After a fairly brief consult, i scheduled my...
after a fairly brief consult, i scheduled my abdominoplasty for november 1st!
the surgery is actually two weeks away, but it seems de rigueur on realself to begin chronicling preoperative concerns and expectations as a means of tracking a full journey, and i think this makes sense. plastic surgery, after all, deserves more reflection than a yelp review of a teeth cleaning. and this site seems like a solid community of supportive individuals who have all devoted a lot of time, money, and emotional investment to the experience of surgical self-improvement.
this feels weird for me. i have not had children, undergone any type of surgery, nor experienced loose skin and stretch marks. at the beginning of undergrad, i was a 5'4,115 lb freshman in college who maxed out at a size 2. over the next seven years, i ballooned with truly impressive rapidity. some time during my first year of grad school, i weighed myself after a shameful night spent binge-eating smuggled snacks in a movie theater- 191 lb, size 14. i finally lost weight in 2012, through the combined efforts of a ketogenic diet and a fitness boot camp. my weight now hangs out in the 140s, vacillating by several pounds depending on how much garbage i've been eating.
i am finally at a normal bmi and happy with my dress size, but weight loss and weight gain ravaged my body in unexpected ways. where once i had a typical asian figure- straight and about as curvy as a loaf of bread, i now have an hourglass figure in the worst way. an hourglass in a dali painting, maybe. although my waist hollowed out to a size 4, my hips remain defiant at a size 8 and my stomach decided to remain persistent in its tendency to mimic a third trimester pregnancy. my ribs are the worst offenders. ferdinand magellan could not circumnavigate the planet that is my rib fat. the protrusion of my terrible upper chest in combination with a small waist has given me a truly weird crease line that i fantasize about ironing out of my skin.
more than anything, it's this increasingly odd distribution of fat that made me start considering plastic surgery. i know what i looked like at 140 lb previously, and it wasn't so horrifyingly lumpy. i am concerned that even with my best efforts to lose another 20 pounds, i will still have this random kevlar vest of rib fat, and awful belly. my bosses, both physicians, swear by a plastic surgeon they've both seen for various procedures- dr. kent hughes. seeing that he has done good work, i decided to just test the waters with a consultation.
i actually visited dr. hughes for a lipo consult. i thought it would be as simple as vaccuuming away my rib fat disaster, and taking care of the belly along with it. dr. hughes was friendly, warm, and very calming- he reassured me that i'd just need some body sculpting to reach my full potential. however, upon viewing the mess that is my torso, he decided abdominoplasty would be the ideal solution- defatting all the way up to beneath my breasts.
it's more than a little shameful to consider that i'm having a tummy tuck. i feel like this procedure should be reserved for women who have bravely born children, sacrificing their abdominal muscles and elastic skin to bring life to the world. whereas i have been sitting around eating taco bell, just bringing more adipose tissue to the world. there's also another layer of shame in realizing that it would take one of the most invasive procedures offered by my surgeon to bring my body into viewable condition.
but i'm excited. i am not afraid of the pain and the long recovery period- my work and my boyfriend form an excellent support system and i have confidence in dr. hughes' expertise. i'm not certain this is the wisest fiscal decision i could make in light of my omnipresent grad school loans (which are far more important to pay off but simultaneously the least satisfying thing to funnel my income towards). i am hoping for good results and minimal complications. i don't expect to have a perfect torso, and to that end i am not contemplating photos of models. i just want to be able to wear a tight dress without having to swathe myself in so many pairs of spanx i need the jaws of life to cut myself out of them by the end of night. i just want to feel like i can get naked without hoping that my partner develops glaucoma soon. and most importantly, i just want to be able to wear a bikini before i'm medicare-eligible.
one more week until i'm on the flat side
so i have no idea why i'm posting a photo of my bare torso, which i typically keep under wraps at all times and try never to look at. i've told pretty much all my close friends that i'm undergoing this procedure, so if any of them have traced me to this website, i'm sorry y'all have to see my weirdly distributed fat.
this is what i'm working with pre-abdominoplasty. my rib fat is uneven. and i assume the crease beneath it exists because i'm constantly slouching with the world's worst posture, which will make the post-op hunching over pretty easy.
man i can't wait to have a belly button that doesn't look like it's perpetually depressed about life.
i saw my plastic surgeon again yesterday for a more in-depth discussion about the surgery, and left feeling very confident. i am adding a pain pump, which is stupidly expensive but will keep me feeling good enough to go to work without pain meds.
oh, that's another thing. i don't plan to be off more than a couple of days. i could take a full week, but i'm panicky about leaving the office for so long. it may be best to work from home, but i'll figure it out as i recover. i'm pretty sure 90% of my job is answering emails, 5% ignoring sales calls, and 5% making sure my employees don't start catfighting in the hallways, so it's not a physically demanding profession. i don't intend to compromise my recovery, but i am also not down to lie around for two weeks crying. i guess it all comes down to how i feel post-op.
dr. hughes has a great pedigree; i have no doubts about his skill level and feel confident that my belly button won't end up off-center. i did confirm that scar revisions and dog-ear removals are done at no cost if such corrections are needed. i will have one drain, and it's likely i'll need to keep it in for a week.
