I could not sleep to save my life the night before. I was not scared about the surgery, it was not the fear keeping me up, although I thought that would be the reason. I thought I was going to be up scared about the pain, about the outcome, etc. Instead I was stressing about recovery. I wanted everything cleaned and organized. You know, trying to worry about thing I had on control over. Would you expect anything less from me? I was worrying about things being in arm reach since I would not be able to bend or reach things high up. I was worrying about everything being organized and clean since I knew people would be in and out of the house. I had all sorts of emotions. I was just a basket case. Making sure everyone knew how much I loved them, making sure everything was in place God forbid I did not come home. Yeah, I definitely thought like that. I remember taking my nightly walk around the block on the phone with my twin sister and telling her how I had written notes to loved ones God forbid something happened. Making sure she was on top of everything because she more than anyone I know is able to put her emotions aside and take charge when something tragic happens. I had to prepare for all of that. I mean my neck surgery truly left me with some type of post traumatic mindset. Not even a scared feeling, just a freaking emotional basket case feeling. Okay enough with the mindset before surgery because I am even getting emotional thinking of how emotional I was. I guess I am “extra” to some. But truthfully I am a worrier, and even though I try to always think positive, I also always try to be real.
We got to the hospital right on time. Even though we left with lots of time to spare, we literally got there right for 7:00 am when we were told to. I guess I had forgotten what I95 traffic was like. It was my first time at Norwalk hospital. I was so used to the hospitals in Bridgeport and this was just different. Yes, Different. In a very good way. The staff were amazing. Not just the desk staff and security, but the nurses came in one by one and introduced themselves saying that they would be in the operating room. Yes, one by one…I can think of like half a dozen. Then the anesthesiologist came in and it was not just a “Hi I am your doctor, bye” but he stayed there and conversed and was just awesome. They all literally made me so comfortable. They kept coming in and asking me if we had heard from the surgeon. It was about an hour after the surgery was supposed to start. I guess he had called the hospital, but they had not relayed it to the nurses and doctors working with us. Not his fault at all.
Then there he was, the man of the hour…literally. I was so happy to see him because this meant it was about to happen. Like my surgery was going to start as soon as he was ready. He told me to stand up, I lifted my gown and he drew the markings on me. Yes, just like you see on TV. It was just like that. Exactly how I expected. Seems like that is the only part of surgery and recovery that actually matches what you see on TV, but ill get to that later. He then left, and a few minutes later they came to take me away. I said “wait, I need to say my goodbyes”. I started crying and I gave the two most important people to me a hug and a kiss…and of course, a fist pump to the one person in this world who gets what that meant. It’s this sacred bond. You get me, I got you type of bond. A dynamic duo type of bond. A bond that you legit feel in your soul. (I am now getting that lump in my throat and tears in my eyes even explaining that bond because there is nothing in this world that compares to the feeling of someone who gets you). Because I asked to be sedated before Anesthesia and surgery…being wheeled away was the last thing I remember until I woke up.
