I'm ready. Well, I mean, I've taken a valium to take the edge off. I've carried on a running dialogue with God, and, yes, I've been careful to keep my ears open.
I've pulled weeds in my garden for 3 hours in 90 degree, sunny weather. I've cleaned my kitchen, dusted my living room, dust mopped my hard wood floors, feed my dogs a bowl of their favorite food, changed my bed sheets and repotted 3 plants together with my husband. I've showered twice with Hibiclens, paying particular attention to those areas of my body that will sustain wounds. And I've washed, oiled and braided my hair. So. I'm ready.
I'm ready to take back my body from the life changes it has withstood: from 5 pregnancies, 4 births and one abortion; from nursing my grinning, toothy, happy baby boys; from gaining 40 pounds in 30 years; from eating Nutter Butter Peanut Butter cookies and ice cold milk when my heart was broken or my pride was wounded.
I want to say "Thank You" to everyone who assured me that I "looked good for 64", because I really did appreciate being told that. I'm a size 14 misses, and, as I've said to many people, I'm satisfied with that because my goal was to not...let me just come out and say it...look like my mother did when she was 64. I learned a lot of wonderful, useful traits from my Mom, like resourcefulness, resiliency, and assertiveness. Mom was amazing. She'd get up in the morning and say to me and my 2 brothers, 'Let's go to New York." And we did. Drove there in her white Ford Falcon. We 4 had a blast. And she did it with less than $60 and a credit card. In fact, Mom gave herself a trip around the world with very, very little in her purse. But, she also taught me to keep up my appearance as long as I could, because she didn't. Mom grew round and matronly very quickly from overeating and being sedentary. Right after her last boyfriend, as a matter of fact.
So in the morning, my board certified plastic surgeon and I will help me alleviate the neck and back pain my heavy breasts gift me. Then we'll eliminate my no-longer-needed kangaroo pouch - you know, if you stand behind me and reach around to my front and grab my kangaroo pouch, it will fill up both your hands. And if you push the 2 sides together, it looks exactly like a baby's butt. I digress again. We'll pull my tummy muscles back together and sew them there so they won't separate again for years. The result? A firm, flat tummy, perky breasts and access to the other 80% of the wardrobe in my closet.
I'm ready to be, as women patients say in the plastic surgery world, on the perky and flat side. I'm excited. And I'm actually looking forward to joining the several senior women who have "come out" to me and shared their plastic surgery experiences since I started sharing my journey. Sometimes their journey began with weight loss surgery. Sometimes it began with corrective facial surgery. But, however they journey, I agree it feels really good to be strong enough and brave enough to take the steps to change ourselves for the better. As a wise plastic surgery patient from St. Louis recently said on her RealSelf.com blog post, "There is no shame in wanting to look as good as we feel."
And I'm ready.
I get a kick out of the special language created by women who have had or who are planning plastic surgery. "PS", "TT", "BR", "lipo", "BL", "BBL", "B and A", the "flat side". I picked up on this language on one of the many surgery websites out there, RealSelf.com. My granny takeover plan (i.e. taking back my body, which has gone wild!) is to "get perky" and go to the "flat side".
Over the phone, my PS's assistant and I clear
the insurance, I tell her my financial plan, the components of my granny takeover (TT, BR, both with lipo...no BBL for me!) and we set the date for my
surgery: September 27th. BBL is brazilian butt lift...very popular these days. Next, is the pre-operation consultation.
Oh. Oh. I've seen soooo many B and A (i.e. before and after pictures) on the internet of women of all shapes and sizes, many whose body looked exactly like mine. I prefer the "look" of women who've elected to have breast implants along with their breast reduction. But I don't think I want anything foreign in my body. So we decide upon a target size, a natural look, that will serve to alleviate my neck and back pain but not destroy my life long self-image as a "busty" woman.
Then my PS reviews the football shaped incision he'll make above and below my navel, which I'm well familiar with, having watched videos of other surgeons performing the procedures on the internet. We discuss where I'd like him to perform liposuction and what I can expect immediately, and long term, after surgery.
Next his assistant has me sign a stack of papers, gives me written instructions for the day before surgery as well as post-operation instructions, and sends me home.
Over the next weeks, right up until today, I notice the emotional roller coaster. Some days I'm fine. The next couple of days I feel anxious and I tell myself I can cancel at any time. The next few days I feel my decision to have cosmetic surgery is...frivolous. Vain. Reckless, even. Who do I think I am, wanting to look better at age 64? I answer my Self and calm down. Then anxiety creeps in again.