this is very rambling, i'm just trying to write down my thoughts with no real organizational flow to this. it feels very unreal, as if this is something i'm only pretending to do. the idea of waking up in about a week without having to stuff my body into a pair of spanx is bizarre and almost inconceivable.
three more days.
i keep vacillating between upswings of joy and excitement, then sobering moments of dread. i think it's natural human instinct to avoid pain and damage, so the actualization of voluntary self-mutilation is an inevitable fear.
i feel oddly sentimental about my body. even though i'm at the point where i'd pay thousands to be rid of these humiliating pockets of fat, i feel vaguely like i'm betraying my body and skin to the cold precision of a surgeon's knife. like i'm paying several thousand dollars for the assassination of something that has been part of me for a very long time. i get that this is a really weird line of thought, but i am nothing if not routinely and inconveniently sentimental.
i think my boyfriend is super apprehensive of the recovery process and already seems a bit inconvenienced by my discussion of it. i think it would help calm my nerves if he were more cheerful, but i know i'm asking a lot of him and thoughtlessly showing him gory wound vac photos. definitely not helping the cause. i'm worried that if i don't keep up a dialogue about the risks and pitfalls in the post-op stage, he'll get the feeling that he's taking me home after a wisdom tooth extraction or something similarly non-invasive. i'm trying to explain that depression may set in during the recovery period, since i'll probably be miserable from perpetually hunching over and sleeping sitting up like the elephant man. he is completely bewildered.
an additional photo.
in response to some recent admonishments, i'm updating with a more terrible photo to demonstrate this belly crease that's still tenacious after weight loss. i can do a fairly good job of hiding it, but it's still omnipresent and lurking beneath my underwear and 26 layers of spanx.
i feel weird trying to prove that my torso is bad enough for surgery.
tomorrow is d-day.
i am super nervous, more so than i anticipated.
i used to manage an ambulatory surgical center. i currently run a pain management practice. i have plenty of experience in the healthcare field- so why am i so incredibly anxious? i keep having this dread about an adverse reaction to propofol, or else never waking up from sedation, or else experiencing only twilight sedation and waking up to watch my surgeon peeling back my abdomen.
i am hoping fervently that this will be the deepest 2 hour nap of my life.
so far my preparatory supplies shopping has been meager at best. i have palmer's vitamin e oil, antibacterial soap, loose zip-up clothing i'll probably live in, a wedge pillow for my legs, baby wipes, my prescriptions, and a 50 mL vial of 0.5% marcaine to refill my pain pump with (not nearly enough). i keep seeing these massive, daunting lists of post-up supplies people have been purchasing and it's quite intimidating. i think i'll feel out my needs as i recover, and send boyfriend out for the shopping. i'd hate to stock up like i'm preparing for nuclear fallout and then end up not using anything.
i made my surgeon's fee and anesthesia fee payments yesterday. i'll pay the facility fee tomorrow. the fiscal commitment is quite real and it feels guilt-inducing to be shelling out thousands for pure vanity. but maybe it's a good investment. maybe my new bikini body will attract the attention of a billionaire philantropist and i'll recoup a tidal wave of trophy wife money.
i am mostly joking. independent lady 4 life.
i've gained like 10 pounds since my initial consult, what is wrong with me. apparently the fear of major surgery drives me to eat garbage, consistently and emotionally. nothing assuages anxiety like eating fries until i hate myself. i am concerned that the weight gain will affect my results poorly, especially considering that most patients are encouraged to lose more weight prior to surgery.
i am generally quite mopey today. thanks to everyone for being so incredibly kind, supportive, and encouraging. i would be an even bigger nervous wreck without the advice and inspiration from this community. can't wait to reconnect with y'all on the flat side.
this is it.
1 Nov 2013
Day of treatment
i've checked in to the surgery center and completed my registration paperwork and facility payment. just waiting for my chart to go back to dr. hughes for our pre-op eval and the inevitable act of attempting dignity while he doodles on my belly with magic marker.
the diazepam has helped, very subtly, in calming my nerves. i'm ready to get this over with. good luck to all my fellow ladies going in today!
1 Nov 2013
Day of treatment
oh man, i'm back home and napping a lot. that was an interesting experience i'd like to never repeat again.
dr. hughes was wonderful, warm, and calming when he introduced himself to my boyfriend. he doodled on me very carefully, focusing on drawing a low, symmetrical incision line. he reiterated that he would defat aggressively from my mons to my ribs while prioritizing my safety above all else. my sainted boyfriend left to fill a phenergan script for me shortly thereafter.
i met my anesthesiologist, dr. groysman, once my contacts were out. consequently, i have no idea what he looked like. he was a man-shaped fuzzy blob and quit brisk. they started antibiotics in my iv drip, wheeled me into the operating room, and i remember having a few minutes to contemplate how large it was before i was put under.
i awoke several hours later with boyfriend back at my side, hearing my surgeon and post-op nurses talk about me. dr. hughes was effusively telling my boyfriend how amazing my results are going to be, how beautifully the procedure went.
