You have to love a man who tells you that he knows you will heal as he’s snipping nasty bits off flesh off of your body. That is, indeed, optimism at it’s finest.
And those of you who went through the surgical journey with me last year might recognize that little piece of machinery pictured above. It’s a wound VAC, and it may once again become part of my wardrobe essentials.
The one big spot on my back is still a big spot. The other two little spots on the other side really weren’t little spots -they were hiding a deeper issue. If you can envision a pair of sunglasses, with the nose piece holding the two lenses together, that’s kind of what the wound looked like. Today, we opted (okay, maybe the me part of “we” wasn’t as enthusiastic about this choice) to snip the nose piece section, and a small cavern opened up. A wound VAC may be what we need to speed healing in those two areas on my back.
We are still not sure what caused my incisions to open. I may not have been the most compliant patient, but I think there’s something else going on. My age might have an impact; or perhaps not paying close enough attention to protein in my diet. I’ve sworn off of Twinkies, so maybe I’m not getting enough preservatives in my diet, either?
Whatever it is, it looks like we are in this for the long haul once again. Fortunately, I have remained infection free – which is awesome news! I am armed with all of the most important tools to see this through – faith, trust, pixie dust, a wonderful doctor, and amazing friends and family.
Fasten your seatbelts, my friends. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride!
I’ve learned a lot about recovering from surgery in the past few years – as I am now a veteran of three c-sections; gallbladder removal; gastric bypass; bowel obstruction; tummy tuck; and brachioplasty. There are some comfortable surgeons riding around in luxury cars thanks in small part to my health insurance.
I have yet to walk into one of these surgical offices, though, and have them give me a real life guide to what you need to know in recovery. I’ve compiled a short list myself of the things you need to know. Consider these specific to my recent surgery, where the use of my arms and back has been restricted, but feel free to apply these lessons to any surgical recovery:
Drying your hair –
You’ve just spent thousands of dollars on plastic surgery so that you’ll look your best. Good luck with that, honey, because for the next few weeks, the back of your head is gonna look like a nest of rats lives there. You won’t be able to reach to dry your hair, properly brush your hair, or even scrunch your hair so it looks like you intentionally want your hair to look like a rat’s nest. Invest in a wig.
Smacking your husband –
You know you’re gonna have to do it – because husbands have just a certain way about them that irritates the crap out of you at a time when you least need your crap to be irritated. He’ll make fun of the hair you can’t properly fix, or he’ll laugh at you as you are trying to squeeze your swollen, uncomfortable self into something cute and slightly sexy, so you at least feel somewhat human. The temptation will be there, and I understand. You want to haul off and smack him, as hard as you can, preferably into an unconsciousness that will last until you are totally healed.
Stop right there, girlfriend. Hauling off and smacking your husband is going to be more pain than it’s worth – seriously. You risk opening up your incisions, and that could get ugly. Don’t do it. Instead, spike his drink with a bit of your pain meds, and hopefully, that will knock him out long enough for you to get some peace and quiet.
And Speaking Of –
Let me take this opportunity to recommend a conversion to an all liquid, no waste diet. Attending to the, ummmm, necessary routines of hygiene have just become outrageously difficult, and the aforementioned ass of a husband will either flat out refuse to assist you in your post lavatory needs or make fun of you mercilessly. As we’ve already determined, smacking him is not an option. I opted to, ummm, hold it in until I could attend to things myself. Perhaps investing in a bidet??
It doesn’t matter how good your insurance is –
Visiting nurses will not come to your house and help you to apply your eye makeup. And – go figure – the emergency room doesn’t consider this OBVIOUS emergency to be an OBVIOUS emergency – even if you tell them it’s the new LashStash mascara from Sephora. And believe me, if you’re like me, it takes a while to cake all that makeup on your eyes to hide the wrinkles and dark circles, and your arms get tired while they’re bandaged. Skip Sephora and head for Sunglass Hut. What you can’t see in the mirror won’t bother you nearly as much.
Cherish Your Children –
I have to thank my girls for being so helpful these past few weeks. Eilis made dinner last night by herself, and Granuaile is always throwing on her apron to help out with things in the kitchen. Of course, you know they aren’t doing it out of the kindness of their hearts – they’re hoping there’s a puppy in this as a reward…
I admit it. I am not the best patient on the planet, which really sucks for my surgeon, who is the most kind, patient, and caring doctor.
I have, however, been doing everything I know how to be a good patient this time around. And for almost a full month, I had absolutely no post-op complications.
Tell me why I don’t like Mondays?
Oh yeah – because that’s the day stuff started really going wrong.