Let me just start off by saying I hate cooking. I mean I really do not know anyone who loves it unless they are passionate enough to do it for a living. Actually I am not sure if it the cooking I dread or the cleanup afterwards. The dishes, the pots, pans, etc. Before I started my weight loss journey, I never cooked….let alone cooked healthy. Obviously, I knew how to cook, but I just didn’t. Think about it, why cook, when I could quickly hit up a drive-thru? Why cook a meal when I could place an order over the phone and pick it up or have it delivered. I truly do feel that convenience plays a major rule in the obesity epidemic that is plaguing the Country. That however it a subject that is meant for a whole other blog post. When did I start meal prepping? Hmmmm almost immediately after I started my weight loss journey. I realized that if I did not plan ahead and have my lunch at work already ready to eat, then I would go to the food court and eat crap. Or even if I opted for what I thought would be a healthy option, might in fact have tons of hidden calories. Maybe in seasoning packed with sodium, maybe in processed additives…who knows. But I didn’t cook it so how could I be one hundred percent sure it was going be healthy enough to keep me on track? Prepping my meals for the week became a must. I set goals for myself and I realized if I truly wanted to reach them, I needed to be strict and goal regimented. I need to set time every Sunday to make it happen. When you want something and enough, you sacrifice. Now…how about those who just do not cook? What about those people who really cannot make time? What if you just want a variety of different lunches or dinners, or even breakfasts for the week but cannot take the time to cook so many different meals just for one person? Or better yet… Check out this scenario….Say you are on your weight loss journey, and you undergo a physical setback or surgery where you cannot workout and you still need to stick to your healthy eating regiment but you can’t physically cook your own meals? WELL, I will raise my hand to that scenario. Actually I will raise both hands. Before my skin removal surgery, I reached out to the owner of Edibolic Kitchen. Edibolic Kitchen is a meal prep company based out of CT. Not just offering meal preps but even catering. They offer so many options on their website. (link at the end of the post). You can either design your own meals daily for the week where you choose your protein (beef, ground turkey, fish, chicken, etc), and even the ounce of protein as well as your carb choice and the amount of need and the best part is even getting to choose the veggie and measurement you want as well. You can literally at according to your goals. It is that simple. There are also weekly specials. Yes, those are a tad bit more expensive but it is a good amount of food. I have even found myself being able to spread the specials to two different meals because it is a larger portion than I would normally eat. Oh and let me just tell you guts about the cinnamon protein pancaked with Turkey bacon. Holy guacamole…I could never get tired of them. Even if you wanted to try to make them yourself, it will never come out as good as how Edibolic makes them. Here is the best part…the food is not frozen. It is not like other companies, and no other meal prep service could compare. They even deliver. Uhm yes, they deliver. Like right to your door, in a cooler bag with icepacks incase you are not home. There is a $10 charge for all delivery. But in the scheme of things…let’s be serious. The amount of stress and time you spare yourself from not worrying about prepping, it I truly worth it. If you do not want to pay to have it delivered, there are multiple pick up locations across the state and I am sure there Is one near you. There are two days for pick up or delivery which are Monday and Wednesday. All of the cut off times are on the site. You even get text and email reminders. Now after my surgery, I had two meals a day form Edibolic. The owner made sure I did not have to worry about placing the orders after surgery, he had it already set to be at my door. Guys, you have no idea how helpful this was. Not just the fact that I had meals to eat after surgery because I could not physically cook, and did not want to put that stress on those already taking care of me…but I now had healthy meals. I was eating according to my goals. I knew I would not be in the gym for 2 months and I still needed to maintain and even lose. It was a lifesaver. I cannot put into words how helpful it was. If you are in the CT area, I highly…and I mean highly try it out. Even if you just do it for a week. Most people do not know what to eat when meal prepping or where to start. Let the meals from Edibolic set the stage and you can then try on your own. If you have a hectic schedule and want to make sure you are staying on track, then this is for you. If you are tired of making two different meals for dinner…one for you and one for your family, then this is for you. If you are undergoing surgery, or have a physical setback and want to stay on track, this is for you. There are those reasons and so many more. I have had an amazing experience an truly appreciate the service I got from Edibolic. Not just the convenience but the fact that it is FRESH food that shows up at my door…it is a win-win. Once again this is a service based out of CT and is currently only offered to those living in CT. If you are interested in trying them, order online and enter annamarie20 at checkout. This isn’t at all an AD or a paid promo from Edibolic. This is a genuine Thank you to Josh and the staff at Edibolic for playing a huge role in the recovery of my surgery. I lost almost 10 pounds after my surgery, (not including the skin taken off) and I highly recommend this company to anyone looking for a meal prep service
For the recovery of the skin removal, I never knew what to expect. I just did not. Every single time I spoke to someone who had went through it, they always said “its just so painful I cannot even explain it or put it into words”. Let me just say how much that response frustrated me. Like how can you not put it into words. I am genuinely wanting to know how my recovery will be, and you cannot even compare it to anything? Nope nobody could. I even had a woman tell me, she had 6 C-Sections and a hysterectomy, her gallbladder removed, and the recovery for the 1st week or 2 was more painful then all of those combined. GREAAAAAT. Hellllo FEAR. Actually the fact that nobody could tell me how it felt made me even worse. I did not know what to feel. Because of the complications of neck surgery and my airways shutting down after that surgery, I just did not know what to expect. I made sure I met with both the neurosurgeon and orthosurgeon who did my neck surgery 4 months prior to Make sure that this was something that was okay for me to do. I did not want to hinder my recovery and the healing of the neck fusions that were healing. Both doctors knew my surgeon, spoke highly of him and gave it a green light. That definitely put me at ease. It was all falling into place. Although it was having a hard recovery, I had confirmation that these surgeries would not at all hurt me in any way.