the pain upon waking up was no joke, though. i kept blearily asking when my pain pump would finally kick in. it was explained to me that the pain pump was embedded in my incision site (which was, admittedly, totally numb and painless) but the majority of work had taken place in my upper abs. my accursed fatty ribs were indeed aggressively undermined, and my abs were sutured together primarily at the very top. to that end, my upper abs hurt quite a lot. i feel like i am in a python's death grip.
also, i tried coughing due to irritation from my operative endotracheal tube. i wouldn't wish the pain that ensued upon my worst enemy.
hanging in the recovery room
was very uncomfortable and i got dizzy quite easily upon the minor motions of exertion. my nurse was quite sweet and understanding, having undergone an abdominoplasty herself previously. she showed my boyfriend how to empty my drain (only one!) which is not as gross as i thought it would be. i'm wearing my pain pump like a very stylish fanny pack; it's roughly the size of a grapefruit, but will collapse over the next two or three days.
i slept on the long drive home, while darling boyfriend fretted about stoplight and speed bumps, worrying that every jerky motion would hurt me. it's remarkable how slowly i have to shuffle. he called me "the cutest little old lady."
i didn't buy a recliner or hospital bed. we have a chaise lounge and i've decided to use it as my recovery throne, replete with leg-elevating pillows and a blanket. although i am painfully tight and sore, it's otherwise a very comfortable setup.
dr. hughes called us this evening to check in. he raved about the results, and told me he liposculpted a six pack for me! i am in utter disbelieve. i've never in my life had a six-pack, real or sculpted. i can't wait to see it.
i hope all the other lovely ladies who had their pre-ops or operations today had wonderful experiences. thank you so much for the kind words and support! it has been absolutely priceless to me.
man, how did you brave ladies get your post-op photos taken immediately? i am so leery about taking off my binder to shower, pretty sure i'm just gonna sit in my nest and baby wipe my armpits until the cdc declares my personal hygiene a state of national emergency.
but I could resist, and sneaked a peek while boyfriend left for his chinese class this morning. no rolls when sitting down! although maybe that's just the binder and also juxtaposition of my waist against my godzilla thighs.
i'm so excited to see my belly button. i'm obsessed with brandnewbelly13's perfect navel, and had dr. hughes reassure me i'd also get a cute, small one.
sleeping has been easier than i expected. my man slept in the living room on the loveseat beside my chaise, which couldn't be too comfortable for him given its short length. the only major issue so far has been phlegm caught in my throat. i really need to cough it up but all meager attempts so far have been so incredibly painful. can you pop an internal suture from coughing or sneezing? i woke up this morning with unbearable soreness in my upper abs. :/
i'm amazed that my colleague reassured me that she was back on her treadmill 3 days post-op, and that her pain pump kept her 100% numb. i can only assume she had no upper abdomen undermining and repair, because this half is no joke.
i worry frequently that i am not doing everything right. my surgeon's post-op instructions were pretty breezy, so i'm getting most of my info from my fellow TT ladies.
good news: i can use the bathroom unassisted! and now i have the whole day to lie around and play pokemon.
it gets better, right?
i nap about every three minutes. i think i've regressed back to infancy.
my lumbar region screams in protest when i try to shuffle around, hunched over. the back pain everyone talked about was no joke. i'm intensely grateful that i work for spinal pain management physicians, in case this pain keeps up once i'm back to work.
my upper abs finally decided to settle down slightly and i'm happy to report that it has stopped being the most painful thing ever and is now mostly sore and uncomfortable.
however, my incision area decided to step up to the plate and take over on the pain front. when i stand up to walk around (albeit as hunched and collapsed as an unwanted rag doll), there is a searing, burning pain below the incision. yesterday it was on the left. today it was on the right. i'm trying to figure out exactly what I can trace it to- swelling, maybe? has anyone else experienced this?
i'm a tough girl, i promise. i've had my achilles' tendon caught in a spinning bicycle wheel. i've been dropped face-first onto a metal radiator going full blast during a freezing mongolian winter (thanks, sis). nothing has knocked me on my ass like this surgery. i feel pathetic, hobbling to the bathroom and whimpering when my drain starts leaking. having my boyfriend scoop me around the couch and timing all my medications. my heart really goes out to all the women who recovered with minimal assistance, because this level of helplessness has been quite hard on me.
my surgeon reassures me i am on cruise control at this point, that every day will get easier as long as i continue to take it easy and stay flexed at the waist. i go in on friday to get my incision tape removed.
until then, i assume i'll be continuing to permanently indent this couch with my body, fantasizing about a dairy queen blizzard.
my drain is leaking everywhere, so i am no longer deemed fit to wear pants. now i'm sitting around sans underwear on swathes of paper towels like adult diapers, to avoid stewing in a puddle of blood and lymph.
i knew my surgeon would excise my fat, but i was definitely not prepared for my dignity to be removed as well.
a much better day.
thanks for the encouragement, ladies! today was significantly easier, albeit with a few low points.
