Life without the belly – adventures in keeping my pants up
The time slide is an interesting thing. It’s a spiral slide, in my experience and it’s several stories tall. You start out at a decent pace – and then you hit the slick spots and ye gods, off you go. One minute I was struggling to even get the surgery. The next minute, I’m here, sans belly flap.
I had my panniculectomy – the removal of my panniculus or apron of belly fat – on July 8 at around 7 pm. I have concluded that I am no longer intrigued by the bizarre leap between the moment they put you under and the moment you come out of anesthesia. Nonetheless, of all my remodels, and despite the incredible and wonderful transformation afforded me by the gastric bypass, this panniculectomy was without a doubt the most desperately yearned-for surgery of my life. (When belly shame is medical, too and Free at last from my apron of fat — for the whole journey, plus pictures.)
So now it’s been 48 days since surgery – and the pain is gone. What’s numb is numb and the amputated nerves are no longer outraged. Oh, it all burned there for a while. Naturally, being the tank I am, I was back at work at the end of the second week of surgery and it was a challenge to do much. Essentially, I had been skinned, a chunk amputated and the edges stitched back together. The scar is epic – I guarantee you no little kid is ever going to beat me in a “wanna see my scars?” contest.
Here’s what it’s like to live without the evil belly which, I am willing to bet, probably weighed upwards of 80 or 90 lbs when I was at my heaviest of 420 lbs.
Walking is easier. I didn’t exactly expect that, but even the 11 lbs they took off wiggled and wobbled and weighed on my legs. Climbing stairs required I lift that extra weight with each step. Well, that makes sense, but it still came as a surprise. When I walk, I feel my anatomy, uncloaked, in motion. It was always occluded. Now it’s not.
I was always oddly flexible. At well over 300 lbs, I could bend over and put my hands flat on the ground (freaked the snot out of the less flexible among my slender friends). Now? It’s crazy. I can bend over flat against my knees. When lounging in my chair and a half, I can fold my leg back and play with my toes (if I was so inclined, although my toes hold no fascination for me) or I can curl up with my knees under my chin, a la five year old. Once in position, my tribe of pets arrange themselves all around me and there’s plenty of room.
People were still looking away from me before the panniculectomy. Nowhere near the way they did when I weighed over 300 lbs, but there was no hiding the panniculus and deformities (that’s essentially what it was) both intrigue and repel people. Now, I’m normal. Okay, at least when clothed. Out of clothes, I still have jelly thighs (epic loose skin there but all cosmetic) and due to being almost unnaturally short-coupled (think an inch and a half between top of hip bone and bottom rib), I do resemble a bullfrog. My arms are rather disappointing aeronautical devices (no amount of flapping gets me off the ground – what a bummer!). But in clothes, I just look normal.
That’s a new one on me
Am I delighted? Oh geez – not even a column contains enough words to express how much. However, there’s one unexpected side effect that I had no idea would be so annoying.
My pants fall down.
As it turns out, the panniculus was what was keeping my pants up all these years. I had no idea! I found this out early in my recovery when my granddaughter and I went to the small town of Tenino, Washington to go to a rock show with Granddad (who drove his own car – long story).
Now, I love cargo pants. I’m an odd blend of feminine and not so much, so I love cargos and I particularly love men’s cargos because the pockets are just way, way better. I am now wearing size 36 to 38 men’s cargos, with the 38s being kind of big and 36s being a bit tight (figures). So I put on the 38s and down they started to slide. Well, that wouldn’t do, so I put on the 36s (this before I discovered the magic of belts). They were just this side of miserably tight and they had an inner tie, so I thought they would do.
Not so much.
Tight or no, those pants started their descent as soon as I got out of the car, not to mention they slid down and pressed – hard – on that very very very newly healed scar. Naturally it never occurred to me to pack an alternative outfit. Oh no, that would’ve been thinking ahead.
So I was walking around, looking at exquisite stones of all sorts and every few feet I was desperately and painfully hitching up the pants – ow ow ow. Walk a few feet – hitch. Walk a few more feet – HITCH. Somehow they survived the circuit, but it began to become apparent that I was losing the battle. We were spent out anyway, Darryl had already gone home so I gave Sophia (my glorious granddaughter) a desperate look and said “We need to go home, honey, I’m in trouble here.”
We took off at a rapid toddle toward the car, me clutching one side of my pants as I dealt with the secondary consequence of all this – my backpack was riding my shirt higher and higher in back which was consequently pulling it up in front. It was quickly becoming apparent that I was being involuntarily denuded by the clothes themselves right in the middle of beautiful downtown Tenino!
We reached the car just in the nick of time, I dropped the back pack, huddled close to the car, unzipped and pulled up the pants, which also HURT and made the dash for home and a kinder, gentler outfit.
Later, safely installed under the giant, spreading Mother Walnut tree, Sophia observed that those were “the Pants of Embarassment.”
“Indeed,” I concurred, “to go with the Shirt of Mortification,” and she laughed.
God, I love having a granddaughter who, at 12, knows the what the word “mortification” means…