I have been sitting here looking at this blank screen for a while now, not quite sure where to begin. So, just like with my weight loss journey, I am just going to start at the beginning and take it one step at a time.
Where the issue began
So for over a year now I have been noticing my arms getting puffy, especially in my left hand. It looked very swollen. I honestly thought I injured myself but had no real pain so I didn’t think much of it. It kept getting worse and worse and I then started noticing my arms getting puffy. My weight was not changing at this point and nothing else in my body was changing, just my left hand and my forearms. As the year went on, it began to look like someone took a rubber band and placed it around my arms where they bend near my elbow. As time continued to pass, this “band” seemed to be getting tighter and tighter. Something did not feel right in my arms and my range of motion was also becoming limited. I was unable to straighten my arms completely and everything felt very tight. My physical therapist and massage therapist even said I had a lot of tightness in the area around the “banding” and even gave me some stretches to help loosen things up, but no one knew what was going on. And as the year went on, maybe it was a combination of stress and not knowing what was happening with my body, and then the stress of having another skin removal procedure, my binge eating disorder reared its ugly head and I did begin to start gaining some weight.
What is going on?
After seeing a lot of doctors, specialists and then going to see, even more, we somewhat have an idea of what is happening in my body, more importantly in my arms. I have some very tight fascia that has built up for YEARS. That hard fascia created almost like a “cage” around the incisions on my arms. As time went on it just became tighter and tighter. As it became tighter and tighter it developed the “banding”. Banding meaning it looks like there is a rubber band around my arm squeezing my arm so tight. All of this fascia build-up is preventing the fluid from flowing properly throughout my body. The restriction in the flow of this fluid is causing me to have a lot of fluid retention or a “pooling” effect. Since I don’t have the proper flow of fluid in my arms it is also causing issues throughout the rest of my body.
On top of that, since I have gained some weight, the added fatty tissue that is in my body is also adding to the “puffiness” that is happening. The skin can not stretch that much in my upper arms, because I have had a Brachioplasty to remove the excessive loose skin from that area. The incision from that surgery goes from my armpit to my elbow and with the weight gain, the skin on this incision does not expand the same way the regular skin does. So weight gain is not necessarily the cause of the issue, but it is making it worse.
What’s The Game Plan?
I have been getting massages once a week to try and break up the fascia and improve the flow of fluid within my entire body. I am noticing a little bit of a difference, but not much. The doctors also ordered me some different compression for my arms to try and help get some fluid out. The original compression ordered was not the right type and was so tight and difficult to put on that it split my skin open on my right arm, in the crease of my elbow. Every time I would wear the compression, it kept splitting the wound more. So, new compression had to be ordered and I had to wait MONTHS to get the new arm compression garments. While I waited, things kept getting worse.
Finally, I have the new compression, but still, I have an open wound on my arm. With this wound, it is very hard and very painful to wear the new garments. I have been seeing a wound nurse who is helping to try and close the wound. I am still doing physical therapy and some stretches and to help loosen up the area as much as possible. My massage therapist is doing what is called myofascial release. These massages help to break up the fascia and I am having these massages as often as I can. I am also really dialing in on my food and actively trying to lose weight and overcome my eating disorder. I have been working with so many amazing doctors, who might not have an exact plan as to how to fix this issue, but who seem to be helping me resolve it as best as they can.
Addressing weight gain
I have talked about this so many times but to fully understand what happens next, I want to talk about my weight gain a little bit before moving on. I have always been open and honest with not only all of you but with my doctors as well about how I was struggling with my weight and gaining some weight again. Getting the help I need is the most important thing to me so I never tried to hide it. I talked about it, no matter how hard it was for me because I wanted to be open, honest and upfront with everyone so we can truly figure out what is happening.
I wished that the only issue weight gain because I feel like I can somewhat easily fix that. I know I can and will lose weight again. But when I was told so many times that it was not the only reason for what was going on, that was hard to take. This was difficult to hear because I don’t know what to do to resolve the issues I am having. My weight gain is something that I mentally and physically battle with every single day. I have been beating myself up about it, crying about it, angry, hating myself, starving myself and been in a dark place with it. If all of these issues were only because of the weight gain, I knew a game plan and know I would be able to handle it, no matter how hard.
I take full responsibility for my weight gain and I know I am not only working on losing more weight but truly addressing my eating disorder and relationship with food. I get that I have gained some weight, I am aware that I have gained some weight, have admitted that I have gained some weight and I have taken responsibility for it. With everyone!!!!!
Every single one of the doctors I have seen regarding these issues has been so supportive. It has blown me away. Trust me, it kills me to talk about me gaining weight, but part of taking responsibility for it is owning it and I have felt like I have handled it well. So have the doctors. We were able to have a grown-up, honest discussion about it, I was treated respectfully and then were able to move on. They all told me how proud of me they were for how far I have come and offered their support as I continue on my journey. They said not to be upset, but that we would figure this out together. I know part of a doctor’s job is to help keep us healthy, I know weight is a big part of health for their patients. And I have come to expect that they will usually always bring up my weight.
The big day, I get to see a hand and arm specialist
Finally, after seeing so many doctors, I was referred to go see a hand and arm specialist because I was told, she might be able to help me.
To begin, I had to travel up to Sacramento which is a 2+ hour drive from my house. Going to this appointment I was very nervous and anxious but excited. I was hopeful; that this doctor would be able to help me with what was going on and that we could come up with a game plan as to what’s next for me.
