Healing…sans 200 pounds.
There have been lots of exciting changes in my life sans 200 pounds. But, the one I am experiencing right now might be the best to date. For those of you who know me, you will be shocked to learn this one is medical related. The physical healing I have experienced this past week post leg surgery and the speed of my recovery — as compared to the only other surgery I’ve have had in my life in 2008 — is quite remarkable. However, the real difference is that my emotional well being is off the charts!
I am one week into recovery of varicose vein surgery on my right leg. For those of you that don’t know, varicose veins are veins that don’t work right in returning blood from the legs to the heart. Symptoms include pain, swelling, and heaviness of the legs, plus bulging clumps of veins that are visible and unsightly. Varicose veins are most often genetic in nature (as in my family) and they come regardless of a person’s physical size, but certainly being overweight does not help.
The medical term for the surgical procedure that I underwent is Endovenous Laser Ablation with Phlebectomy. In layperson’s terms, that means laser treatment of the deep vein source to block the vein and stop the blood flow from the broken vein. And vein stripping, which is surgically removing the abnormal parts of the veins often in bulging clusters on the leg. (Note: I didn’t say it was pretty!)
The surgery was outpatient and the recovery fairly quick — 1-2 weeks of tender loving care, 24-7 compressions stockings, and limited activity. But the process of going to multiple doctor’s visits, undergoing a host of tests (ultrasounds), and ultimately the surgery and recovery period has involved far more “medical” stuff than I have ever been comfortable with. For those of you who don’t know me, up until 1.5 years ago I had an intense fear/phobia/dis-pleasurable appetite for anything medical – doctor’s visits, tests, needles, the sight of blood, and definitely anything that involves cutting – like surgery! Not a fan. Avoided it like the plague.
I am not sure where this phobia originated and it most certainly is not rational. For years, I was not only out of touch with my overweight body, but I did not take care of myself. Ignorance was bliss. Or so I thought. And surprisingly, when I went to the doctor in Nov. 2010 for my pre-boot camp physical, I was told that I was quite healthy for someone who was overweight by 200 pounds and at risk for a host of major diseases. With family history of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease, and at such high risk for diabetes, the doctor seemed shocked at my hard numbers. (Not only did I weigh 381 but a had +60% body fat.)
My only real medical scare came in 2008. I got Cellulitis in my leg while working out of town with clients. (Cellulitis is an infection of the skin that may spread to tissue just beneath the skin’s surface. Impaired circulation tends to put you at higher risk and cause recurrence of Cellulitis.) For a few days, I ignored the signs of pain, redness and swelling on my lower leg, until I was forced to go to emergency the day before Easter.
They threatened to put me in the hospital to treat it with intravenous antibiotics, but I opted for oral antibiotics – after all it was a holiday. By the time I came back two days later for my re-check, I had a blistering ball of infection on my leg and they rushed me to the hospital and into emergency surgery to remove it. I had to sign a waiver that they could amputate my leg if necessary to save my life. It was not pretty nor fun. Just ask my niece, Jessie, who innocently accompanied me to the doctor’s office and ended up coordinating a major medical emergency.
I was knocked out for the surgery, of course, so I don’t remember it. Thank God. My last memory was that it took nearly 6 people to lift me onto the operating table – perhaps just one of the reasons I avoided these kinds of situations! Shame and embarrassment abound. But then I went to sleep. And when I awoke, I had a 3″ long, 1.5″ deep hole in my leg.
I remember the trauma of it like it was yesterday. The fear of amputation and just about everything related to the surgery itself; the crabby surgeon who seemed pretty judgmental about how I got there; the way-too-long hospital stay; the fact that I had no choice but to let others bath me and take care of me; that I had to ask friends and family for help when I got home because I couldn’t treat the deep wound myself; and the nearly 3 month recovery process with more nurses, bandages, risk of infections, wound cleanings than I care to remember. Not to mention, drugs that made me so sick I threw up for more than 24 hours straight and ended up back in emergency less than one day after getting home from the hospital. Really, felt like a bad dream, aka nightmare.
Why am I telling you this?
I provide all of this gory detail to illustrate that where I am today — in July 2012 compared to April 2008 — is quite remarkable. While it is true that the severity of the two situations was very different, I am convinced that my healthy mind and body — inside and out — have made all the difference this time. The physical and emotional transformation that has occurred in my life in the last 1.5 years is evidenced in my recent medical situation in the following ways…
1) I have been a courageous, willing participant in this second surgery. This includes proactively scheduling the consultation, the surgery itself and all of the appropriate visits with ease and comfort, even flirting with my very attractive surgeon! Why? Because I now know I can do anything. I don’t let fear stop me. And to be honest, I have way less fear.
2) The actual healing process has gone smoother, better and faster. My personal trainers and medical professionals all tell me this has a lot to do with my physical health being far better. I not only eat healthy and have 14.5% body fat, but I am more fit and thus the circulation issues, the risk of infection, etc. is not the same. Not to mention my positive mindset.
3) I am not only anxious to get moving and resume my workouts, but I scheduled the surgeries around training for a half-marathon. And, I was up walking my beloved Como Lake only 4 days after surgery and resumed strength training one week after surgery.
4) I feel strong, healthy, and happy. Of course, I didn’t love the 50+ needle pokes as I was actually awake for the surgery and quickly declined the opportunity to see the veins they removed from my leg, but my mental attitude is positive, perky, proactive, strong and healthy. Today, I was excited to go back for the post-surgery ultrasound/ recheck and get clearance to resume my half-marathon training.
Bottom line. I still don’t love doctors (turns out my surgeon is married!) or hospitals, but I don’t fear them, nor do I think twice about doing what I need to do to take care of my body to keep it healthy and strong. This coming from the girl who was so out of touch with her body when she weighed 350+ pounds that people would ask me how I felt and I honestly didn’t know. I had ailments, but there were so many related to my weight that I basically blocked them. Out of sight, out of mind, right?!
So today, I once again celebrate my transformation inside and out. And I share this with you because I believe it may help someone who is out of touch with their body and health and afraid to take the necessary steps that most people take for preventative checks and general health care. If I can do it, you can do it too.
You think the physical changes in a major body transformation will change your life – and they will. You know that dropping the extra weight will improve your health – it absolutely does. Well, I am here to tell you that just as thrilling and perhaps more important to your long-term happiness is the fact that your emotional health and mindset will also change in dramatic ways. It is more likely than not, that when you change on the outside you will feel strong, vibrant, and happy on the inside. You will overcome your fear, and feel truly unstoppable. And that may be the best gift of all!