my boyfriend took me to my office prior to leaving for work. the marcaine i took home with me prior to surgery is unsurprisingly bottled quite inaccessibly and my pain pump is outfitted with a luer lock. what this essentially meant was that i needed a syringe to refill my pump. my staff were kind enough to assist me with a 50 cc refill, and i took home syringes for the rest.
however, shortly after boyfriend left for work, i felt my mouth and tongue go numb quite suddenly. i called my surgeon, panicking, leaving an embarrassingly teary voicemail. boyfriend rushed back from work, concerned about my airway should the peri oral symptoms get worse. i closed the pain pump clamps immediately and pitied myself into a nap.
a few hours later, i cried because my father was texting too much and waking me up. then i cried because i needed to run payroll and my accounts payable rep was taking too long to transfer funds. literally the two most pathetic cries of my life.
when dr. hughes got back to me, he was quite concerned. mouth numbness is the first sign of lidocaine or marcaine toxicity, followed by cardiac arrhythmia. turns out the 0.5% was too strong after all. he urged me to remove my pain pump immediately. i nearly blacked out twice while boyfriend removed my catheters. a harrowing experience for both of us.
things got much better after that, thankfully. now with less crazy bionic tubes strangling me, i'm a lot more cheerful. it's just me, my drain, and my binder. together forever until the end of time.
pain has finally dulled, although walking/shuffling is still a miserable chore replete with back spasms. i'm swelling fiercely, so my torso still bears an uncanny resemblance to watermelon. and i finally put underwear on! it's the little things
one week later.
swelling fiercely. only several months more of this to get through! i'm in that stage of not knowing what's fat and what's excessive lymph. i'm pretty sure the fattiness of my upper ribs persist, despite dr. hughes' best efforts. especially on the sides, which i hadn't noticed before.
yes, i'm in that nitpicking valley where the reduction of my belly has caused me to feel like i look wider across and less hourglassy. it's not so bad, though. i know i look and feel a million time better and more comfortable with myself. but a abdominoplasty is not a recipe for a perfect torso, so i'll have to keep going hard at my weight loss efforts to reduce the fatty bulges that were spared by surgery.
pain-wise, i have been coping well. i'm not taking any oral narcotics, save a diazepam every other day now or so to reduce my back spasms. i tried to go back to work yesterday and got caught up for a valiant 3 hours, until my doctor sent me home. the problem is really just walking. i'm sorry i've never appreciated your true necessity and power until now, lumbar spine. when we get through this i'm treating you to all sorts of massage.
today is my one week follow-up with dr. hughes. he will take the brown surgical tape off and i'll finally see the incision! based on where the tape is, i'm concerned it's rather on the high side and i'll only be able to wear bikinis from the early 1990s. kind of hoping he slaps another round of tape on it, and i'll just wear it forever since it's a close enough approximation of my skin tone.
although my surgeon is skilled and has great bedside manner, i feel like the post-op side of things has been really breezy. i don't want to be a needy, endlessly harauinging patient. i've worked in healthcare long enough to avoid becoming the unruly patient trope. but i've just had a major surgery for the first time in my life and i get nervous about making sure i'm doing things correctly and not having abnormal experiences. a little more post-op handholding, even from a nurse or medical assistant, would've been great.
like for example, i am pretty sure i was in a drug-induced haze when i asked about how to handle my surgical dressings. and he told me to take off all the white gauze and only leave the brown scar tape in place. i swear he told me to take the gauze out of my belly button and clean it with neosporin, so i fished like 800 feet of gauze out and did so. now i'm stressing out that i should've kept the gauze in lest my belly button close up. these are details i wish came in the written instructions. please tell me some of y'all were also told to remove the gauze, and that i won't end up with a crazy outie. :(
a few quick updates.
1. returned to work after 1 week; no issues! just slouching around the office like a hunchback, trying to keep my blood grenade under wraps.
2. my boss, a physician, prescribed me a topical scar gel- it's a compound cream that will also reduce pain and inflammation at the incision site, so i'm excited to try it out.
3. saw my scar briefly on friday during the follow-up before dr. hughes slapped another round of tape on it. it's surprisingly, gratifyingly thin! i'll have to see how even it looks once i switch to silicone scar tape, but what i glimpsed looked very promising.
4. started sleeping in my bed 1 week post op, albeit curled up and still flexed at the waist so as not to strain my incision. it wasn't so bad being sandwiched between a thousand pillows on the couch, but i'm glad to be sleeping with my boyfriend again. this leg-elevating wedge pillow was definitely the best surgery readiness item i purchased.
5. my belly button looks like i'm hoarding a pound of ground beef in it, truly awful and lumpy and so weird-looking it could pass for an alien breeding swamp or something. i try not to look at it.
6. i see now why so many women choose to stay in their binders until the end of time. it's hard to describe. when i have this very attractive white straitjacket on, i feel compressed and bound. the first five seconds after removing it is glorious, sweet relief. followed by the immediate weirdness of feeling super tight without even anything on. the severe muscle tightness just feels...wrong. with my binder on, tightness just feels like the byproduct of compression, and honestly becomes an afterthought. i ordered a compression garment to transition to in a few weeks.