I did my research for post op. I got my gingerale, purchased bunch of crackers and stuff to have after surgery because I get very sick after anesthesia. I was told to purchase loose panties, nothing that would cling, and to purchase joggers, lounge pants, etc. I was told by others that I would be extremely swollen, so to buy a size up. I thought it was crazy, but boy were they right. I also then got all of the different antibacterial body washes, and anything and everything possible to prepare me. I stocked up on all my vitamins, and anything I knew that I was going to need because I wouldn’t be driving for a while.
I wanted to emotionally prepare myself but the thing is….I did not know how. I was never going to be ready. I lived my life a certain way for so many years. Being ashamed of my skin, hiding my skin, not being able to wear certain things because of my skin. A huge part of my life revolved around it. I just thought to myself a whole lot. How were my clothes going to fit? Would I be the same size? The surgeon said I would probably be the same size, but that clothes would just fit different. That brought relief, because I could not even imagine being able to afford all new clothes. Not just normal clothes, but new gym clothes, new bras, new panties, new jeans, not even thinking about new clothes for dressing up going back to work. I worried about all small things. But that is me. I am a worrier. Anyone who knows me very well can truly say I worry about things that other people probably do not even think about.
I worked so hard. Literally so hard. Every single workout, every single healthy meal, every single sacrifice was leading me to this very day. The hard work was about to pay off.
This was about to change my life.
If I can say I felt one emotion the most, it would be just this energy of feeling so grateful and thankful. Thankful for the opportunity to really have this taking place. Thankful for those making it happen. Thankful for the help in every aspect. Thankful to God for so many reasons. Not just for the opportunity and having such amazing people in my life, but for the strength that I had gained. I do not just mean the physical strength at the gym, and the mental strength sticking to my goals. I mean this inner strength that got me through my weight loss up until this point. I still remember when I was ready to go for weight loss surgery and decided not to. Signing up at the gym and never looking back. Thankful for that very day. Thankful for the mindset I have. Knowing I could make it through anything. Knowing that I never made an excuse to not workout or eat healthy. I cannot even explain it. My mental strength became a trait that so many people grew to admire. Nobody knew the things I have battled throughout my journey. In every single aspect. Physically, financially, personally, emotionally...etc.! Battles after battles and I just prayed for the strength to always get through whatever I was going through. That is why I just felt this overwhelming feeling of just being grateful. All of my decisions right and wrong lined up like stars. I was thankful to those who genuinely supported me. Many people from day 1 watching me grind and grind. Seeing the work I put in and knowing what I had gone through and faced to get me to this chapter in my life. Many people will watch the journey on social media and obviously be happy that I had just come so far and I was finally getting this done. But then there are those people who just know me personally and were in tears of joy knowing my skin would be gone.
