I have been waiting my whole life to share this before and after with you all! This month marks a YEAR since I had leg reconstruction surgery with Dr. Mark Bowen Taylor at Gateway Laser Center in Salt Lake City, Utah and his colleague Dr. Sotoodian. It was one of the hardest and most rewarding things I’ve ever done for myself.
As a young child I was the one in a million. I was the statistic. When I was 5, I had a severe allergic reaction to vaccinations and the adverse reaction caused the fat in my leg to die sporadically in the surrounding areas leaving divots all over my left thigh. Now to be clear, this post is not about vaccinations. In fact, even after the damage that vaccines caused me I do believe in herd immunity and I’m pro vaccinations for those who are willing and able to get them. However, I do believ
e in being educated on any and all risks involved in anything you do with your body. With that being said, this post is not about vaccines and if you want to chat about vaccinations please go elsewhere to do so as it takes away from the story that I’ve waited verrrrry patiently for over 21 years to tell.
The story I’m here to tell is what I would have told my younger self. The number one thing I would’ve told my younger self was to just accept it and own it at least till you can change it. Especially because there’s so many others who are “different” who can’t change it. We all know kids say mean things. Sometimes it’s an accident, sometimes it’s out of jealousy, sometimes it’s out of ignorance. Honestly, it’s all part of growing up if you ask me. As a kid some of the things said to me by mostly children but actually adults as well were: “Wow, it looks like you got burnt in a fire!!!” “Woahhhh, did you get run over?!” “WOW! You have ALOT of cellulite all right there.” “What are those bumps under your jeans?” “Why do you have bellybuttons on your leg?” “You probably should not wear a swimsuit, people might see your weird leg” and the list goes on and on. So what did I do? I did what every other little girl who didn’t know better would do! I did what they said, I hid it! Starting at age 5 I wore shorts over my gymnastics uniform at all times. Through elementary I’d try and find the thickest jeans so that my bumps didn’t show through them. In middle school I made the cheer team and the first thing I did was special ordered shorts for under my uniform that were longer than normal to try and cover my bumps. In high school I tanned in a tanning bed at least once a week because I figured if I was tan at least it’d look a little better. I bought countless swimsuit cover ups and skirts throughout my life and almost never went without one. I never wore short shorts no matter how hot it was. I learned how to pose in photos so it would never show. Looking back I was posed like that for more than half of the photos I took throughout my life simply out of habit. As a young adult I learned to explain what happened to my leg before letting anyone see it so they never had a chance to ask questions.
When I was sixteen I started getting consultations with all sorts of plastic surgeons to see if they could fix it. I had countless doctors tell me they didn’t know what it was so there was no way they could fix it. I had other docotors dive a little deeper and do more research trying to figure out if there was any thing else going on with me. Once I even had a surgeon require that I have it fully scanned for cancer before he would even give me a full consultation on it. Before I found Doctor Taylor I had consultations by over 20 different doctors in three different states and they either couldn’t do it for me because they didn’t know how or they wanted me to pay over $60,000.00 and have multiple surgeries.
When I found Dr. Taylor and Dr. Sotoodian and they told me they could do it for less than 1/3 of what everyone else had quoted me I was ecstatic. I gathered every dollar I had and maxed out a credit card or two and I went for it. During that time it made absolutely no sense financially but everything about it felt right.
At that point in my life I was at an all time low. I had two pregnancies that didn’t go as planned. I had gained over 100lbs in each pregnancy which left me feeling trapped in my own skin. Additionally my body didn’t do what “normal women’s” bodies do during pregnancy and because of it my children were both born with congenital birth defects. One without a “normal” anus and the other without “normal” ears and a “normal” heart. All requiring surgery within the first year of their lives. This really took a toll on me emotionally more than anything which then negatively rippled into my physical and mental health. I had put my babies first for almost three years at that point because I really had no choice. It was finally time for me to get back to myself and make myself better than ever and while this post may look like it was from the outside it alllll started on the inside.
It took me loving myself as I was enough to make the changes. It started with me convincing myself that I was important enough to invest that type of money and time into myself to make the changes that I so badly wanted. It took being honest with myself in the fact that I wasn’t fully happy where I was at and that it was ok to not be ok. It took convincing myself that I was strong enough to go through with a major surgery that involved high risk. It took me believing in me. Once I had all of that down it was booked!
The surgery itself was very detailed. I could bore you all with the medical description of everything but in short the doctors fat grafted onto my leg. Meaning they took fat from between my thighs and the excess fat on my lower back and applied that fat to all of the holes in my upper left thigh. I didn’t go fully under for the procedure. I was just heavily sedated as you can see in the videos on my blog post. After surgery I had to wear a full compression suit for months throughout the summer. The healing process went well overall except one little spot in my leg where the fat died and left an open hole in my leg which took almost an entire year to heal which is why I’m just now showing you all this transformation.
So this is the first summer that I feel like I have two “normal” legs. I feel free. I’ve worn shorts without worrying who was looking at me. I’ve worn bikinis without cover ups. I’ve worn thin biker shorts like it’s my day job! Sure, my legs still are in no way perfect, as you can see I still have cellulite, one leg is still slightly larger than the other, I still don’t have a “thigh gap”, and I still have scars from the process. However now when I look at my leg instead of hearing all of those negative triggering questions and comments from over the years I see freedom. Freedom to choose how I want the world to portray me. Freedom in how I love myself. The sad part about this is not everyone gets that freedom. There are millions of people who look “different” and will look “different” for their entire lives. And those are the people that I want you all to think about next time you want to ask someone why they look different. Just don’t.
So if there was something I could tell my younger self, it is that it’s ok to be different. JUST BE YOU. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. I hid for farrrrrr too long and if I would’ve been able to tell my younger self that one day it wouldn’t matter because I’d either learn to love it the way it was or pay a pretty penny to change it but that in the end it would all work out then I wouldn’t have wasted a quarter of my life worrying about it. So if you’re reading this just know that A: people say dumb mean things and it won’t do you any good to take them personally. B: If there’s something you don’t love about yourself in your outward appearance but you learn to love yourself on the inside first your outer appearance will start to shine! C: The sooner you stop caring what other people think the sooner you will be able to live the life you want to live.
It took me 25 years to learn some of these things so if I could help even just one person by reading this than it’ll be worth it.
I know I called this a before and after but truly this isn’t an after picture of me it’s just another phase of my life and I can’t wait for the next one where I continue to feed my body good foods, stay active with things I enjoy doing, work hard to make money and get whatever other procedures or treatments I’m interested in and see how I blossom. Cheers to blooming where you’re planted!
For the record Dr. Taylor is one of the kindest most caring and most talented doctors on this planet. He is a super human, he is 74 and is still practicing his art! He gave me a new freedom to be myself. He walked me through the process and explained all my risks and then when that risk was my reality he comforted me and was there for my every question and concern. He did follow up appointments with me for an entire year without charging me another penny and he will be doing my scar removal this fall. I could never thank him enough and I will forever be grateful for him.
SWIPE TO SEE THE UNEDITED VERSION AND SEVERAL OTHER ANGLES! If you notice my faded and streak spray tan it’s because I wanted you all to see the real unedited me. I wanted you to see that my “AFTER” picture is many woman’s “BEFORE” picture and as much as I’d love to have a flatter stomach or a real sun kissed tan. Really I’d love to love myself more and teach others to just be themselves because it really does get boring seeing the same body type over and over and over again.
Before pic: May 1, 2019
AFTER PIC: May 19, 2020