8. i sneezed yesterday. pretty sure that's what dying feels like.
moving on up.
goodbye, elastic binder.
you and i have had some good times in the short week and a half we've been together. i came home from the surgery center in your firm clutches while you kept my dressings in place.
your presence has been comforting, though your velcro edges always seem to end up displaced and chafing me. you bunched up in creases around my waist. you got very bedraggled very quickly. sorry about that one time my drain leaked horribly and stained your edges. that was gross and i feel bad.
i replaced you with a compression garment/faja/torture device today. a vedette firm control seamless panty shaper, size medium. it is not as forgiving as you. you took under a minute to wrap on. this one took like half a hour and several swear words. squeezing my swollen body into it was like trying to pass a refrigerator through a scrunchie. i thought it was impossible. i gave up halfway and considered crying into a bottle of wine. but inch by miserable inch, i hoisted this thing on and now i think it's permanently affixed and after two more meals i'll need a sawblade to get it off. this thing means business. "firm control" was an understatement. "totalitarian dictatorship" is a better description for the pressure it exerts on my body. breathing is harder. i finally have a tiny waist again. my hips are finally under control.
sorry, elastic binder. you were kinder and gentler on my body, but i think this new baby is going to get me the best results. or else fracture my ribs.
nixing the vedette compression garment immediately. i wore it for a grand total of 5 hours before becoming concerned about the crushing pressure on my hips.
it took a lot of struggling and assistance to get it off, but i'm so glad i did. my lower abdomen was starkly white, so pale it looked bloodless. i'm terrified of cutting off circulation to an area still very much in the healing process, so i'm gonna go binder-free until my surgeon can verify that i didn't do any major damage.
ugh, i should've known better than to have squished myself into a rib-crushing contraption so soon after surgery.
everything is terrible.
so, at one week post-op, i was feeling amazing and almost totally back to normal. i was marveling at how easy it was and how well i had recovered.
relaxed too soon. now, i'm on my period and it is ferocious. the cramps and bloating combined with the swelling and tightness from surgery is a behemoth of pain and discomfort. i didn't take my pain meds when my lumbar spine was screaming at me to down a bottle, but i'm taking them now. hydrocodone + phenergan is my only refuge from the nonstop pain and pressure.
i'm exhausted. my drain has been in for ages and shows no sign of slowing down- i'm draining at least 60 cc and unidentifiable gore consistently throttles the tube. i don't even care anymore. half the time i don't know if my drain is leaking or if my tampon is leaking. the silicon strips i bought for scar therapy keep getting snagged on the relentless velcro from my elastic binder and crumpling off, exposing my incision. i am stiff from sleeping with my knees drawn up. i can't bear the idea of trying to squeeze my swollen body and bulky binder into a semblence of business casual for work. i do not feel business casual, i feel like a gross, inefficient replica of a human being. i keep throwing myself these pity parties and then absolutely reviling myself for a lack of gumption.
i wanted this. i have a flat stomach, something i've yearned for so desperately through the years. i remind myself daily, the only way out is through.
four weeks later.
haven't updated in a while, since the 2 and 3 week stretches were fairly monotonous.
but i got my drain out yesterday! that's right, 27 days post-op. being strict about compression and staying sedentary really helped me drop my drainage to desired removal levels. it has also been a great excuse to nap a lot or else lie around watching korean dramas.
i've had about 4 weeks of taping down my scar, either with medical tape or silicon sheets. it is nice and flat, with only a few areas of slightly raised edges. i am satisfied with how it turned out, and have started scar therapy. which us basically just rubbing vitamin e and bio-oil so often on it that my torso consistently looks greasy. very attractive.
swelling is pretty persistent around my incision, and around my upper abs/rib cage. it's not awful though, and i tell myself daily the end result will look better. even if it doesn't, it's still a big improvement.
my belly button still looks like a cat's anus. my surgeon had me tape in a marble, but that was a hot mess. it wouldn't stay in and rolled out a lot at random embarrassing intervals. so he reassured me i could dispense with it, and that my navel won't close up. still looks so gross, though.
including a screenshot of my drainage tracking, which i highly recommend to ladies with upcoming tummy tucks. my boyfriend maintained a written log for the first few days of my drainage and medications taken, meticulously documented by time.
of course, i was disheartened by having my drain in for so long. but it was just one, and i worked around it without too much effort. it was important to me to not have it removed too early and suffer a seroma. my surgeon is 1.5 hours away, so the idea of driving 3 hours round trip several times a week for aspirations was not at all enticing.
my drainage tube site was directly on my mons, pretty much within a millimeter of my vagina. shaving was a truly terrifying act. i was constantly stressing about the risk of infection, having it in so long. the wound has filled pretty quickly after removal, though, so that bodes well.
tips for lowering drainage: if you were instructed to wear a binder post-op, do it religiously. the external pressure helps push your wound flap constantly to encourage the skin-muscle adhesion. by the 19th i was getting desperate, so i wrapped my ragged elastic velcro binder on top of my vedette faja. i slowed down at work and stopped walking around so much. it really made a huge difference, as evidenced by the log.