Thank goodness I have things to attend to which distract me...an Alaskan cruise with a longtime friend who is celebrating her 68th birthday...managing a festival I've been planning for almost a year...another trip to witness one of my sons Naval retirement ceremony. And prayer. Much prayer. My date with the "flat side" (as in flat tummy) and renewed perkiness approaches. I haven't canceled yet. Granny takeover, here I come!
When looking for The One - the
plastic surgeon you're going to trust (because you're entrusting your life
to this person) and depend on (to help you reshape your body and to
follow you for up to a year as your transformation evolves) - FIRST, I discovered through trial and error, I had to
"qualify" him or her.
I picked surgeons from the list of Board Certified Plastic Surgeons on my health insurance website (which isn't always perfectly up to date). I spoke with the finance person in their office first - to see whether they accepted Care Credit and if so, could I finance for 24, 36 or 48 months? Then I asked the surgeon's insurance clerk whether they would bill my insurance for the initial consultation which was supposed to be "free"...I learned the common practice is its only "free" to me. Finally, I searched the internet for lawsuits in which the surgeon was involved and read the outcome. If all went well up to that point, I made an appointment for a consultation. So were free to me, some I paid for.
OMGosh. PS#1 (the first
plastic surgeon I consulted) was witty, charismatic, a little cocky, and per
what I read about him on the internet, VERY thorough, very supportive and had
that right mix of surgeon and artist I was looking for (most surgeons have
"before and after" pictures posted on their website). About
that time, I attended a party, ran into a surgical nurse and I asked her about
plastic surgeons in town, PS#1 included. She confirmed everything I'd
heard and read about him. However, he was SO thorough he took 8 hours to
perform a TT (tummy tuck) and applied THREE layers of stitches to bring the
stomach muscles together. Other surgeons took 3-4 hours. Hmmm.
PS#2 was old school. He came from a long line of physicians and his sons were physicians as well. He struck me as distant, regimented, a bit chauvinistic...ex. he reprimanded his female assistant who was in the examination room with us because she attempted to answer my question for him. He only warmed up when I let him know I had read his resume and asked him questions about his background. Hmmmm.
PS#3 was professional yet really easy to relate to - everyone I encountered in his office was as well. He came from a family of physicians and his primary focus was the kind of work I wanted done.
PS#4 was really polished, professional, smooth, thorough and wanted me to begin a natural herb regimen with an herbalist and lose 10 lbs before we go into surgery. I wondered whether he got a kickback from the herbalist... Then I learned he actually was not a preferred provider with my insurance. Hmmm.
The above part of my search took
about 2 and one half months. I would have loved it if friends or
relatives could refer me to surgeons but so few of my friends had used a
plastic surgeon and no relatives live locally. So...I chose PS#3 as
Next, we plan the surgery.
So...as I was sharing with you. I researched for months. I knew about these procedures. I heard about the "stars" doing this and that. But I didn't really relate any of what I saw on The View, Hoda and Kathie Lee, Oprah, the evening news, Entertainment Tonight, what I read about in People or listened to in the beauty shop, to ME. Then...a family member elected to have eye surgery to correct drooping eye lids and poochiness under the eye. So THAT's plastic surgery! Humph. I had had some cysts removed from the sides of my eyes 10 years ago, but THAT, I thought at the time, was "just having bumps removed". Yes...by A plastic surgeon, I know but...well...things go over my head sometimes. I'm a double Sagittarian.
Anyway, then a neighbor called my name in WalMart. I turned around and didn't recognize anyone I saw. She said "How are you?" And I focused on one face. Slowly I realized who she was. She had definitely had some "work done". But she talked with me as though absolutely nothing were different except she looked... thinner. That reminded me that some people like to keep things on the DL. There could be LOTS of ppl walking around who have had PS. Now I'm checking out saleswomen in shops, the woman on the plane who walked by me and I couldn' thelp but notice her legs looked really weird in her leggings...like they were large sausages. Could she have lost a massive amount of weight and had skin tightening surgery? Stop it, Summer!
I stumbled upon a website that blew my mind. RealSelf.com On it I encountered scores of women who had had all sorts of "work done". Women of all ages, races and sizes. I learned that there is even a steady stream of women who fly to Mexico and the Dominican Republic to have body makeovers by specific doctors there - there certainly is a focused following for certain doctors. I saw before and after pictures of petite women with huge boobs who wanted to downsize, women built like refrigerators who were turned into stripper body-types, women who's implants were old or starting to leak and needed replacing, women who were more middle-of-the-road (like me) - just all sorts of scenarios. But the women who impressed me the most were women who had worked hard to prepare for their weight loss surgery with workouts and diets, and who were now ready for body makeovers and tightening of skin on the arms, tummy, legs, backs and butts. Many of these women had just heart breaking stories.