I would take walks multiple times a day to stay active before my surgery, and I would just THINK. I would see flashbacks of all the last few years. From the start, being over 400 pounds. My 1st day in the gym. My walking in Unity park in Trumbull to lose weight, my size changing in clothes. Going from a size 28, to a size 24, then 22, then 20. I was so happy when I got into a size 18. Then a size 16, then 14, then 12, and then 10. But Once I became a size 8, it was like WHOA. HOLY GUACAMOLE. I did this. The feelings of joy in the dressing room when my clothing size got smaller INSTEAD of all those years I spent crying in the dressing room because of size getting bigger. These are things that were just crossing my mind. These are the flashbacks playing in my mind. That’s all they would ever be. Memories.
Then the day arrived. March 28th, 2018. Hands down the biggest day of my life. A day that every other life event could not compare to. Not because it was more important, but because it was completely different. Nothing could prepare me for this. Not an article, not a blog, not a previous patients advice, not the doctors advice, nothing. This was going to be the most physical and emotional rollercoaster I was ever going to get on. (To be continued)
My stomach before the skin removal:
I am as transparent as possible about my weight loss journey, or at least I try to be. My hanging excess skin was something I discussed openly and often as I felt comfortable doing so. After spending years tucking it into my clothes, hiding it, wearing layers and layers of compression...not to mention the days where I could no longer get undressed in front of the mirror because I emotionally could not handle looking at how the skin just hung. It was hard for me. I worked so hard. Obviously people around me saw the work I put in. Not just at the gym but with the healthy eating. They saw my journey as motivating and inspiring....however as good as I felt about what I had accomplished, I just did not feel okay with what I saw in the mirror. Now please...please...do not think that it’s a form of self-hate or that I did not love myself, because well that is far from the truth. I spent years being morbidly obese hating my body, and it is a completely different feeling. It is more a feeling of defeat. Like you killed yourself working for a trophy that you deserved but couldn’t obtain. Sounds crazy I know. To those in the same boat, you get it. To those going through massive weight loss and scared about the excess skin outcome, please realize everyone’s body is different. Everyone’s skin is different. I know people who have lost less pounds but have way more excess skin. Then I see people who have lost more pounds but barely have any excess skin. Let me also say, not everyone who has the excess skin let it affects them emotionally. I know I sure as hell did.
I put off the procedures for a while. Many reasons. Emotionally, financially, physically, etc. Then I realized, if I keep waiting for the perfect time, I would never go through with it. So you know what? Sometimes you just need to let go of all the reasons holding you back and just jump in.
So I Jumped in. I called the plastic surgeon I had done all my research on, and I made an appointment for a consultation.
I chose Dr. Alfred Sofer in Fairfield, CT.
Let me tell you. I did serious research on this Doctor. Not just being fascinated by the before and after pics on the website of his surgery center, but all of the reviews of prior patients, etc. I was truly set on him being my surgeon, but I also had to keep in mind that he may not be the doctor I chose. I may not click with him. I may not like his approach, his staff, his bedside manners, etc. Those are all things I take very serious. I have to click with the doctor. I do not care how good a surgeon is in an operating room if he does not have good bedside manners.
The consultation day came. My mom came with me, because she more than anyone in this world keeps me calm. When we got to the office, the staff was amazing. Friendly, outgoing and attentive. I was shocked at how advanced they were. There was no piles of paperwork. It was all done by Ipad. How cool is that? We then went into a room and I was told to undress so that the surgeon could take a look at the excess skin problem areas and let me know different options. So I took off my clothes, the surgeon came in and I let him know my main concerns about my body and he let me know what I would need to have done procedure wise in order to get rid of the skin. Biggest concerns were my stomach and my arms. That was when I found out, that due to the length of time of each procedure, it would need to be two different surgeries. Now do not get me wrong, I see other surgeons on TV do many procedures all at once. I know people personally who have gone to doctors out of state and had way more done and all at once. I just know that if I did choose this surgeon, this was his approach and I needed to be okay with that. What I realized is that he is very conservative, and I was not going to question it. I respected it. My stomach was going to need liposuction, then an incision around my lower stomach horizontally like a belt, and then very possibly a vertical scar all the way up the middle of my stomach as well. He said right then and there that he was going to do everything he could to avoid the middle vertical scar. I also had almost no chest left. I went from being a size DD before weight loss to being smaller than a B. Not to mention how weird and flat they were looking. If I decided to go through with the skin removal in the abdomen, my skin would be pulled down, making my chest be even smaller. We discussed implants and how they would then cause my body to not look weird once my excess skin was gone. When I think of implants, I think BIG breasts. I did not really realize people get them just to have “something there”. He told me if I did decide to go through with the breast augmentation, that they would be the smallest possible implant for my body frame. He was all about being as conservative as possible. He knew I did not want anything “artificial” looking. I just wanted to look NORMAL. Then, we discussed my arms and back excess skin. Boy oh boy did I work hard on my arms when lifting weights. I had amazing biceps. But as soon as I lifted my arms, there was those bat wings of swinging skin underneath. He said we would need to do two surgeries. One being my stomach and chest, and the other being my arms and back.