I woke up Monday morning and I was in a puddle of ooze. I thought I had just gotten really, really sweaty during the night (thank you, menopause); but when I sat up, the sheets were covered with a rather unpleasant drainage of bodily fluids.
I now have two open wounds – one about the size of a dime; the other about the size of a, well, not a dime 🙁
I’m so glad my doctor had a nice week of vacation, so he’s well rested and ready to tackle me!
Back on antibiotics. Visiting nurses start tomorrow to come and pack and dress my wounds. And I am under the strictest orders to retract my offer to participate on Dancing With the Stars; Deadliest Catch; Cirque du Soleil; and even, gosh darn it, American Pickers 🙁 I thought I was behaving before. I’m not even allowed now to reach my arm out of my car window to grab my latte at the Starbucks drive through 🙁
Say a prayer that I stay infection free. I’m optimistic, but it never hurts to have someone besides me bend His ear 🙂
The sausage you see hanging in the photo above is not found at the Italian market in South Philly. It is found hanging from my shoulder. I have one on each side. Not that I have something against sausage, but I want them gone.
Last summer, I started what I had hoped would be a series of plastic surgery procedures designed to help me get rid of the remnants of my formerly morbidly obese self. I had a big, huge hanging belly; droopy, saggy boobs; sausage arms; and enough rolls on my back to hide Osama Bin Laden and the entire al Quaeda team. My breast lift healed in record time, and I have very few physical indication that I had anything done – the scars are minimal, the boobs are in the right place, and it’s all good.
My tummy tuck recovery is epic. Seriously, I could write a War and Peace sized novel on what a crappy healer I was – and I blame that on the selective hearing loss I suffer from when it comes to medical instructions. I’m fine when the pediatrician tells me to fill a kid with fluids and give them Tylenol. That, I have no problem hearing. But when a doctor tells me that I have to not lift, not bend, not travel far; well, I don’t exactly catch ALL of the words – I just know he said something about lifting, bending, and traveling.
So, because I took so darn long to heal from my tummy tuck (six months, including four on a wound VAC), I think my surgeon was a bit leery about doing any additional procedures. He wanted to make sure my wound was completely healed, free of infection, totally closed, blessed by the Pope, consecrated by the Dalai Lama, and prayed over by a Voodoo High Priest.
Next Thursday, I’m going under the knife again. One day after my 20th wedding anniversary, I hope to begin the final chapter on the road to the new me that I found myself on almost five years ago.
Wish me luck. Wish Dr. Veitia luck, because, after all, he has to deal with me. And let the fun begin!
As a mom to three daughters, I work really hard at teaching them that you need to be healthy without worrying about looking like the unrealistic expectations we put on ourselves. I try to teach them what I believe – that while you do have some control over your size and weight, they are genetically born into a family of obese people. I could blame fast food and processed food or an excessive amount of junk food, but truth be told, growing up, we didn’t go to fast food restaurants. My mom always had snack foods in the house, but they weren’t liberally dispensed throughout the day – you had them as a bedtime or after school snack. We didn’t eat a lot of fattening foods, and there were always vegetables and fruit in the house. My grandmother, who produced five children who all ended up obese and diabetic, cooked every meal from scratch, and rarely had anything other than fruit salad or a homemade cake or fruit pie that she portioned out to last at least a few days so she didn’t have to bake again. Again, I’m not saying we couldn’t have exercised and eaten smaller portions to affect our weight, but there is some genetics in whether or not you are going to be fat.
We know Barbie is an unrealistic skinny bitch, but we’re grown ups. Our little girls do not see the irony in the fact that you can buy Barbie kitchens, Barbie food, Barbie couches and TVs so you could have a Barbie couch potato, but you can’t buy a Barbie with a mouth that will open up to enjoy one morsel of the fabulous wedding cake you can purchase for her. Barbie is like the original anorexic. But we don’t tell our little girls that as we buy Barbie pants that you have to lay her on the bed to button. And we should.
Here is an example of a bad photoshop job. The model has thighs. Huge, fat, chunky, my size? Probably not, or she wouldn’t be a model in the first place. But to make the picture look better, they trim down her already super thin thighs. So why do we have to take a photo of what was probably already a far cry from what many of us will ever be able to attain in terms of a thin body and make it appear even thinner and less attainable? What message are we sending our girls? Or even our boys? Do they grow up wanting real women, or do they grow up seeing flaws in every woman who doesn’t need a size 0 taken in at the waist?