And these surgeries were only costing them $6500 in the Caribbean. Here in Dallas one could easily have to pay 3 to 4 times that amount and for fewer procedures.
I decided I'd focus on a TT (tummy tuck) and a BR (breast reduction) with lipo (liposuction) around both areas. Here in Dallas. With an American board certified plastic surgeon. Whew! FI-nally a decision. Enough of looking at 100s of before and after pictures! But wait...I saw a pattern in those B and A pics. A pattern emerged that indicated my research wasn't over. A doctor's TT and BR work revealed elements I hadn't considered. There are elements of artistry and of competency that are important to look for in the physician's B and A pics on his/her website. And I definitely had a preference. A PS (plastic surgery) candidate must consider a myriad of important items prior to submitting oneself to sx (surgery). Some of them are:
RE a TT - final appearance and position of the belly botton and whether hooded or not; final appearance of the vertical stomach muscles in relation to the navel ridge (should look like a wavy letter M as one looks down to their tummy; what and how many stitches and layers of stitches Dr applies to gather the tummy muscles back together; the height of the incision left to right from hip bone to hip bone, and between the mons and the navel.
RE a BR - whether to use a keyhole or lollipop incision around the nipple, or another method; how to position the "headlights" (straight forward, opposite direction, pointing up, pointing straight). Arrrgghhh! Sooo many things to consider brought up by doctors during the consultation.
And then there's the business and insurance end of PS. Oh! That's another story!
God blessed us when he gave us enough brains to create the Internet.
The internet is indeed my friend. I remember a decade or so after it was "invented" it came into my household via a Commodore 64 computer (I still have it. Don't laugh.) I told my 2 sons (I hadn't yet found my son Kendall, and Tyler hadn't yet been born) to be very, very careful with the internet. I said "The internet has sooooo much knowledge in it, it is almost like the mind of God. So you have to respect it, even fear it a little. You cannot possibly comprehend it. So be very mindful of how you use it or it could destroy you." I said that approximately 25 years ago. If you stop and think about it, wasn't I right?
So what a "convenience blessing" the internet is. I can sit at home in my big shirt and leggings and do all the research I need to in order to learn as much as I want about ways to "deal with" my melting tummy and my growing, gi-normous breasts (bra size 38G on a 185lb, 5ft 6in frame). Oh yes, its great being busty - its how I initially attracted most of my boyfriends and husbands over the decades. But around age 60 I reached a point where I began to develop neck pain, pain from shoulder to shoulder across my back, and a dull ache connecting to that and going down my spine. When I stood in my kitchen to cook or clean, pain grew across my lower back and connected to the upper back pain. Not fun.
During the 3 years this pain developed I also developed an inability to hold a writing instrument and journal (I was on my 3rd journal) or even just sign my name. Long story short, I was examined and treated by a hand specialist, given jars of Ibuprofen to take, given back and stretch excercises by my internist, and was examined by a neurologist (very painful exam!) who stuck my arms and hands with needles and connected me to machines to measure this and that. No luck.
This year I started researching these issues on the internet. Long story short, for months I read blog postings about pain very similar to mine and other "weird" symptoms, like my inability to write (is "weird" to me). I wondered if the deep, deep grooves in my shoulders from heavy, dense breasts pulling on overworked bra straps might cause a pinched nerve - and could that nerve extend from my shoulder down my arm to my hand? Both specialists said I had only very mild, untreatable carpal tunnel syndrome - right on target for my age and occupation history, not enough to affect anything. My inability to hold a pen was baffling to them. The neurologist told me "Not to worry about it. Find another way to hold a pen."
Anyway...I learned from other women on the internet that the back pain and other symptoms were due to heavy, large breasts, a condition that affects mostly African American, Caucasian and Hispanic women from what I saw. And the solution, I learned, was to loose weight if one is very overweight, and to consider a plastic surgery procedure called a breast reduction or reduction mammaplasty.