also, last night i got hit with a stomach bug or something similarly awful. y'all i do not recommend violently vomiting all night after having your abs sutured. throwing up was something that hurt my abs prior to this surgery, so you can only imagine the pain after muscle repair. i thought sneezing was bad, but vomiting really takes the crown for worst feeling ever. ugh.
here's a clearer picture of my scar; you can see its relatively high placement a bit better in this one.
also, i'm at a hotel with nothing better to do than try to recover from this sudden malaise. which means i'm just hanging out taking pictures of myself. i took my compression garment off last night since i suspected it was exacerbating my nausea; i don't look or feel any more swollen for having gone without it for a while. yay!
i am like starting to really enjoy hiking all my shirts up and tying them back so i can look at my flat belly always. my whole closet is a wasteland of gigantic, loose tops that i felt comfy in because they hid my belly. now i'm all about wearing tight clothes, so it is time for a much-needed wardrobe overhaul. i ain't even mad.
y'all, after years of longing to wear skimpy lingerie but always having to disguise my terrible floppy belly under maternity slips, i finally celebrated the removal of my drains by purchasing some very slutty underwear that serve no real functional purpose.
i was willing to overlook the exorbitant cost of what i assume must be 3 square inches of fabric. i am okay with this flimsy lacy bra that can barely hoist my knockers up against the misery of gravity. i'm even handling the fact that lingerie has made me realize i kind of have a blossoming muffin top situation happening.
but what is up with this gigantic swollen crotch. i am not down with this new post-drain development. dr. hughes actually removed fat from that area, but apparently the newly excavated space has decided to host an ocean of lymph so now my crotch has puffed up like a horrible marshmallow. it's so big and intrusive i'm pretty sure i could take a bullet there and not even notice.
and of course, it looks even worse when crammed into very small, lacy panties. i'm pretty sure i am capable of seducing no one with this burgeoning monster crotch that looks like it could kill a dude.
sigh. okay lingerie, let's try again in a couple more months.
recommended post-op supplies.
for the ladies who haven't reached their surgery date yet, i know there is probably a lot of anxiety about what post-op supplies to purchase to aid you in the recovery process. i didn't buy many things (although i constantly stressed about it). i didn't need many things. i had a pretty straightforward, uncomplicated recovery (aside from near death by marcaine toxicity). but i found these things very useful:
1. a wedge pillow, for leg elevation. it's a month later and i still love sleeping with it, to keep myself flexed at the waist when lying on my back. my scar is very thin at its apex, which i credit to this pillow, since it kept me from putting too much tension on the incision. BONUS: when you're done using the wedge pillow for medical purposes, use it for sexual ones! use it to prop your hot new body into easier sex positions. or wield it as a weapon to throw at your boyfriend when he calls you "thundercrotch."
2. a good compression garment. i recommend the vedette firm control seamless panty shaper. the name is terrible and clumsy but the compression is real and effective. i know the actual effectiveness of these garments are up for debate in medical circles, but i've seen a lot more waist definition since wearing mine. size way up to compensate for swelling (i'm in a large right now) and prepare for the undignified act of squirming out of this very sweaty, tight contraption on a daily basis.
3. audiobooks. i learned about the fall of imperial china in the late 1800s while recovering from surgery. these lectures helped put me to sleep, but also took my mind off my own discomfort from time to time. i'm not a big tv person and my pain meds kept me too sleepy to read effectively, so audiobooks were my saving grace from absolute boredom.
4. medical tape or silicone tape. keep your scar taped down firmly for several weeks. if your doctor doesn't already do this for you, you should take the initiative. i credit a flat, non-puckered scar to the tape. also, it prevents you from constantly scrutinizing it and being horrified by its appearance in the early stages of healing.
weight loss, before & after.
i should've included this at the beginning of the review. here's a pretty terrible photo of me at my highest weight, fall 2011, right before i broke into a size 14 and had to wear potato sack-looking dresses. i lost about 50 lb- the first 40 lb through a ketogenic diet that i would very highly recommend, the next 10 lb through a very low calorie eating habit that i wouldn't. the photo on the right was taken in spring 2012, and although i am looking relatively normal-sized and happy, i was still packing that belly under my pantyhose and spanx.
my life has changed so much since losing weight and i gained a lot of confidence, but i always felt like my torso was a hidden failure i had to keep under wraps and shapewear. but i'm finally free of this last major insecurity and feel like i'm now on even footing with other women my age and size.
this surgery was a 26th birthday present to myself. and it is the best one i've ever received.
the good, the bad, and the weird.
the good thing is that i feel pretty much 100% normal. swelling and tightness persist, but don't bother me too much. i have a very cheerful outlook on how well my recovery has gone and am very thankful to have avoided a seroma, necrosis, or incision issues. i haven't hit the gym yet, but let's be real- i was never a big exercise person to begin with. everyone else on this site seems so fit and active, and i'm just over here trying to figure out how i can take more naps.
