Month: July 2013

Today is the Day

By the time you read this, I’m already under way with my plastic surgery since the procedure started at 7:30am today. The surgery is supposed to last for about 4.5 hours, so I should be out of surgery around noon. I’ll stay at the surgical center just until I am stabilized, so will hopefully be getting back to my apartment around 2pm or so.

To be honest, yesterday was a much more emotional day than I was anticipating. I’ve been so incredibly busy in the time leading up to the surgery that I haven’t had too much time to focus on just how big of a deal this surgery is. I’ve stayed pretty calm, cool and collected and had been feeling more impatient and ready than anything, until yesterday. I had a brief breakdown in the late afternoon and realized just how much my nerves were built up.

I am changing the biggest thing that has plagued me and put a huge blanket of insecurity over the person I have become.

The things that are causing me the most anxiety surround the procedure are:

  • That something will go wrong during the procedure
  • That coming out of anesthesia will be rough.
  • The pain during recovery
  • The scar I’ll be left with from hip to hip
  • Having to deal with the surgical drains during recovery
  • Not being able to do things for myself
  • The fatigue and run down feeling I know I’ll be dealing with for weeks
  • The swelling
  • Not recognizing myself in the mirror
  • That I’ll be unhappy with the results

But then I have to remember why I’m doing this. I’ve worked so hard to get myself from where I was to where I am now, and I know that I deserve to feel comfortable in my own skin. The things I’m most looking forward to in the after:

  • not feeling like I’m hiding something under my clothes
  • buying lingerie and not have to pick it out based solely on how well it will keep everything contained
  • actually FEELING sexy
  • not being scared to change in a room of my girlfriends
  • feeling more confident with my shirt off
  • not having to wear spanx to suck it all in under dresses and other clothes
  • being less afraid of form fitting clothes
  • not having to pull up my underwear constantly
  • having less anxiety if i move in a way that makes my shirt accidentally come up
  • having less stretch marks on my stomach
  • feeling like working out will actually produce results, instead of having them hidden under extra skin and fat
  • feeling like my body finally matches how i feel on the inside
  • feeling more confident in myself and my body

And I think those afters will definitely outweigh the inevitably shitty recovery I am going to have to go through to get there. I’ll check back in as soon as I can to let you know how everything went during the procedure and how recovery is going. Feel free to check out my facebook page and twitter because I’ll probably say something quick there before writing a full post here. Thank you so much for all the well wishes.

See you on the flat side!

Things I’ll Miss (And Won’t) About Peru

Peru was such an eye-opening trip for me. There were so many things I loved, including:

1.) The jungle. Heh.

The people, especially.

Group

2.) The gorgeous sites.

Machu Picchu was seriously the most magnificent thing I’ve ever seen.

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And the Sacred Valley wasn’t so bad, either.

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Washing my hands in aphrodisiac water, according to the Incas.

 

3.) The Markets!

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These markets were packed with vendors selling tons of handmade items for SO cheap. I had to buy an extra bag when I was there so I could carry home everything I bought. Seriously.

4.) The simplicity of people’s lives.

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Everything is just so much simpler there. No fancy phones, no constant checking of email, no being unhappy over trivial things.

5.) Feeling appreciative of all we take for granted in the states.

It’s so much easier to realize when you’re away from it all.

6.) Meeting random people from the states on tourist trips and at hostels.

There’s some instant connection you automatically feel when you connect with someone from your home when you’re not there.

7.) Everything being new and familiar.

I have been in DC for almost 11 years, so I feel like I know it like the back of my hand. I LOVE that about DC, but it’s incredible what simple things can strike you as you travel to a new place.

And now, for the things I won’t miss.

1.) Not being able to drink tap water.

Using bottled water to even brush my teeth took some getting used to!

2.) Being (quite aggressively) bombarded to buy things all the time when you walk down the streets, are in stores or markets, or even when you’re eating at a restaurant.

3.) Not being able to use a credit card anywhere.

