Fake belly button.

I have 10 pounds of loose skin along for this run.

‘Did you have loose skin after you lost weight?!’

When you weigh a lot (392 pounds) and lose a lot of weight (230 pounds), you wind up with excess skin.

In my case, it was almost all belly skin.

Skin is elastic, but NOT that elastic. Especially when it was stretched out for 20+ years.

Turns out that loose skin is actually a big problem and not just because of how it looks.

My belly flap of skin hung to the top of my thighs.

Loose skin develops its own inertia which means I had to become an expert in compression gear if I wanted to do anything other than stand upright or walk casually. 🙂  Tanks, shorts, girdles, ace bandages, Spanx. You name it.  It was a daily task to figure out how to stay active and keep the loose skin from hurting me.

I was developing arthritis in my spine from the skin pulling on my lower back.

I had chronic infections and abrasions on the loose skin of my belly.

I wore size 16 pants JUST to accommodate the extra skin. (Day after surgery I was in a size 12, even with 18 pounds of swelling, drains and wearing the surgical girdle.)

I tried every potion, cream, gizmo I could in hopes that the skin would magically shrink back.

FINALLY my sister drug me to a cosmetic surgeon. He gently told me NOTHING would make the skin retract.  The only cure was removal. The surgery was a tough one.

It was not covered by insurance even though I had documented back issues and chronic skin issues. (Insurance wound up covering part of it when the surgeon uncovered 3 significant abdominal hernias DURING surgery.)

I talked to my family and friends to make sure they were supportive. I saved every penny. Talked to other patients who had done the surgery.

Asked Spencer to help me get as fit as possible. I kept being told fitness was tied to good healing and a quicker recovery.

On 11/20/13 I had a procedure called a ‘Full Body Lift’.

It was an 8 hour surgery. I have a 360 degree scar that goes around my waist at the ‘bikini’ line.  They also rebuilt the abdominal wall as part of the surgery.

They removed just shy of 10 pounds of excess skin.

I had over a thousand stitches in my abdominal wall, which now has 4 vertical ‘pleats’. I had internal stitches the circumference of my hip line and then the incision was glued externally.  I had stitches in my newly crafted belly button. They repaired 3 hernias.

The doc said I was healing from ‘massive tissue trauma and disruption.’

I used the word OUCH a lot. Often paired with a cuss word. 🙂

They cut the skin at the pelvic/hip line and all the skin covering my ribs and upper belly, waist and back basically got pulled down – tight. I am REALLY simplifying it, but you get the idea.

I lost my belly button – which I find highly amusing.  I told the doc I didn’t care if I had a belly button, he said I needed one or I would look like a ‘Who’ from ‘Whoville’. 🙂

He built me a fake belly button.

It’s an innie. 🙂

My hips and the incision line are STILL totally numb well over a year later. I am told the feeling may never return.

I had 3 drains on the incision line for several weeks. Yup. It was as UNCOMFORTABLE and hard to manage, as you would imagine. It was a great day when those suckers got pulled out.

About 18 hours post surgery. You can see the drains. I was up right after surgery and walking. I was hunched forward, which was my posture for about 6 weeks. As miserable as I was, I was already asking when I would be allowed to run. 🙂 (Photo credit Jill Kelleher, best nurse ever!)

I have to be honest.  In the early phases of healing from this surgery I was SURE I had made a horrible, terrible mistake… It was simply a brutal experience. No other way to explain it. Pain like I had never had to deal with. Right after surgery I may or may not have texted a few friends asking them to come kill me…  Maybe.  I’m glad none of them listened.

Thankfully, my regrets didn’t last too long…

I had a flawless recovery. A few minor infections – but nothing major.  The doc kept telling me it was because I had a healthy diet, perfectly controlled blood sugar and had taken the time to get in shape for the surgery.

This surgery has a high complication rate and is known for difficult, prolonged healing because of the 360 degree incision.

I avoided all of the major complications. 🙂

It was worth it.

All of it.

One of my goals from this surgery?  To be able to throw on a sports bra and shorts and just go RUN…

I could not even begin to imagine that kind of FREEDOM!!!   NOT having all this excess skin? Not having to worry about compression gear and infections and chafing and a belly flap of skin beating me to death? Just throwing on basic gear and going for a RUN?!?

This summer my friends Wendie and Josh invited me to go to Bend to run. Wendie KNEW I had this silly, but heart-felt goal of literally running in just my sports bra…

So we went to run a fabulous stretch of trail to Tumelo Falls.  (Wendie picked this spot, 2+ hours from home so we would NOT run into anyone we knew.)

I finally got brave and hot and sweaty enough about 45 minutes in on the run to FINALLY get rid of my shirt… I may have cried.  Just a little. 🙂

It was an incredible feeling to run with nothing but the basics.  Just because I FINALLY could.

HELL of a trail run! We did try to convince Josh to run in just a sports bra.  🙂

To say that this surgery changed my life is an understatement.

Nowadays?  I and my fake belly button are free to just grab my favorite running clothes and a pair of shoes and GO run… Anytime. Anywhere.

Dream come true. 🙂

#runhappy #lifeisgood #novoveritas

4 thoughts on “Fake belly button.

  1. Wowowowowowowowowowowow! Once again, Betsy-girl, you amaze me. Thanks for your candid post. I continue to love your blog and look forward to reading each new installment!

    Sent from my iPad


    Liked by 1 person

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