Rest assured that all of my pictures are not altered in Photoshop Version 220.127.116.11.18.104.22.168.j to make my butt smaller. My arse is what it is. And my girls have all seen it wandering the house naked. They know that I am not now nor will I ever be a Barbie doll. Or a Heidi Klum. We just haven’t been blessed with the genetics or the modeling plastic that allows us to be that thin. And it’s okay to be what we are and be proud of ourselves.
Show your daughters pictures like the one above. And videos like this one –
We’re not all going to be a super model, and we can’t all have their bodies. But we can be proud of the bodies we have.
I am not a skirt/dress person. My view of the fashion kingdom has always been to keep a supply of easy to put on, no muss, no fuss articles of clothing that I could grab, slide on, and run out in.
Enter the husband. Thanks to my summer tummy tuck, he seems to think I’m looking pretty good, and women who look pretty good have a whole different level of fashion expectations. He’s like to see me in some casual skirts or dresses to wear this winter while he thinks I have nothing better to do than sit and have him admire the new figure. Thats his view on the world. Now for the reality.
I need skirts and dresses that are casual, comfortable, not frumpy, and give me a more polished look. I don’t want anything sleeveless, because I freeze. I’m not a huge fan of stockings, because, again, I freeze, so ideally, I’d like to do tights. And just what kind of shoes am I supposed to wear? I don’t like boots with short skirts, and you can’t really do heels well with tights. What time is my appointment to be on What Not To Wear?
In doing extensive skirt/dress research, I did find a few things.
Don’t wear baggy – No kidding? Did I lose 150 pounds and go through all this surgery to wear baggy? I think not.
Pleats Please? – Ummm, no, you big fat arse. I may have lost all that weight, but I still carry about 30 pounds too much, and pleats and gathers on a skirt just add poundage. Unless you’ve been on the Lara Flynn Boyle diet lately, skip them entirely. So now I know what I looked like all summer long – enormous, wearing pencil skirts day after day.
Remember the big fat arse comment? – Yeah, I’m talking to me. No light colors on the bottom – especially if you are wearing dark on top. Dark on the bottom in slimming; light on the bottom gives you bubble butt. Nobody looks good in bubble butt.
The length of your skirt should not be determined by how desperately you want to look like Tina Turner. Face it, sister, you don’t look like Tina Turner. The woman is smokin’ in her almost 70 year old skin, and she can rock the mini skirt. The worse your legs look, the longer your skirt should be. That means I should only wear skirts with a cathedral train. At least that’s how I interpret this rule.
So which skirts will look okay on me?
A-Line seems to be the skirt for everyone – even my big old butt. They are fitted at the top, but then they get a bit wider as they go down, to accommodate those areas of my body that have not had the benefit of the work of the fabulous Dr. Veitia.
Wrap skirts are another style that seems like it would flatter every figure. Are there winter wrap skirts? And what shoes do you wear with them?
Straight skirts, now that I don’t have that hanging tummy, seem like they might work as well, but I’ve seen longer straight skirts. I don’t think it’s a look I can carry, and I always think bag lady when I see them. Seriously.
I still have kind of wide hips, but I’m not sure I know the difference between a pencil skirt and a straight skirt. Anyone want to enlighten me?
I like the look of a flared skirt, but for some reason, I just always think they’re either for MUCH younger people or dancers.
So, who wants in on the skirt discussion? Help a sister out, will you?
For those of you following the saga of my plastic surgery, today was a huge milestone! My surgeon, the fabulous Dr. Nestor Veitia, spent as much time talking life and religion today as he did my wound. Oh my gosh, it was awesome! He has told me he no longer wakes up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat worrying about me, and I don’t have to see him again for a month!! Not that I don’t love him, but I have to admit there was a different skip in my step headed out to the car than there has been. I feel great!
As you know, a piece of my luggage went missing yesterday. The only piece that came home with us was the piece with the laundry and the shoes. That may seem like a blessing – no one will be sneaker-less or underwear-less this week. But the bag that went missing was filled with critical, life sustaining items that no one should be forced to live without. The missing bag contained the Halloween candy collected from Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. I know, right? Can you imagine the devastation at the thought of a big old sugar rush behind closed doors at the TSA while my children were forced to eat the crummy candy corn I bought because it looks pretty and fall-ish in my candy jars? I doubt the family would have survived.
But even more tragic was the traumatic loss of my beloved makeup case. Gone was the lip liner and eye brow tweezers. Lost was the perfect shade of eye shadow and the incredible mascara. My brand new, just bought with birthday money set of professional brushes? Disappeared. Visions of the reincarnated Tammy Faye Baker roaming the streets of Philadelphia wearing all of my favorite colors, scents, and conditioners. I was crushed.