I think in a lot of ways it was good for me to have to use real money, but NO WHERE took credit cards in Peru. Even places that had Visa and MasterCard signs plastered to their windows couldn’t get the machines to work! And I am cheap, so I hated paying $10 ($5 from my bank, and $5 for the ATM fee) anytime I wanted to take out money. And I also was mindful that a lot of people get robbed, so I didn’t want to take out a lot of cash every time.

4.) Having to take malaria pills every day. Yuck.

5.) Not being able to dry my clothes after washing them.

A luxury I always took for granted! Even at the apartment we had just a washer, not a dryer, which wasn’t the end of the world but I do appreciate drying my clothes!

6.) Drastic temperature changes from day to night.

During our 6 nights in Cusco, it would be almost 70 degrees during the day, and then drop to the low 30s overnight!

7.) Being fearful that everything I eat would make me sick.

And, unfortunately, this ended up being the case.

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Despite using bottled water for EVERYTHING including brushing our teeth, peeling every piece of fruit or vegetable we ate, holding my breath in the shower, and doing everything I could think of to avoid it, Stacy and I both left Peru with parasites! Stacy got a lot sicker than I did, so I got tested just to be safe and it turned out I had something, too! We both were able to take care of them with just taking antibiotics (both Cipro and Flagyl), but trying to get medical attention in a foreign country can be quite challenging. Luckily I am off the drugs now (and OK to proceed with my surgery!), but it was still not fun.

Moral of the story? Peru was amazing, but I sure do love America!

Pre-Op Appointment

All the posts on this topic are compiled here for easy reference in case you missed any.

So somehow, my surgery is just two weeks from today! I knew when I scheduled it that the time was going to fly by, but I honestly didn’t expect it to go as fast as it has! I’m already into the two week pre-operative time frame, where I have to start taking certain precautions, stop taking certain medications, and focus on a high-protein diet. I can’t believe it’s so close!

Last Thursday, I had my pre-operative appointment at Ruff Plastic Surgery, which was my last appointment at the office before the surgery itself. The appointment was supposed to be about an hour, but it ended up being almost two because I had so many questions and everyone that I met with was so thorough.

The basic purpose of this appointment was to:

  1. Go over all my (many, many) questions
  2. Meet with the nurse and the doctor one more time before surgery day to go over the procedure
  3. Review my current medications (and over the counter supplements) to make sure they were OK to keep taking
  4. Get my pre-op photos taken
  5. Get all my prescriptions for post-surgery
  6. Get my blood work done
  7. Make final payment for the surgery

I got there a few minutes early, and waited in the waiting room with my nerves in full effect with my completed almost-60 page pre-op packet on my lap.

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After a few minutes, I was called back to meet with the nurse, Sharonda, who is amazing. She was the same nurse who was there for my consultation, and will be assisting in the surgery as well as my main point of contact for post-operative care (besides the surgeon himself). I found out during my appointment that she actually had the same procedure done, and that made me feel even more comfortable and confident than I already did.

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She was SO patient with me and didn’t mind addressing each and every one of my million questions, since it had been quite a while since my initial consultation and also because I’d seen two other plastic surgeons between. She went through all my paperwork with me, my list of current medications, and then everything I wanted to talk about. She also told me she will check in with me the Friday before my surgery and provide me with her cell phone number, so I can reach her at any time for questions.

Some of the main questions she addressed for me were:

  • What follow up appointments will I have after surgery? I’ll have an appointment the day after surgery with Dr. Ruff to check for any signs of complication/make sure everything looks good, then 1 week after the surgery I’ll return to the office to get the drains removed, then 2-3 weeks after the surgery I’ll have an appointment with Sharonda to go over scar treatment therapy and check on progress. I’ll have appointments with Dr. Ruff at the 6 week, 3 month, 6 month, and 1 year mark to check on progress and healing. The doctor and nurse will also be on call between those appointments for any questions or concerns that may come up.
  • How long do I have to wait to shower after surgery? Dr. Ruff will give me clearance, but it’s usually after the day-after surgery check in.
  • What type of activity restrictions will I have post surgery? She said it’s expected I’ll be walking outside as soon as day 2 post op, but not for exercise just to move around more than I would in my apartment. She returned to work one week post surgery, and said she was definitely moving a little slower and sitting down more, but she was ok. She said at the 3-4 week mark I should be able to return to some cardio (power walking/jogging), and at the 6 week mark I should be completely cleared for normal activity. This was actually less time than I was expecting to need to take off from these things, so I took it as good news.
  • What type of compression garment will I have and how long do I wear it for? I will wake up in a compression garment and they will also order a second one for me included in the price of surgery. It will be high-waisted all the way up to just under my chest, and then go all the way down to mid-thigh level. I’ll have to wear it 24 hours/day for the first 4 weeks after surgery, and then 12 hours on/12 hours off for the next 2 weeks to get my body ready to not need it. She said she recommends not wearing it during the day, and sleeping in it at night for the 12 hours on/12 hours off part.
  • What should I wear the day of surgery? Yoga pants or sweat pants with a button up or zip up top (nothing that goes over your head). I will wake up from surgery in my compression garment with these clothes back on over it.
  • What should I wear while I’m recovering? This surgery is obviously very traumatic to the body, so I should expect a good amount of swelling after the surgery. She said for the first week or so after surgery, it’s normal not to fit into your fitted clothes from pre-surgery. She recommended wearing a lot of loose fitting dresses (good thing I love these anyway and have several) once I’m heading out into public.

She also went over all my pre-op instructions. The main things I have to do are:

  • Stop taking birth control 2 weeks prior to surgery, as it can effect blood clotting.
  • Stop taking aspirin or ibuprofen 2 weeks before surgery, and only use Tylenol if needed.
  • Wash with an antibacterial soap (they recommend Dial) for one week prior to surgery to reduce the amount of bacteria on the skin as much as possible.
  • Take Arnica tablets (a homeopathic medicine) for one week prior to surgery to help minimize post operative swelling, pain and bruising.
  • No drinking alcohol for one week prior to surgery.
  • Start taking Colace (stool softener) for 2 days prior to surgery, to hopefully combat the side effects of the post-op pain killers.
  • Fill all my prescriptions (antibiotics, anti-nausea, and pain killers) and get my house ready (cleaned, fridge stocked, supplies, etc).

After we went through all the paperwork, my questions, and her instructions, she left the room and I got undressed and back into a gown to get ready for the final exam.

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Dr. Ruff came back in with Sharonda once I was changed and asked me if I had any other questions for him, which of course I did. The main things I asked were:

  • Where exactly will my incision be located? He said it will be hip to hip, and lay very low just above the pubic area. He said if I have a string bikini or low cut underwear I’d like to bring in (which I don’t), I can bring it in on the day of surgery and they can mark me up to have the incisions hidden by that piece of clothing.
  • Where will the drains be located? I’ll have two drains, and they will be located just under the incision line in the pubic area towards either side.
  • What will the incision closure be like? Very precise (I loved that that was his first answer). There will be several layers of dissolvable sutures which will heal from the surface down over time. The surface stitches on the incision will be covered with steri strips (basically clear/white surgical tape) that should stay on for about 2 weeks or until they fall off on their own. After those come off is when I’ll meet with Sharonda again (at the 2-3 week post-op mark) to discuss scar treatment therapy.
  • How much skin/fat does he expect to remove? He won’t know until he gets in there, but if he had to guess he would estimate around 10 pounds (!!).

After going over all the questions, he did an exam and talked about his exact approach with the procedure and the results I should expect. He showed me on my body where I should expect the incision to be and how things will look after surgery. His mannerisms, professionalism, and caring personality made me so sure in my decision to go with Dr. Ruff. He was very thorough and patient, and made me feel SO good about the surgery, his ability and the results I should expect.

After I was done with the Dr. Ruff portion of the program, we got to the super scary part – the pre-op photos.

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I was completely naked for these, and they were taken from every angle – straight on, from the back, from each side, and at an angle facing each direction. They were taken with the machine pictured above that apparently produces 3D photos that will be up on the big screen (oh joy) during surgery. I was assured these photos would only be shared with the doctor, my nurse, and the surgical team. Phew!

