Those of us who are old enough to remember who Gilda Radnor was might remember the title of her autobiography, written shortly before her death from ovarian cancer: It’s Always Something. She had finally found and married the love of her life (Gene Wilder) and after trying unsuccessfully to have children, the doctors discovered her ovarian cancer. How she managed to keep a sense of humor in the face of such devastating circumstances is truly beyond me.
My dilemma is nowhere near as tragic or devastating. Nor is a bolt of thunder from on high. This is something I did to myself. As some of you know, I’ve lost a lot of weight this past year and a half, and now I’m dealing with the baggy skin on my body (sad face here). I knew it was going to happen, and it’s really ugly and starting to be irritating physically, but it’s a fact of my life now.
Years ago, when I was still much heavier, I used to tell myself that I DIDN’T want to lose weight because I didn’t want to have skin surgery. I had surgery once and the scars are really REALLY ugly. In fact, when I was recovering from the surgery, whenever I went out of the house, I used to wrap up my incision (on my left forearm). The therapist told me I didn’t need to, since the staples (real staples!!) were out and wound was closed, but I told him the incision scared kids. I remember seeing a little girl with huge eyes staring at my wound and clinging to her mom. I felt like Frankenstein; I had a long cut going literally halfway up my forearm and 27 staple marks alongside (I looked just like the Boris Karloff character- ugh!!) Pain and inconvenience aside, I really didn’t feel like looking like something cobbled together by a mad scientist. So whenever anyone suggested losing weight, my stock answer was “I don’t want to have to get skin surgery.”
Now that I have lost weight, my mom suggests (on a regular basis- eye roll) that I call my doctor to see if I’m “ready” for surgery (heavy sigh). No. F***ing. Way. If I decide to get skin removal surgery, I want it done as few times as possible and so I might as well wait until I lose all the weight I want to lose. That’s what the doctors recommend, unless the skin becomes a health impediment.
When I watch My 600 lb Life updates on the patients, all they are focused on is getting their skin surgery: “I hope I lost enough to get my surgery;” “I’m so disappointed Dr. Now won’t give me my skin surgery.” My mom sounds just like them. I’m with Dr. Now on this point. If it’s truly an issue, then he removes the lymphedema or the skin, but as he tells them, “you need to have lost more weight otherwise, you’ll just have to have surgery again.” Most of the patients become very focused on body image. I remember one patient looking at herself in her underwear and practically crying because she’s still “ugly.” She said she wants people to look at her and think she’s beautiful and not just in “my heart, but outside, too.” Now there’s a topic for another day!!
I don’t really spend a lot of time looking at myself in the mirror, but I see the skin: hanging on my legs and thighs, puddling around my knees and ankles; the loose pouch on my belly; the slowly deflating “apron” under the belly pouch; the batwings on my upper arms; the turkey wattle on my neck; my jowls getting jowlier; my butt getting droopier and droopier (yay…); my breasts getting smaller and flatter (double yay??…); even on my forearms, I’m getting a little loose “fringe.” In the pool where I do my water aerobics, sometimes I can see the skin on my thighs floating, looking weirdly separated from the rest of me, like it’s a part of my swim shorts. When I lay down in bed, it slides down the sides of my body and my belly shifts to one side or the other, and my legs get wide and flat (along with my boobs-blehhh). I feel like I’m melting.
It became really apparent when I decided to take a selfie in front of the mirror before getting in the pool for water aerobics, and I saw how bad my skin is looking on my legs. There are wrinkly, deflated spots on my thighs where it really hangs over my knees. I know if feels really weird in the pool, but this was the first time I’d really gotten a good look at it in a long time, obviously I’ve lost more weight since then. My mom (thank God!) has not seen it. One the one hand, I’m not really upset by it, since it means I’m making some good progress: I’m losing weight and hopefully gaining some muscle, so I’m changing my body shape. My loose skin is a sign of my success.
On the other hand, I’ve traded one body image problem for another. When I was hugely fat (and I was), I was unhealthy and unable to do a lot of things. Now, I’m thinner and fitter (though still morbidly obese- groaning face), but able to do so much more, and also developing another potential health problem. The loose skin could become a source of infection and it could start interfering with my daily living, just by being in the way. I’ve noticed that the skin on my shins hangs down over my ankles and sometimes gets irritated by my shoes and socks. I have a similar problem with the skin where my bra rubs under my arms. I’m always having to adjust clothes to accommodate the skin that’s not where it used to be because my body is getting smaller.
I remember watching one of Dr. Nowzaradan’s patients looking at himself and saying he was happier with how his body looked when he was bigger and everything was “nice and tight” rather than having a belly that he can “fold like a taco.” I’m not.
As melty and deflated as I look, I like being able to move without pain, to walk without getting short of breath, to walk fast, to buckle a seatbelt without having to hold my breath or having it cut off my airway. I figure, eventually, I’ll have to face the possibility of getting cut up again (I can always schedule it for October so I won’t have to worry about a Halloween costume- look! I’m a zombie…brains….. brains…). Humor notwithstanding, it’s not something I’m looking forward to. I don’t relish the thought of dealing with the physical scars and the unavoidable paresthetic nerve damage that comes with them. I am blessed with a high tolerance for irritants. Most things that make other people nuts I take in stride and so far, I’m tolerating the baggy skin fine. One day, it may become enough of a problem that I have to deal with it, but not now and not in a while. I’m okay in the “hard place” right now, because the rock that was all my extra weight was too damn heavy- even for me!