Then on our way home from the uplifting Dr. Veitia appointment we got the phone call that Frank had just delivered our missing bag! He wrapped it lovingly in a garbage bag, then under risk of a busy body neighbor calling the police on him, he wandered around the outside of our house, looking for a dry enough spot to place the bag in case we weren’t home until later during the deluge of rain we have here. And there it was when we got back, carefully placed on the picnic table out back, under the canopy of the girl’s elevated fort.
Makeup crisis averted. Rest easy, NJ, the hideousness that is me without my Lancome products has been transformed. I have gone from Oh My Gosh What Is That? back to my normal She Cleans Up Okay. My faith in US Airways and Disney’s Magical Express has been restored.
There is only one thing that could make this day better. But I’d have to invest a buck to win the lottery. I’m not pushing my luck today.
Today marked visit number I’ve lost count with the fabulous Dr. Nestor Veitia. I’m going to run out of things to operate on before I’m going to want to give up visiting with this guy!
It was the first time in a long time that I felt restrained giddiness about this healing process! I look amazing – I don’t say that to be arrogant, I’m just comparing what I looked like before to what I look like now, and the transformation is amazing. Dr. Veitia has been patient, understanding, caring, compassionate, and concerned – and has worked so hard to get me to this point. I could not be happier.
The wound VAC is totally gone as of today – the end of my one week test period without it. How awesome is that? I’m headed to Florida in a week to do a whirlwind weekend that combines a BFF reunion with a Walt Disney World Moms Panel PR event. I don’t have to worry about my battery dying, the machine failing, the nurses complaining that I’m supposed to be house bound. It’s pure pleasure this time around.
People have asked, and I just wanted you to know that I feel fine. Better than fine. At some point in the not too distant future, I’ll share the before and afters with you. I hope you’ll be as amazed as I am.
Beautiful Pennsylvania! The air this morning is crisp for a day in August, starting out at 64 degrees. There’s a gentle breeze blowing the leaves on the trees that are part of the stunning view I have outside of my window. What a great way to wake up on summer vacation!
After admiring the sunrise, I grab my room service menu so I can order my breakfast. Not too hungry this morning, and trying to watch my girlish figure. A banana, some yogurt, and some granola sounds good. And a cup of piping hot tea. The air conditioning in my room was turned down a bit too low last night!
Then the real fun begins. Because my “summer vacation”, as you all know, has so far been spent recovering from plastic surgery. We won’t bore you with the details – here’s the Cliff’s Notes version – Weight Loss Surgery, Excess Skin, Tummy Tuck, Infection. And the next turn on the road of summer fun we’re having so far takes me back where it all began. Paoli Hospital.
I’m not even gonna post pictures of what my wound looks like. Ewww.
So how did I get here? Bad travel agent? Cheap GPS? Didn’t book through Travelocity?
This is what happened – a perfectly well thought out plan occurred. I’d have gastric bypass surgery; lose a bunch of weight; have plastic surgery to take care of the ugly remnants of my former self; get a contract with the Ford Modeling Agency for Rapidly Aging Mothers; and if nothing else, at least not have to sweat my ass off in Spanx (God love them) every time I go to FL.
When I researched my surgery ahead of time, like a diligent non-emergency surgical consumer should, I thought I did a great job. I checked out doctors and their credentials. I looked into costs and variations. I looked into the different types of procedures that might be available to me. And I checked out hospitals and their spa like surroundings. I had all of my pre-op ducks in a row – making sure the will was up to date, the kids were taken care of, and I had a ride to the hospital and a way to get home.
But the one part I sort of glazed over was the “risks and complications” area. Because, after all, I’ve had a number of surgeries, and I bounce back really well. I was up and caring for babies within hours of two of my c-sections. I was playing on the floor with a not quite one year old Eilis the day after my gall bladder was taken out. I was back in the car line for school one day later when my kidney stones were removed. And how many times do you have to hear that I did Disney World 10 days after gastric bypass surgery? I tell everyone that! Who would think there would be risks and complications? That just doesn’t happen to me.
So now that I have risks, complications, and at least four different bacteria – all bad – living among my bits and pieces (including a staph infection and a gram negative bacteria), I want you guys to know that you have to be better researchers than I was. I am learning the hard way there is no such thing as being Unbreakable. And I learned that I need to better follow doctors’ orders. But if you’re a mom, you know how hard it is not to do the things your family needs or wants you to do. You have to do it.