After that, I was taken back into the room where I asked all the questions to get some pre-operative blood work done by Sharonda. Then I asked to see the room where the surgery will be performed, since it’s done onsite at the doctors surgical center rather than in a hospital. The surgical room is very nice, clean, and high-tech, and I was also shown the recovery area where I will be waking up from anesthesia. It was kind of crazy to see the room and know that the next time I’m in there, I will be on the operating table with all my stats up on the patient board (and those glamorous full body shots on display).

After the surgical center tour, I met with Michelle, the surgical coordinator. She and I went over a few final things, and then I made the payment for the surgery and the anesthesia. The anesthesia is a separate fee, and it may actually be higher than what I paid if the surgery needs to go longer than initially anticipated (4.5 hours) but we’ll cross that bridge after surgery. I paid for the bulk of the surgery itself using Care Credit (but the anesthesiologist does not take it), which is a credit service reserved for medical/dental procedures, where certain doctors offices have low or no-rate interest agreements. Dr. Ruff’s office has a 12 month 0% APR agreement, so if I pay off what I charged in 12 months (which is my goal), there will be 0 interest. Basically it’s like a free loan so I can get the surgery done sooner and not have to dip into my savings more than I already am.

After all that, I left the office feeling SO excited and like the surgery is really happening (because, well, it is). It’s crazy to think that the next time I go back there will be at 6:30am on July 29, the day of the surgery itself! I know I’ll experience a rollercoaster of emotions between now and then, but for right now I’m going to enjoy riding high and the excitement and anticipation I feel.

Some other random things of note:

  • I am planning to take 2 weeks off from work, but may return to working from home during the second week if I feel up for it. I’ve shared with my work the truth about what I am doing, and they are very supportive and flexible, which is amazing. I am obviously prioritizing my health here, so if it turns out I need more than 2 weeks I will make that work/possibly work from home for longer.
  • My mom and dad are coming next weekend (two days before surgery) and staying Saturday/Sunday night to help me get ready and spend some QT with me before I go under the knife. My dad is going to stay until I’m out of surgery and back in my apartment, and then my mom is staying with me for the entire week to help take care of me post-surgery. It’s such a blessing she is able to do that for me because I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have with me as I recover (slash anyone else who will put up with me). After my mom leaves, my good friend Kate (who happens to be an ER nurse) is going to step in to help for a couple days and assist me with getting back to Dr. Ruff’s office to get my drains removed, anything else I need help with, and also just to keep me company. And then of course my girlfriends and boyfriend will stop by to check in and help as needed, but that’s the main post-op care situation I have set up.
  • A lot of people recommend getting a recliner or hospital bed to use during recovery from surgery, but I am just going to use my regular bed. I live in a super small apartment so it would be tough to have one of those things added, and the doctor also told me I absolutely don’t need one. I have to sleep with my upper body and legs elevated, so I am getting a reading/husband pillow for my upper body and borrowing a wedge pillow from my mom for under my legs, and will just use lots of pillows around me in bed to make sure I stay in the right position for the first couple days after surgery.
  • The only supplies I need to get for recovery are the reading pillow mentioned above, a shower chair (because apparently taking a shower post surgery feels like running a marathon in terms of exhaustion), Arnica, Tylenol, Colace, and bendy straws (to help with drinking lots of fluids). I plan to thoroughly clean my apartment, have a well stocked fridge with easy protein-heavy snacks and meals, and get lots of magazines/reading material to keep me occupied post surgery outside of the TV.

50 Things I Learned in the Jungle

I’m baaaack! Peru was amazing and an incredible, eye-opening trip, but I am so happy to be home! Our 16 day trip started with a flight from DC to Miami, and then a (long) flight to Lima, Peru. We spent one quick night by the airport in a hostel, flew to Cusco the next morning, and then left the following day for a 6 night, 7 day jungle tour.

Before

Me and Stacy

At the beginning, the jungle trip was a little touch and go. Keep in mind I’d never been camping before (except when I was in middle school, according to my mother) so this was quite a way to start. For the first couple of days, Stacy and I both had a hard time adjusting to life in the jungle. Being so hot all the time, having a daily regimen of Deet only, and always feeling dirty were a little hard to get used to, but I think we reached the point of acceptance around day three or four. We were in a group of 10 people and got pretty close with the whole group over the course of that week.