I was relieved to know there could be a solution for my back pain. But SURGERY! I had already been considering another surgical procedure, a panniculectomy - a procedure that removes the melting tummy or "pannus", that big pouch (or maybe not so big for you, if you're one of the blessed ones) many women have left over from pregnancy or from massive weight loss. My doctors told me that underneath my pannus or pouch, my stomach muscles were fairly firm for a woman my age and they showed me how to feel for the muscles my self. I was relieved. I thought all that hanging flesh WAS my stomach muscles! But no, its actually fat and tissue, not muscles.
So I continued to research and read and I saw "before" and "after" pictures of women of all ages and races who had relieved back pain and/or who had "made themselves over" and gained a waistline back using plastic surgery breat reductions, breast lifts, and "tummy tucks" which is a procedure that more thoroughly corrects a hanging, swaying, bouncing pannus. Oh. Sorry. TMI?
It took me months of consideration. Whether to resort to surgery? If so, which procedure? How do I find a doctor who would take on such a huge responsibility on my behalf while protecting my life to the best of his ability. Could I, should I do such a thing in order only to "feel better about my physical appearance"? Isn't that just plain frivolous? Vain? Women blogged about giving themselves the self confidence they lacked, hating themselves and how they looked, being embarrassed to undress in front of husbands, boyfriends, themselves! I experienced none of that. Well...maybe I felt a little frivolous thinking about plastic surgery. Me? A Black girl from the south side of Chicago??? I camoflouge my thick waist with strategic clothing choices and had always been proud to be busty.
But... then I thought...wouldn't it be great if I could look similar to the way I did in my 20s and 30s now, at 64???? That idea grew and grew on me as I looked at more before and after pictures.
So I went back to researching on the internet to figure out my next step. I'll write about that tomorrow. I hope you come back and "journey" with me. You can even leave your Comments here....
Ahhhh that Bucket List.
I'll celebrate my 65th birthday in November. I'm retired, I guess, so having, and satisfying, that Bucket List is what keeps me from sleeping 'til 10am every day - it kicks me out of bed. I say I "guess" I'm retired because I no longer report to a job outside my home every morning. But I do get up, have cereal then head to my office in my home to work: Quickbooks accounting and general secretarial tasks for my very busy, very brainy and unorganized (sorry, dear) hubby's consulting business; ocassional internet research assistance for my grown children; volunteer work for my neighborhood homeowners' association, as well as for an arts organization; and, of course, my beloved Grown Folk TV talk show.
Grown Folk is a really huge undertaking for me. I've worked on it for 3 years now and have invested a lot in it. However it isn't the only item on my Bucket List. Travel, both international and domestic, to as many destinations as I can, is another big Bucket List item for me. I've ventured off this continent all my adult life, and even more often since meeting my husband in 2007.
But THEE biggest item on my Bucket List is very very personal.
If you know me you'd inevitably, at some point, be invited to my home. If you were to come visit me, I'd show you around our home and share with you the story behind how we found each of the neat pieces of art, cultural items, and interesting touchable things when we travel, then use to decorate our home. One of my brothers said of our home "Everywhere you look there's eye candy!" You and I would eventually explore the master suite with its spacious bathroom we recently redecorated, incorporating bamboo we harvested from our backyard and beautifully carved South American wood statuettes of women with long dreadlocks. Then we'd arrive at my walk - in closet, and you'd probably comment that its an oddly shaped, but big closet. Nice enough. Full of clothes. Clothes you've never seen me wear, you'd say! Why haven't you seen those clothes on me? Because my body has gotten away from me. I've been pregnant 5 times in my life and have given birth to 4 sons, all grown men now, but as a result, my body is truly out of control.
Why am I paying $60 for one bra...one that is constructed, that can stand vertically on its own? When did my tummy start to melt down the front of me??? How did I get these deep grooves in my shoulders? Why have I lost the ability to hold a pen and write with my right hand though both a hand specialist and a neurologist can find nothing wrong with it? Could those deep shoulder grooves implicate a pinched nerve that extends down my right arm to my hand?
Because...my body has gotten away from me. I've lost control of it, and I plan to take the reins back!
You've heard young mothers talk of getting their pre-pregnancy figures back by visiting a plastic surgeon? The cosmetic industry has a very popular set of procedures called a "Mommy Makeover". Well. Look out! Because today's "granny" is concerned about her figure too. Granny has a Bucket List. Granny has beaches to comb, mountains to hike in spandex shorts, meetings to lead, and cruise ship swimming pool decks to walk across in front of hundreds of fellow cruisers. Nowadays "Granny" isn't synonymous with "invisible". And Granny CAN take charge of her figure again.
