talk to us, it’s fine, just take a deep breath” …. “This things smells kind of like a bea….”

…four hours later …

My head is heavy, my arms are tight, like really tight and the cutest older nurse is trying to get me out of the bed into a chair. Steve’s back and my doctor and his intern are in jackets in front of me – I remember saying “Are you guys wearing jackets?” and them saying they went to lunch or something – and then my doctor said a bunch of things I misremembered for the following week.

I could barely stay awake on the drive home, and kept nodding off and then waking up asking very specifically for a “Java Chip Frappuccino” from Starbucks. Of course he got it for me, dropped my prescriptions off, took me home, went back for my prescriptions and some Gatorade and stool softener. (Maybe that’s TMI for you, but if you’re ever going to have surgery and be on pain medication you’ll be happy to have it!) I fell asleep sitting up on the couch and eventually moved to the bed where I still slept sitting up.

One drain in each arm, ace bandages tight around the tops and a compression bra/garment over that. Two days later I got to peel it all off (except the drains) and shower. The whole process took over an hour, drains pinned to a lanyard around my neck, and required a nap almost immediately after. But by the next day I’m taking Tylenol, instead of prescription pain pills.

I could wash my own hair, didn’t need any help in the bathroom and had free reign over the kitchen since I had no restriction on range of motion, so cooking (and eating!) was slower, but doable. I just couldn’t lift anything heavier than my coffee pot.

The drains remain the worst part. Hanging from above each elbow from what are basically puncture wounds and keeping me from being able to move as freely as I felt I could. At my two week follow up, my doctor greeted me with a goofy smile and “How are those drains?” To which I replied “I hate you.”

He took them out, examined his work and said everything was healing nicely.  What I didn’t expect, was for him and excellent intern to each start ace wrapping one of my arms starting at the hand and going all the way up to my armpit. Wouldn’t have been half as bad if I wasn’t told to leave them on constantly until the following week when I was to come back.

With the intention of transparency, that day was the only time I experienced any pain, and it was when me got home and I could feel the wrap rubbing against the incision and I cried a little.

Surprisingly, I have yet to ask how much skin and fat he removed, how many stitches might have been used or to see a photo.

And to be super transparent – my mood was totally dampened by the now constant wrapping and the itchy, tight feeling it gave me almost non-stop. I started getting crabby more frequently and “turding out” as we coined it. (This is basically acting like a turd). I would turd out occasionally after my panniculectomy too; when I couldn’t do something, or had to do something that was impeded even slightly by the wrap or binder or inability to flail around fluidly. At one point last week I violently shimmied my body against the doorway while shouting “I’m just so fucking itchy!” and until a few days ago, these swollen, scabbing, wrapped up arms didn’t look any different to me.

I knew they were but I couldn’t fully see it.

One hot shower and photo shoot later I got my brain together and am obsessed with them.

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I’m still tired and wrapped from hand to pit, but I can sleep laying down, on my side even! I can do everything I need to except comfortably wear a normal shirt over my garment – I’m glad that the pile of tank tops I never wore and had in a goodwill pile never made it there. Partly because I’ve been living in them and partly because I might actually wear them now.

My bank account and my mental health need a little time to regroup, so the thighplasty I have scheduled for April is getting pushed until the summer. I need time to mentally prepare for potentially swollen calves and toes and who only knows what type of compression garment!

Plus, recovery from surgery, no matter how elective or exciting is exhausting and can be depressing. I need some time to be back in a routine and move my body before putting it on the bench for another few weeks. Please remember that if you are considering any procedure, weight loss wise or plastic surgery.

I’ve only been back to work for three days and I’m exhausted, but my skin is looking less like that of a shut in, I put makeup on and wore shoes that aren’t my slippers, and I have a follow up next week (I should probably bring him a treat for saying I hated him – because I so don’t) that should alter my current wrap situation, so my mood is up.

Swollen arms and hands, misshapen and uncomfortable forearms, temporary limited movement and drains aside; I almost can’t think of a better decision I’ve made in my life.

 

 

 

 

 

armed.

In the midst of a seven thousand step Zumba class last year I took my zip up off to avoid certain death, but the slapping of my arms and the fear that everyone could see it and hear it was enough to take the fun out of it and get me back into my sweat soaked jacket.

I can count, maybe on both hands the people who have seen me in something intentionally sleeveless or short sleeved in my lifetime. That list basically includes my mother, my boyfriend, any doctor I’ve seen and the occasionally friend or family member. Oh – and a nice older lady measuring me in the Victoria’s Secret dressing room.

I barely own anything with short sleeves, and what I do has a coordinating layer. I haven’t owned a bathing suit in at least ten years (save for last summer when I crashed my parents beach vacation) and aside from a handful of unfortunate bridesmaids dresses, business casual tops for funerals and interviews (again covered) my wardrobe is all long in the sleeve.

I used to harass my mother about an outfit that wasn’t long sleeved repeatedly from the time I put it on until I would walk out the door, sometimes even going back in to ensure that she “wasn’t lying” about how I looked, or worse, that she “wasn’t lying about lying”.

I wore the long sleeved shirt or the optional uniform sweater practically every day of my high school career. I’ve had to wear promotional or uniform t-shirts for restaurant jobs that would make me so uncomfortable that I would consider calling out sick, or saying I forgot it knowing they might not have another one on hand in my size. I would sweat my way through bbq’s, push up the sleeves of things to make them more weather appropriate and ‘throw something over’ almost anything I wore.

I may have single-highhandedly kept Old Navy in business with my cardigan purchases over the years.

I have fantasized about upper arms toned enough for tattoos and tank tops or dresses. I have had more people that I can remember offer to take my jacket or ask if I was hot, or comment on my layers.

I’ve gotten better over the last few years, mostly since my smaller body makes me feel less bad about my not smaller arms. I’ve worn things outside of my comfort zone to avoid extreme discomfort or sweating to death. But I still cloak their soft, flabby hanging skin in jean jackets, zip ups and long sleeves. Winter, summer, spring and fall. Not (always) in the privacy of my own home, but for the most part, all day every day.

You would think (I know I did) that losing nearly ninety pounds, having your protruding folds of abdominal skin and fat removed and being able to grab things off the rack in size medium and large I’d be living the good life. And I am, but have also been unable to buy things that otherwise fit because they constricted my upper arms to the point that the sleeve would roll up and practically cut off my circulation, or expose so much of my arm flab that it would double on itself and look, for lack of a better word, gross.

I assumed, even as recently as last year that I would spend the rest of my life in a long sleeved prison, unable to muster the confidence it would take to expose my arms or to find clothes that fit me as well in the body as the arm  – uncomfortable with the skin pinching itself or slapping when I move too quickly.

I’ve been mostly okay with it given everything else I have gained as a result of my weight loss journey. Turns out, I don’t have to be. I am being freed this week.

So soon, in fact, that forty-eight hours from now I will likely be out of surgery and on my way to being discharged to the comfort of my couch.

I’m in a state of excitement mixed with anxiety; I’m not afraid of anesthesia or hospitals, I’m a surgery junky by this point. I am however unable to imagine a body that has ‘normal’ arms – nondescript, average sized arms – since for dozens of years I have pulled, poked and flapped them in frustration. I probably won’t be able to picture it, no matter how many times I pinch it or pull it back in the mirror, until I see it with my own eyes.

armedI’m not one for New years resolutions; not on my fattest day or in my saddest year, but I am armed with complete confidence when I say that I will be leaving my arm flab and related anxiety in 2017 and braving some short sleeved tops in 2018.