That’s my trip report on this summer’s journey. Not as fascinating as a trip cross country. Not as exciting as a cruise through the British Isles. Not even as interesting as a trip to Milwaukee for Irish Weekend. But you can consider this my Public Service Announcement of the moment. Before you embark on any journey, remember not to just focus on the destination. Make sure you map out all the twists and turns.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
Two and a half years ago, at 4 o’clock on a Tuesday morning, August 1st, I got behind the wheel of my car. My husband, who does not see well enough be driving at 4 AM, sat quietly in the passenger seat, holding my hand.
I took off north on the New Jersey turnpike. I had an appointment to meet my surgeon, Dr. Michael Nusbaum, at St. Barnabas Hospital in West Orange, NJ for my Roux-en-Y gastric bypass operation. I thought I had faced the fears intelligently. I did all the pre-op testing to make sure that my diabetic fat arse could withstand the surgery. I met with the psychologist to make sure I was mentally prepared. I met with our lawyer and had my will drawn up. I talked to Jim so he knew to make the necessary preprations for my funeral in the event that things didn’t go well, and I talked to Brighid, so if Jim was too upset to remember everything I told him to do, someone else would remember.
Even though I thought I had all of my bases covered, I could not possibly have anticipated the emotions. I started crying at about exit 5, and didn’t stop until we arrived at the hospital. Through silent tears, I prayed Jim would tell me not to go through with the surgery, turn the car around, and just go home. But he didn’t. So I kept driving so I didn’t look like a coward.
They took me back right away when we got to the hospital, and I was soon sitting on a guerney back in a holding area outside the operating suites. By the time Dr. Nusbaum came over to tell me things were running a little behind due to an unscheduled emergency procedure being done in the OR I was heading for, I was shivering from the fear. He rested his hand on my knee, was incredibly reassuring, and promptly called for drugs to calm my butt down.
The next thing I knew, it was over. I was bypassed. Gastrically altered. The fear was over, I faced it, and I conquered it, and in the days to come, would realize it wasn’t as bad as the anticipation of how bad it might have been. 10 days later, I was in Disney World.
But for two and a half years, I have anticipated the next step in the journey. I’ve had a lot of time for the butterflies in my stomach to multiply and the concerns to mount. I’ve gone through one other major surgery since my bypass – an emergency due to an intestinal blockage. The very neat, leaving only small holes surgery that Dr. Nusbaum performed was replaced by a lengthy red scar down the middle of my stomach. The recovery from that surgery was painful – but after a week in the hospital, I came home ready to get back to the business of living. But the emotional scars seem to still be there. I don’t know if I live with the fear of another surgery because I didn’t get to go into that one with my usual mountain of lists and plans and what ifs. But I’m worried. So as I think about the next step – the plastic surgery that I hope will return my body to some semblance of normal – the mounting fear has seemed insurmountable.
It took me about six months to work up the courage to call a plastic surgeon. I read a lot about the type of surgery I think I want, and have decided that the best thing for me is a total body lift. In doing my research, I have found that the pioneer of this type of surgery is Dr. Dennis Hurwitz, and he’s not that terribly far away – in Pittsburgh. I did a lot of research before allowing Dr. Nusbaum to do my RNY and had amazing results. I did no research in allowing the surgeon to do my intestinal blockage repair. I can’t say the same about my experience. So going into this next phase of the game plan, I am going in under my own terms, with the doctor I choose. I made an appointment with Dr. Hurwitz, only to go into panic mode and cancel a few days before. It was Christmas, after all, and the nervousness was threatening to ruin my holiday mood.
So it’s not Christmas anymore. And after reading and researching, I decided to face the fear. In order to live the life I want to live, I have to think about moving forward with the plastic surgery. Dr. Hurwitz has a practice closer to home, which made me feel a little better, because in my organized mind, if something does go horribly wrong, it’s got to be cheaper to get my body home from Chadds Ford than all the way from Pittsburgh. If I have to stay in hospital an extended period of time, it’s going to be easier for Jim and the kids if I’m only an hour away as opposed to six hours away. And the clincher? Dr. Nestor Veitia.
When I called to make my appointment, it was Dr. Veitia who called me back. He scheduled my appointment, and then spent ten minutes on the phone, addressing some fears. He laughed at my sarcasm, got my jokes, and made me feel like he’s someone who can be trusted.
So I’m going. January 27th. And we shall see what happens – like how many kidneys I might have to sell to pay for surgery, and how long I’ll have to live the life of leisure following the procedure. I mentioned to Dr. Veitia that I was in Disney just 10 days after my gastric bypass. I asked if I’d be there in 5 after the body lift. He laughed. But in a nice way.