Group

By the end of the trip, we had totally embraced it, learned so much, and were sad to be done! I shared this list with the group on our last night during dinner (pictured above), so I wanted to share it with you all, too.

50 Things I learned in the Jungle

1. I am not as adventurous as I thought I was.

2. Waking up at 6:30 am is considered “sleeping in” in the jungle.

3. How to pee the right way outside – squat low, lean forward and choose a downhill, if possible.

4. You can in fact live without Internet, but only for one week in my world.

5. Nothing dries in the jungle, so I really should have stopped expecting it to.

6. Peace and quiet is often underrated.

Sunset

Watching the sunset over the Manu River.

7. Animals in their natural habitat are even more intriguing than I expected.

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The jaguar we saw chilling by the river.

8. Biodegradable toilet paper is a must have at all times.

9. The “lasts 10 hours” claim on deet does not apply in the jungle.

10. Compared to some people on the trip, I am not as tasty to bugs as I would have expected.

11. Cold showers can actually be refreshing.

12. How to brush my teeth with bottled water without skipping a beat.

13. Some people can live without electricity, but I am not one of those people.

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Sun kissed on the last night.

14. Going to bed before 9pm is completely acceptable in the jungle.

15. Waking up to the sounds of the jungle is the best way to do it.

16. Stacy is actually quiet when I’m not around.

17. Instant coffee can be delicious, especially with powdered milk and sugar.

18. It’s ok to eat soup when it’s really hot out, even for every meal.

19. It doesn’t take a lot for people to truly be happy.

Boat Tour

20. I will never get tired of watching monkeys.

21. Ice is often a luxury that is often taken for granted.

22. I can fall asleep anywhere when sleep deprived enough, even with my head banging repeatedly against a bus window.

23. I really should have studied more Spanish before my trip, as I’m not very good at hand charades.

24. Birds are actually pretty cool.

Binoculars

25. Mosquito nets may cause weird dreams and/or hallucinations in the night.

26. It’s possible to gain weight from being sedentary and eating three large meals, two sugary snacks, and dessert each day, even in the jungle…

27. Wearing the same thing repeatedly, even under conditions causing extreme, prolonged sweating, is perfectly acceptable, except for with your underwear.

28. Drinking a hot beverage during the peak heat during the afternoon is not a good decision for me.

29. No one appreciates cows alongside the river in the jungle.

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30. Always check the water jug for bugs before you fill your bottle.

31. Instead of watching out for deer, you have to watch out for cows, lambs, and pigs in the streets.

32. I’m not good at holding my tongue, even in Peru.

33. It’s very common to crave cookies and candy by 10 or 10:30am in the jungle.

34. I would become comfortable peeing in front of a group of 10 people I met just days before.

35. In certain tribes when a man loves a woman, the father gets to “try him out” first. Despite where your mind may have gone, this involves giving him an axe so he can attempt to cut down an iron tree.

36. You cannot extinguish a candle on the nightstand from inside your mosquito net.
Mosquito Net

37. My only useful survival skill is comic relief.

38. The jungle is full of natural medicine.

39. Tough and strong are two different things.

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40. One benefit of cold showers is that your mirror doesn’t steam up.

41. Jungle viagra, which ironically comes from a very small tree, goes into a drink which is named “69”.

42. For some reason, people from the USA are perceived as loud.

43. Despite their intention, it is possible to fall asleep with a cheek full of coca leaves.

44. The proper way to tell someone they have a booger in their nose is to say “hey, you have a bat in the cave”.

gator

45. Unfortunately, cockroaches can fly.

46. Cock of the rock is not what you think it is – its the national bird of Peru.

47. Turns out potatoes go with everything.

48. The reserve zone of the jungle is really far away from Cusco. I’m talking 12 hours in a bus, followed by many, many hours in a boat.

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49. Bathrooms along the river are never where you expect them to be.

50. Laughter is one thing that crosses all language barriers.