My Body, His Creation: Altered By Surgery

Have you considered having surgery to improve your appearance, but refrained or are on the fence because of your religious beliefs or others’ opinions? Are you a person feels that others should not undergo surgical procedures to enhance their appearances? Well, I had the opportunity to interview two women who graciously shared their stories. As you read these narratives, I implore you to have an open mind to receive the stories in their entirety.

Obesity is one of the leading causes of most preventable medical conditions, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, some cancers, sleep apnea and more. Individuals living with obesity also suffer from eating disorders, malnutrition, depression, anxiety and feelings of shame and low self-worth. Allow me to narrate the events surrounding Mrs. Aviance Lee’s weight loss surgery.

Life Before Surgery
Aviance was a normal sized child and teenager. She first started gaining weight after delivering her first child and developing her first blood clot. She suffers from a genetic blood clotting disorder, Factor Five (V) Leiden, a disorder that makes you more likely to have blood clots in the legs, lungs, heart (heart attack), brain (stroke) and more. After Aviance recovered from her pregnancy and blood clot she reflects, “I never took the initiative to get the weight off”. Her weight increased with her second child. Over the years she tried “lose weight quick schemes” for which she was briefly successful. She lost 25lbs with Weight Watchers and 45lbs with carbohydrate counting and exercise. She reflects, “It’s all a mind set so if you don’t have the mind to do it, you’ll easily revert” as she did when she stopped the diets and exercise and gained all of her weight back.

I wish I could…

Aviance never had issues with depression/anxiety related to her weight; however, she was limited on certain activities she desired to participate in. She loves amusement parks, but could not ride most of the rides due to her weight. Related to her physical appearance, she did not like the way her legs looked because they were always so swollen. As a result, she never wore capris or short skirts. She remembers trips to the gym as embarrassing moments.

The Turning Point
By the Age of 40 Aviance had already suffered 3 blood clots in both lungs, 2 in her deep leg veins and 2 in her superficial veins, with the last blood clot stretching from the calf to the hip, which is massive. When she was discharged from the hospital she saw a new Hematologist who was “real” with her. He was the first physician to outright tell her, “You are severely obese” and that she would need to lose weight or “it was a death sentence”. He then suggested weight loss surgery. As you can imagine, this was eye opening. She became serious about her weight loss, started researching weight loss surgery and underwent gastric sleeve surgery on February 13, 2017, without complications.

The Haters
It’s disappointing when a person strives to enhance his/her life while family/friends disclose their doubt. Sad to say, Aviance had discouraging interactions before and after surgery. One person told her that she was “taking the easy way out” and to “stay away from the chicken”, which was really hurtful. Of course, she did not allow that to stop her. After having the surgery she quickly learned her rebuttal, “This is not an easy way out and is not for the weak minded” because discipline is key in being successful after weight loss surgery. She states, “This is a new way of life” as she has to be conscious of the foods/drinks she takes in because her stomach does not have the digestive mechanisms it once had. After surgery she overheard individuals saying, “I was going to see if she would lose a whole bunch of weight, but she still looks the same”. People approach her all the time asking, “How much weight have you lost?” or “You’re looking smaller”. She always appreciates the compliments, but says “You can tell when people are sincere…I know that people are watching to see if I mess up.”

Life After Surgery

Now that she has had approx. 85% of her stomach removed, she eats small meals. She has to avoid sodas and carbonated beverages, pure sugar, beef/pork (for a short while) and acidic foods. Her daily goals are to drink 64 oz. of water and take in 75 grams of protein for a total of 800-1000 calories per day. Along with this she exercises often. As of June 4th, Aviance has successfully lost 70lbs and she is ecstatic about it. She says, “I didn’t have a self-esteem issue, but now I’m starting to see my curves!” She says that her legs are smaller than ever and she is able to wear dresses that show her legs. She laughs as she discloses a nickname her close friends call her, “slim-thick”. She awaits the moment when she can begin checking items off her bucket list, including getting on amusement park rides and wearing a two-piece swimsuit at the beach.

 

Breast hypertrophy or large breasts is a medical condition that isn’t always recognized as such. Those with breast hypertrophy deal with shoulder and back pain on a daily basis, which can make exercise and normal daily activities a challenge. It can also lead to depression and anxiety. Let’s explore the events surrounding Mrs. Phillippa McCutchen’s breast reduction surgery.

Life Before Surgery

Phillippa first noticed her breasts were larger than her peers in the 5th grade. As you can imagine, the boys in her class teased her regularly. Luckily she never had a sense of insecurity, likely because she had a great support system around her. Later in life she began to have children and while her body size was consistent, her breasts continued to enlarge. Before she knew it, she was a size 40H. Finding clothing was a task. “I had to increase my shirt sizes to accommodate my breasts and purchasing things like panty and bra sets or lingerie was very challenging”.

 

The Curse
As Phillippa’s breasts grew larger she acquired shoulder and back pain, shoulder indents and the pain made it difficult to exercise. She tried to exercise through the pain to lose weight with hopes to decrease her breast size, but was unsuccessful. As she reflects, she disclosed an anger trigger:
Overhearing other women talking about their own breast sizes. People focus on things they don’t have. Women with smaller breast wanted bigger breasts. I struggled with the thought of women having breast implants and couldn’t understand why they would want to have that surgery. I would become enraged. I felt that if they could walk a mile in my shoes, that they would change their minds.

She remembers becoming angry with God and questioning, “God, why did you make me this way?” “Out of all my cousins, I’m the only one like this.” She goes on to say, “I felt cursed!” Needless to say, once Phillippa had health insurance she was certain that a breast reduction was right for her. She had a very supportive physician who was able to document that her breast hypertrophy was indeed a medical problem (inability to participate in exercise, shoulder indents and back/shoulder pain) so her insurance agreed to pay for the procedure.

The Postoperative Set Back

The excitement of her breast reduction quickly came to a halt after running into a complication that only 1/100,000 people encounter. With low blood flow to her left nipple she had loss of sensation and nearly lost her nipple. For 2 months, she had bi-weekly doctor visits all while her feelings of anger resurfaced. She was so anxious about her physical appearance and what her husband would think of her that she asked, “God, did you really let this happen?” By the grace of God and love of her family, she acquired inner strength to embrace her self. She prayed for God to show her how to appreciate her new body. This was the first time she had ever had to trust God for medical healing. She remembers this whole situation as a test spiritually, mentally, physically and emotionally.

Life After Surgery

Now that she has overcome her medical/surgical complication she is overwhelmed in joy with her outcome. She easily finds bras, swimsuits and other clothing that fits her body appropriately. She is also able to follow behind her children as they participate in basketball and cheer-leading, pain free.

Advice From the Wise

Both Aviance and Phillippa advise those who are considering surgery to learn all they can about the surgeries and related risk and make a personal decision to move forward or not. Aviance spent 5-6 months researching the types of weight loss surgeries and physically/mentally preparing. Phillippa says “If it turns out bad, you will blame those who nudged you to have surgery” so you want it to be your decision.

As you can see, having surgeries to improve ones outward appearance is not merely cosmetic. After reading these two individual narratives, I hope it inspires you to show your support for those undergoing these surgical procedures and I pray that you have found inner peace and encouragement if you are considering a surgery.

Until next time,
Dr. Jay