skin photo Laura Prado
Guest Post by Jan Bono
Ok, so you probably figured out, even before you got to the byline, that this was a guest post. Skin removal? That's a surgical procedure associated with massive weight loss. And massive weight loss... well, that implies incredible will-power, courage, and persistence.
So, you had to know this was written by someone other than Crabby McSlacker!
But I'm psyched to introduce Jan Bono to you. She's written a book, Back from Obesity, about her weight loss, which I hope you check out. Her story is pretty damn inspirational.
If you don't believe me, just check out a couple of Jan's "before" and "after" photos.
You can learn more about her and check out her book and blog below, and I'll shut up now and let her share her skin removal experience! --Crabby
“Cosmetic” Skin Removal Surgery: Beauty IS more than Skin Deep
I flew to Las Vegas, by myself, to celebrate the loss of my first 200 pounds. Although I was still 50 pounds from my eventual goal, I was now at “one hundred something” for the first time in several decades, and wanted to kick up my heels.
There was a minor mix-up with my hotel reservation, and as a result, I was “upgraded” to a suite. Although tastefully stenciled with a tropical motif, two of the walls, including the sliding closet doors, were actually floor-to-ceiling mirrors.
Having shunned mirrors for literally years, I tried to ignore them as I quickly changed into my bathing suit for a trip to the pool. A half hour of modified water aerobics later, I felt quite noble for having exercised before going out on the town.
Back in the room, I sat on the edge of the bed to towel-dry my hair after showering. I tipped my head back and discovered there were mirrors on the ceiling, too. Aloud I shrieked, “Oh my golly gosh darn holy goodness!” (That’s not what I actually said, but you get the point.)
There I was, sitting on the bed, stark-raving naked, facing my reflected image from the top, and there weren’t even any palm frond stencils to soften this view. To say it wasn’t pretty would be the grossest understatement of the year. And I do mean grossest.
My lily-white body cascaded in folds around me. My belly skin rested half way down my thighs and my sagging breasts rested on what would have been my lap.
I lifted my arms to the sides and twisted my wrists. Waves of skin, hanging at least eight inches down, flapped wildly back and forth.
Lowering my arms, I kept staring in horror at the ceiling, taking it all in. Here I’d lost a whopping 200 pounds, and yet I looked like some kind of crazy science-fiction cross between the commercial images of the Michelin Tire Boy and a melting Tasty-Freeze ice cream cone.
I sat there a long time, letting the tears flow. Comforting myself with food was not an option, so I sat there, naked and alone, until another idea popped into my head. A much, much better idea.
When I returned home, I compiled a list of board-certified “cosmetic” surgeons within a reasonable driving distance and chose three for initial consultations.
“When you’re in your 30s,” said the first doctor, as I stood before him wearing only a small triangle-shaped paper thong that was supposed to pass for underwear, “you still have nearly 80% skin elasticity.” He paused, and looked at me meaningfully. “But unfortunately, when you’re 49, you have zero.”
“Zero?! As in none?!”
He nodded. “At your age, no cream, no exercises, no electrical stimulation, absolutely nothing will tighten that skin back up. You either have it removed or learn live with it.”
The other doctors concurred, and I chose to have five procedures, spread over two surgical sessions 90 days apart, to remove my excess skin.
The first surgery was a full abdominoplasty, or tummy tuck. In my case, the doctor started around the back on both sides, leaving a crooked scar that looks like I’ve been sloppily sawed in half. At the same time, she cut off what she called my “bat wings,” which I never could convince her to call “angel wings.”
The arms, each with ugly bright scars from my armpit to my elbow, healed just fine, but the stomach incision developed complications.
I’d been sent home with three plastic squeegee fluid collection “tennis balls” hanging from tubes in my belly. Each day, I recorded the amount and color of the fluid and phoned it in. One of the sites formed an abscess, which had to undergo ultrasound and then be drained.
Yet three months later, I was ready for my second trip “under the knife.” This time, my thighs were pulled up, my butt was minimally tucked, and my breasts were lifted from my lap back to my chest.
Another abscess developed in my “nether region,” which required extra weeks of antibiotic and compress pads to collect the drainage, but it was the result of the breast lifting that shocked and appalled me.
I’d had nightmares about awakening to find my boobs tucked way up under my chin, and it was a relief to find that had not happened. Yet what did transpire still plagues me to this day, over a decade later.
I’d been told that the nipples would be “removed,” and a wedge-shaped section of skin below them would be taken off. The two sides of that triangular wedge would then be stitched together, and the nipple sewn back in place.
It was explained that the nipple might lose some sensitivity, temporarily. I was not told that my areolas would now be less than half the size I’d started with. Whereas my nipples had been lovely, full and sensitive, I was left with not much more than nickel-sized buds.
The location of the nipple was, and still is, too high on my breast. I am unable to wear most bras, as the nipple, placed in the center of the tissue instead of on the lower curve, pops out if I wear any undergarment bordering sexy.
As it was deemed “cosmetic,” my insurance did not pay for any of this. I spent $25,000 out of my own pocket to emerge feeling slightly disfigured and still rather sad about the way my body looked.
But time has a way of healing even the deepest pains. My nipple sensitivity returned to perhaps a little more than 50% of what I’d had, and I’ve learned to live with the rest of me. I never expected, in my 50s, to get the body of my 20s back, and I didn’t.
What I got was a deeper appreciation of how my body works and moves and functions on a daily basis. And eventually, I was able to happily “get naked” not only in front of the mirror, but with a lover who appreciated me for me—scars and insecurities and all.
Today, given the same choices, and perhaps even with the same outcome, I’d gladly go through it all again. The money, the pain, the crisscross of scars now covering my body—those are all my personal badges of courage.
I had “run the marathon,” by losing the weight, and having the skin removed was like stepping over the Finish Line. And besides, my skin removal gave me 25,000 very good reasons not to gain it all back, and a decade later, I haven’t!
Jan Bono lives on the southwest Washington coast. She is the author of “Back from Obesity: My 252-pound Weight-loss Journey.” Her book is available in softcover at www.JanBonoBooks.com, or as an eBook at Jan's Back from Obesity Smashwords page. And you can also check out Jan's blog!