Instead of coming in and talking to me like a human being who has real emotions and feelings, she came in and just expected that I was going to have surgery right away without taking the time to even examine my arms, tell me what was going on or what surgery I would even need. When I tried to ask for clarification, she would roll her eyes and talk to me in a voice that was so condescending and made me feel so unwelcome and stupid. She made it seem like I should have already known what was going on like I should have been able to read her mind.
She asked me if my arms hurt or were causing issues or pain, and when I said yes all she said was “well from what I can see, I can see no pain or issues”. WHAT? So I tried to explain and show her the OPEN WOUND and again she said, “well from the examination I do not see any issues.” I asked her how she can not see any issues when she is not even taking the time to look at my arms. At this point, She never even had me take my sweatshirt off!!! Then after I said that she asked to see the wound, had me remove my bandage where the wound was and kinda looked at it and was like, ok so do you want surgery?
Want surgery? Why would I just want surgery? What is going on, what are my options, what is the surgery, what’s recovery like…? She didn’t answer anything and just rolled her eyes again and asked, do I want surgery?
I then took a step back and tried to stay calm and tried to tell her a little about what was going on, my symptoms and ……about…..my……weight gain. Well, once I mentioned that I had gained some weight then shit hit the fan and it was “go time” for her. She then; looked at me with a smile and said, “Yes, you do need to lose weight. You shouldn’t have even gained any weight in the first place. It’s such a shame you even gained any weight back at all.” I froze… I did not know what to do, what to say or how to handle this situation.
The only words I was able to spit out were “Will weight loss fix all of this?” Then …she said “It will not fix all of what is going on but you really need to lose weight. While we are waiting for you to have surgery you need to focus on losing weight and that maybe, you should use this whole situation as a reminder to never gain weight again and to use this as motivation to actually lose weight.” I was even more frozen now. Nothing came out fo my mouth…at all.
How dare she tell me this. How dare she sit there and judge me, put me down and try to shame me for gaining weight. That was completely uncalled for, unprofessional and completely disrespectful. I do not care if it is your “job” to tell people to watch their weight or to lose weight, she had NO right, to speak to me like that.
**Disclaimer**I am not upset because she talked about my weight or told me to lose weight. As painful as that is, I am not even upset that she told me that. It was her attitude, her delivery and the way she SHAMED me for gaining weight as if I didn’t already feel bad about myself because of it.
Then, she told me that I will need to have surgery on my arms, asked if I had any other questions before she just stood up and walked out of the room. Yes, I had questions. She didn’t answer anything, she didn’t explain anything to me, she didn’t tell me about the surgery or what she would be doing. None of my questions were answered. She sat there, talked down to me, belittled me and made me feel so small that when she asked if I had any more questions I just froze and was unable to move before she stood up and left.
I just sat there…frozen…unable to move, think, breathe, stand up, or blink…I felt…frozen. There was so much that I wanted to say to her. I was filled with so much sadness and anger. My eyes began to well up with tears I felt my chest tighten up, I felt like the most worthless human being who ever stepped foot in her office. I felt like a complete and utter failure. The worst part of all of it… I left her office hating myself, angry at myself, and disappointed in myself. I felt like the worst human in the entire world because I regained some weight. Then my next thoughts were…”I never want to eat again.” That is how damaging her words were to me at that moment.
No rain, No rainbow
So here I sit. Still unsure of what’s next for me. One thing I do know is that I am not going back to that doctor ever again. If I do end up needing surgery, she will not be the one performing the procedure. I wanted to have answers. Not just for myself but so that I could share with all of you. But as of right now, I do no know what is next.
I know that as I sit here writing this, all of those emotions came flooding back to me and I felt myself sitting back in her office again. But this time I am not sad. I do not feel worthless or like a failure, I feel strong again, I feel like me. That girl who is not going to allow the comments or judgments of some doctor who knows nothing about me is back. She will not make me to hate myself, anymore. I know who I am, I know what I have been through and I know what I need to do. Taking care of myself mentally and physically is important and I know I am doing EVERYTHING that I can to take care of me. I am not going to let her judgments break me any longer. I am going to keep standing tall, dust myself off and keep moving forward, one step at a time and keep doing the next right thing. Without the rain, there can be no rainbows
I am going to go see my surgeon, Dr. Beck, and talk to him more about what the next steps would be. I am going to continue on my path of weight loss and continue to take care of myself physically. I am also going to continue to mentally take care of me as aswell and continue to work on my eating disorder recovery. The most important thing I am going to do is…love myself! I am not going to allow someone, who has never lived a day in my life to have the power to break me. Her voice does not have the power to make me crumble. I know who I am, and what I am going through, what I have been through and I know what I need to do now. Loving myself will take care of the issues I am facing. I don’t need the wound on my arm to be my motivation, loving myself and always trying to do what is best for me is all of the motivation I need.
So please, if you are reading this and you find yourself struggling, know that you are not alone. If a doctor has disrespected you or put you down or shamed you because of your weight, I am so sorry. If you have allowed the words and comments and opinions of others to crush your spirit and dampen your dreams, I feel for you. Just know that until someone has lived your life, or walked a day in your shoes, they have no room to even begin to judge who you are. So stand back up, dust yourself off, smile, and know that you are so much more than those hurtful words or comments of others. The only voice we need to listen to is our own, so make sure your words and your thoughts are that of love for yourself. Those are the words that matter. Just know that you are so much stronger than you think or might feel right now. You do matter, you are important, you are so much more than your weight and you are not alone. So like Anna from Frozen 2 says, “Take a step. step again. it is all that I can to do…the next right thing”.