Now many people say…”Oh My God, how uncomfortable is it standing there naked in front of a doctor while they pick you apart telling you what is wrong with you?”. So let me set the record straight…it is nothing like that if you find the right doctor. This surgeon did not have me waiting in the room a long time. He came in and was very compassionate, friendly, outgoing, etc. He listened to me tell him about what I have accomplished, he asked me questions about what my concerns were, and he listened. Not just listened with his ears, but you can tell he genuinely listened with the care to help. He answered any and every question I could think of, and did not make me feel like I was “just another patient”. After the physical exam, we went upstairs and sat with Jennifer the surgical coordinator for over an hour and she went over everything. The financials, the procedures, etc…and was just an open book. Not a sales woman trying to sell me on the surgeon like I see on TV. She was personal sweet, and personal. The actualat is what is key. She was relatable. She was real. Those are the things that I picked up on.
After getting all the info, there was no need to “shop around”. I knew in my heart, this was the surgeon I was choosing. I was not buying a car, I was making a life changing decision. I was going to put my future and my body, and even my life in the hands of this doctor.
I called the office shortly after and set up a surgery date for surgery #1. I had my pre-op with my primary care doctor. I then had my pre-op with the plastic surgeon.
The day of my pre- op with the surgeon, he personally spent over an hour with me, and went over every single aspect. When I tell people that, they are in utter shock. No, not an employee but the surgeon himself took the time to go over each consent form explain them and explain each procedure from beginning to end. I had a notebook of questions and he answered every single one with honesty. It was a long appointment, and I left there feeling like I was making the right decision by choosing him. He just had a way of putting my anxious nerves at ease about these procedures. Once I signed my paperwork, that was it.
Once I had everything set, I then started showing my actual excess skin on my social meda accounts to my followers. I finally felt comfortable doing so. I mean, the skin was going to be gone soon anyway, so why not. But it is a whole lot harder than you think. It took a whole lot of guts for me to publicly show what humiliated me. What I had spent so long hiding, I was now going to be showing to people all over the world. But I had to do it. I had to show others the whole truth behind my transformation. I cannot tell you how many people were supportive of this decision. How many people were shocked I was hiding all of that skin. It felt good afterwards. I no longer had anything to hide.
My next blog will be all about my actual 1st surgery itself and the recovery. Stay tuned….
I can honestly say, I never would have imagined I would have the physical limitations I do when working out. I never thought I would ever encounter the physical setbacks I have encountered on my journey. From Knee surgery in December 2016 to neck surgery in November 2017, I have had my share of reasons to throw in the towel. However, Fitness is the largest part of my life. Weight loss is a journey I am on for life and I realized that I always have to find a way to do what I can. These obstacles and road blocks aren't there to stop me. They are there for me to prove how bad I truly want to accomplish my goals. Not just my own personal fitness goals, but my goals in trying to show other that massive weight loss is possible. There are days when I have no clue how I am going to push through the pain, but I get dressed, lace up my Nike's and make it happen.