the bad thing is, as always, my rotund upper half. in the mornings, my upper abs look flat and sleek. i look small; i see the results dr. hughes was going for. i feel good. after one meal and half a day's worth of swelling, i develop a bulging upper belly as pictured. it visibly overshadows my lower abs, looking distended every time after i eat. from a side view, it almost trumps my monster crotch. i am not a big fan of this look. furthermore, ever since my miserable vomitfest last friday, i can no longer eat normally portioned meals without feeling like i'm about to give birth to the world's biggest foodbaby. it sucks to feel sick every time i eat, no matter how small the quantity. i'm averaging one meal a day, simply because i feel too full and nauseous to risk more. i imagine it's a byproduct of the muscle repair and compounded by swelling sans drain, but i can't be sure. i am confident i'm not pregnant, though. nothing puts a man off sex like having to remove 10 miles of a pain pump catheter from your fainting, gory, post-operative body.
the weird thing is my silicone scar tape. i put it back on last night after a week of relentlessly oiling my scar like i'm trying to baste a roast chicken. i read somewhere that silicone tape is really the best and most well-supported form of therapy while the scar is still new, so i figured i'd slap another round back on. i took a peek after 24 hours...and the adhesive backing is purple? the pieces from the center of my scar are all stained purple. i have no idea why. i didn't go to bed with a fountain pen. my clothes are not purple. the outside of the tape is not stained. it's bizarre. but after only 24 hours of wearing it, my scar is looking even better and less discolored- starting to lighten a bit!
fat ribs forever.
y'all this upper ab swelling is no joke. at this point i'm pretty sure my ribs are going to remain bigger than my breasts until the end of time. i'm thrilled with the lower half, it looks like dr. hughes practically removed my organs to thin me out. but these ribs could still feed an entire cannibalistic third world country. i'm halfway wondering if i'll need further lipo if my final results don't deviate too much from current state.
two months later.
january 1st marked a new year, and 2 months post op.
i haven't communicated with dr. hughes since my drain was removed (i neglected to mention that this was not at all painful- he yanked it out in one smooth movement and warned me about an afterburn, but i was not fazed). he suggested i return in february for my "after" photo, which he typically takes around the 3 months post op mark.
i've reached a lull in my recovery. things are calm. my monster crotch has thankfully disappeared. my bulging ribs, though still persistent, have become slightly less protuberant. i'd say it's all fat, but it feels slightly tender to the pressure of touch, which makes me think i'm still retaining lymph. i'm completely off compression garments and have been for the past month. dr. hughes suggested that some patients opt to keep spanx on, but pretty much fuck that forever. one of the main reasons i opted for the surgery was specifically to get away from the confines of shapewear.
my closet has received a dramatic overhaul. six years of spank, body compressing slips, slimming tanks, waist cinchers, and abnormally high-riding panties have been banished to a disused corner- a depressing pile of retired lycra that has officially become obsolete. my boy shorts and hipster underwear has been cast aside to make room for low-rise, lacy thongs and g-strings. previously, these pretty, delicate panties would disappear into the cavern of my belly crease and feel pointlessly uncomfortable. now, they are all i ever want to wear. the giant, soft, loose shirts that made up 85% of my warddrobe are also suffering from neglect. i don't cover up much at home now.
although the sartorial shift has been a big change, the truly remarkable thing for me is how quickly i've mentally acclimated to having a flat stomach. i can barely remember what it was like to carry around that belly, although i did it for so long. it took me years to develop that muscle memory- the constant sucking in and stretching out, the nervous tension of always worrying that my belly would spill out like a badly kept secret. but it has taken me less than two months to adjust to the benefits of flatness. cuddling against my boyfriend without restraint or reservation, walking around my apartment in a bra, sitting down without the pervasive fear of developing rolls. it feels like going from rags-to-riches.
my abdominal muscles still feel very tight, although most of the time it is the physiological equivalent of background noise. occasionally (usually upon waking up) the tightness becomes pronounced, and then i notice it. it's not painful at all, not even really uncomfortable. it is just a strange sensation. i know some people never quite get used to it. i don't mind so much, though it is a constant reminder that muscles have been tampered with.
my scar hasn't shown any improvement, but that's not surprising only 2 months after being cut open from hip to hip. i've sort of acclimated to seeing it on me; it's not as alarming to glimpse this angry red slash in my reflection. i knew when i signed my consent forms that i was taking on this new feature and accepting it as part of the bargain. it was a fair trade.
my belly button has also not improved. it's honestly the one thing i'm most disappointed about, this incredibly slow healing process. all of dr. hughes' post-abdominoplasty photos feature perfect innies, so i'm wondering if there's any chance this swollen lump is going to resemble a normal human belly button by the time my photos are scheduled. the outlook is grim, y'all.
oh, and i finally went to the gym. once. wasn't fun.
oh, and also.
forgot to mention, i also now have a permanent indentation on my crotch from where the drainage tube was hanging out for pretty much forever. i doubt that this side effect occurs in the average patient, who has their drains in for 5-10 days. but mine lasted longer than a hollywood marriage, so i'm now stuck with this weird divot that's like millimeters away from my vagina. it's not an area open to public viewing, so i'm not terribly worried about it, but it's worth mentioning that the price for endless draining is a permanent change in skin topography.