No more bras contructed like padded armor. No more leggings topped with artistic and clever big shirts. And no more deleting pics my hubby takes of me unless I'm fully facing his camera. I'm going to take charge of my figure again and wear the other 80% of my closet. I, and a very artistic board certified plastic surgeon, am going to conduct the first ever "Granny Takeover"! Hear me roar!
I'm shocked it's been a year since I last posted...seems like just 2-3 months.
Geez. A year of TRYing to do SOMEthing to advance my show each day, most days of the week. And I'm no closer to my goal - EXCEPT that, according to the Law of Averages (I learned about that when I sold insurance back in the day), I've pursued a LOT of leads and avenues which translates to lots of "hooks in the fish pond". Plus I periodically revisit and recontact ppl I've talked with about Grown Folk previously just to "stay in touch", as they asked me to. So, I believe that all my... ah..."activity" (hope its not "busy work") WILL PAY OFF, right?
You've heard that, right? That there are only 6 degrees of separation between ourselves and someone we don't know. Well, I think that number needs to be multiplied by 3 in my life. Chile, please!
Someone says to me every week: "Grown Folk is so good! You should take it to Oprah." I think that's a GREAT idea! Oprah's audience has grown up right along with her for 25 years. Now many of her devotees are in their 50s, and Oprah has ceased giving them their daily dose. They're part of that 78 million baby boomer group, looking at age 60...perfect audience for my show! I should reach out to Oprah, I said to myself. So I set about networking to get to her - calling her studio gets you shut down really quick. So I combed through my email contacts, perused my LinkedIn contacts, had close friends check their LinkedIn contacts, made multiple postings on Twitter, shared my wishes on Facebook and placed calls to the VP of Programming at Discovery Channel (of which OWN is a network family member) until I finally got to speak with him. So far...no Oprah connection.
I'm on a first name basis with master actor Giancarlo Esposito, having worked with him on not one, but 2 films. Giancarlo has a production company as well. I guess I'm just not fixing my mouth right when I pitch Grown Folk, the new TV talk show for senior women, because Giancarlo stopped responding after my 2nd contact.
Like I said...its more like 18 degrees of separation in my life - nooooo-body I know seems to have even a DIS-tant hook-up with ANY-body! We're just regular people.
But...there are leads galore, still. I will try to get to Barbara Walters, Betty White, Magic Johnson (has a new TV network), TV One, Jay Leno (maybe he'll make fun of Grown Folk - any press is good press), Tara Banks, hey, my list is endless. SOME-body out there knows SOME-body who will see the value in the Grown Folk concept.
Besides worrying about my lack of exercise, taking care of my husband and our home, staying out of my grown son's lives and fulfilling my volunteering obligations, what else do I have to do, right?
I'm doing so many "firsts" in my life.
I've created new TV show concepts before. Even managed to produce one of them on cable access. But I've never gotten this far in my past efforts. I've never managed to produce 16 thirty minute shows and actually get them broadcast on TV into people's homes before. I have to say this was no small feat. Doing 16 TV shows means I had to come up with soooo much material. See, each show consists of a Hot Topics segment, followed by a "serious/educational/thought-provoking" segment, followed by a "light-hearted/fun" segment, then finally another Hot Topic or Commentary closing segment. Doing this required that I think of Hot Topics, educational topics, light-hearted topics and so on...times 16!!! Plus find interesting, talkative, reliable "experts' to show up, not freeze on camera and talk about these topics.
And "life" went on while doing this. My husband took countless trips both internationally and domestically. Family members and friends took sick and some passed away. My grown children had personal crises, surgeries. My friends had successes that deserved celebration. I fretted about my health, not exercising and my receding hairline (SO flattering on a woman, yeah!). Both terrible and wonderful things happened around the world that commanded my attention. Etc. Etc. And, I also wanted to find ways to help my co-hosts find some ownership and visceral connection to the show.
But. I got it done. With a lot of help from my husband and some close friends.
Then I came face to face to my biggest challenge to date: how, oh how to get the show the national exposure it deserves...?
I am telling you...learning this technology stuff when I was raised to type on a typewriter is really, really hard!
I mean, it literally took me 4 tries in 5 hours over about 3 days just to figure out how to set up this blog!!!
I'm going to be 64 years old next month. Why oh why does "keeping up" have to be so hard? And please don't ask me why I'm even TRYing to keep up because my answer is "Because to not try to keep up is...anathema! Deadly! Dangerous! One gets left behind! Did I spell "anathema" right? Oh well. I'm tired. Building this blog has worn me out.......