return of sensation.
the post-op numbness was definitely a weird experience. the lack of sensation in my abdomen made me feel like i was lugging around a stranger's belly. but i've noticed that i've regained quite a bit of feeling in the area. it seems like my nerves are coming back in a lateral to medial order; my sides have regained full sensation, but the area around my belly button is still numb. then there's a bizarre zone in between that feels intensely ticklish when touched by someone else.
my withings scale continues to tell me that my body fat percentage is 35%. that's what it was prior to my weight loss. that's also what it was right before surgery. i am having a hard time believing that having fat surgically removed still doesn't change this composition (which puts me in the obese category). i think i'm going to throw this scale out of a very high window.
eight months later.
long time no see, realself! this update is massively overdue. here's a quick rundown on the progression of my healing:
1) by 3-4 months post-op, the sensation of tightness finally receded to nothing. now though my skin still feels incredibly taut and firm to the touch, the visceral feeling of compression in my abdominals is gone. i can now lie down flat in the prone position without feeling the alarming tension of stretching in my torso.
2) the swelling in my upper abdomen has finally desisted! i can't really pinpoint an exact moment when i stopped looking like i was hoarding an alien baby in my ribcage, but i can definitely tell that i am no longer experiencing that crepuscular swelling. the odd thing is, if i overeat, my food baby is visible on the upper half of my torso, but my abs stay completely flat. not a big deal, i just have to refrain from eating all the chicken wings in the world.
3) i have lost 10 lbs since surgery, which mostly makes me feel smug when i think about all the people who predicted that taking the cosmetic surgery shortcut would make me lazier and less accountable for working on my body. although to be fair, i am still lazy, but i've been really good about my diet. every couple months or so, i catch myself backsliding up towards my pre-op weight, and i bring it back down.
4) i'm bought my very first bikini. y'all, i have never worn a two piece swimsuit as an adult up until now. for example, my old swimsuit is from the maternity section at wal-mart. i bought a few sleek one-pieces from black milk clothing in the past year, but a bikini by summer 2014 was my ultimate goal. i walked into victoria's secret like a woman with a mission and picked out the first bikini i laid my eyes on. i don't mind telling y'all that i definitely cried a little bit when i put it on. 50% out of the sheer joy of finally being able to look like a normal human being in a swimsuit, 50% out of anxiety for my back fat.
5) my scar hasn't really improved dramatically, despite my early onset scar therapy. for the first few months, i used silicone tape, scar cream, bio oil, and vitamin e like i was adhering to sacred religious rites. while i do think that my efforts probably ameliorated the worst appearance of a post-op scar of this magnitude, i have to admit that my enthusiasm for scar therapy waned after a little while. in the above photo, i've spackled on foundation to figure out how concealable it can be. it's not bad. i've made my peace with the fact that my incision is higher than the other results i've seen on realself. and i think you can't walk into an abdominoplasty with the expectation that your scar will fade to nothing, because that's a severely optimistic perspective. ask yourself: "if two years after the surgery i still look like i've been cut in half, will i regret having done this?" for me, it's a no-brainer.
6) my drain site indentation is gone! i think. i haven't noticed it in months.
7) i had a revision performed on my belly button in february- dr. hughes was kind enough to put in some more stitches. he explained that left so little between my skin and my abdominal walls that the umbilical stalk just looked too excessive, hence the outie situation. the umbilicoplasty was performed in office, under local anesthesia, and didn't take very long (although i bled copiously). it was basically dr. hughes cutting out pieces of my belly button (horrifying in retrospect) and cheerfully talking about pancreatic cancer. unfortunately, the end result still doesn't look great. not alarmingly awful, just not great. although the bottom portion of my belly button can now pass for innie territory, there's still some issues with the top. i think i could've done with some more stitches up there. i'm not sure it's bad enough to warrant another 3 hour roundtrip drive, nor do i want to drive my lovely surgeon crazy with my fixation on getting a perfect navel. i think it's serviceable. and maybe it'll look more natural over time.
my one year anniversary is coming up.
10 Oct 2014
11 months post
i walked into the pre-op bay in dr. hughes' surgery center at 153 lbs. today, i am 126 lbs.
the past few months of my life have really seen a reduction in my food intake and meal frequency, and i can admit that my diet has sometimes bordered on a little too calorically restrictive. but the results are there, and i feel more attractive now than i ever have in my adult life.
losing weight post-abdominoplasty hasn't marred the cosmetic effects of the surgery, which i am still very happy with. i get asked on a regular basis if i like my results, how bad the pain was, and whether it was worth it or not. i'm really glad i chronicled my particular experience on realself, because it's easy for me to forget how tumultuous and all-consuming this journey felt last year (lol @ my endless complaints about monster crotch). re-reading my updates reminds me that it wasn't as easy as i think of it now. but i'd do it again in a heartbeat. if anything, it was an interesting/terrifying glimpse of what it'd be like to live with chronic pain and immobility (and i am definitely not about that life).
hope all my fellow november 2013 girls are feeling as great on the flat side as i am, one year later.