Cosmetic surgery is a big deal. Not only is it a major medical (and largely elective) operation, it’s really, really expensive. Depending on how many body parts you plan on having nipped and tucked, you’ll have to be able to take at least two weeks off of work. Work includes caring for your household and human or furry children as well. It is not for everyone, but I am thankful that I have the opportunity to do it.
If I were a Gryffindor, I’d grant every big loser a fully comped skin removal surgery with my wand. I’d be like Diffindo derma superfluus! Might as well make it pain free while I’m at it. Everyone who has put in the hard work should be eligible for this surgery if you ask me.
While we wait for either of those things to happen (with the magic spell one being the more likely of the two), here is some information you might be curious about. In this post, I will go over or expound upon the pre-op process thus far. Part 2 will recap the day of surgery and the crucial 72 hours following it. When I am back to being a mostly normal and self-sufficient human, I’ll write part 3, which will talk about my personal road to recovery.
FIGURE OUT YOUR BUDGET
Let’s skip to the part where you’ve done all your research and have an idea about which procedures you want done. According to real reviews from real people on RealSelf.com (heh), the average cost of an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) is $7,900 and a circumferential body lift (a front and back tuck) is $15,625. A brachioplasty (arm lift) averages $8,625 (the data is most certainly skewed here) and a mastopexy (breast lift) is about $7,975. Surgeries are commonly combined which will save you money on surgeon’s fees as well as anesthesiologist and operating room fees.
Because I’m a numbers girl and I like to be exact, I’ve also documented every single additional expense I’ve incurred, right down to the 6-pack of granny panties I’ll wear and toss after recovery is over. Over $300 was spent on supplies and expenses outside of the surgery itself.
- Additional dog walks – $114
- Wedge pillows for my back and knees – $70
- Bodily function supplies (stool softener, bathing wipes, Tylenol) – $42
- Recovery attire (I had nothing cheap and comfortable that zipped or buttoned up!) – $42
- Protein powder and bars, gatorade, crackers – $50
Other helpful supplies you might need are a rented electronic hospital bed or hired help in case you don’t have any family or friends that are able to look after you and/or your children around the clock for at least 3 days. Some surgeons recommend buying an extra compression garment, scar therapy treatments, or additional supplements. These little things here and there can add up. Not to mention time off work if you don’t get vacation pay.
Yes, it is expensive. Jen’s metaphor is perfect: it’s like buying a car. You can buy an affordable 2002 Honda Civic that will get you from point A to B. Or, you can buy a brand new Mercedes with navigation, bluetooth integration, park assist, and a built-in ass massager. At the very least, both accomplish the same thing. As for me? I guess I’m buying a mid-level luxury sport coupe. My grand total is five digits and starts with a two.
No, I do not have that much cash on hand. I have had a lot of it in savings, some on a high interest credit card, and the rest on 0% CareCredit. With a few budget cuts, craigslist or eBay sales, and a ban on most shopping, I’ll be able to pay off my card and CareCredit loan by the end of the year.
Again, surgery is not for everyone. It is a big chunk of change to spend on yourself. Other than Bow and Sioux (who can get pretty expensive to care for), I have no family to support. I have a very good, stable job. I work hard and I work a lot. The hefty price tag is worth every penny to me, but may be unfathomable to you. Keep in mind I’m having a LOT of stuff done. If you just want a tummy tuck, and you have good credit, you can probably make it work by saving up what you can and supplementing with zero to low interest CareCredit, which most surgeons accept.
Find Your Maker
During the initial search, I highly recommend speaking to as many surgeons as possible, and scheduling an in-person meeting and physical exam with at least two. Note that most consultations are not free! Honestly, you probably don’t want them to be free, because a good surgeon’s time is money. I am not saying that the cost of a consultation is in direct proportion to his or her talents, but sometimes a free consultation means general questions answered by a nurse or patient coordinator and no physical exam. RealSelf.com has a great database of surgeons, and many will waive or discount the fee if you mention the site.
Questions to ask during your consultation:
- Are you certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery?
- Are you a member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery?
- How many years of plastic surgery training and/or experience do you have?
- How many [your specific procedure] have you performed?
- [If inquiring about a lower body lift] What procedures are included in a lower body lift?
- May I see before and after photos of your patients?
- May I speak with your previous patients about their experience?
- Where will my surgery be performed? If not in a hospital, is the surgical center an accredited facility? (Skin removal is generally an outpatient procedure.)
- What sort of aftercare will I be provided?
- What will my recovery be like?
- What is your policy on possible revision surgeries?
Your meeting with the surgeon should not feel like an interview or interrogation. Ideally, you’ll have a free flowing, and comfortable conversation with them. Listen to your gut; did you get a weird vibe that you can’t put your finger on? Did you feel uneasy? Were they arrogant, rushing you, or seemingly annoyed by your long list of questions? Was the rest of the staff warm and inviting? No? Maybe pass on that guy/gal.
You don’t want any negative feelings at all when working with your surgeon and his/her staff. It is already a highly stressful time, and their attitude shouldn’t make matters worse for you. Price is always important, but your rapport with your doctor is way more important than saving a few bucks. You should only consider this surgery if +/- $1,000 won’t break your budget.
Call In Reinforcements
I’ll feel more comfortable giving advice in this section once I’m out of the operating room, because I honestly don’t know how much or how little help I’ll need during recovery. This is what I have planned based on general recovery times and after speaking with my surgeon’s patients:
- First night post-op: staying at an accredited aftercare facility (strongly recommended and arranged by the surgeon but paid for by me)
- Days 2-6 post-op: staying at my aunt’s house down the street. Mom is coming up to help look after me. My awesome friend Alleigh is housesitting and dogsitting at my place during this period.
- Days 7-11 post-op: Mom goes home, Alleigh goes home, and I go home, so I’m on my own with the dogs during the day. I’ve doubled up their scheduled walks which will get them out of the house and tire them out so there’s little chance of them disrupting my rest. Lucky for me, I have family and friends nearby that can check on me if needed.
- Day 12 post-op: Hopefully, back to work! My boss knows that recovery can be unpredictable, so if I have to take an extra day or two, he’s cool with it.
It wasn’t easy sorting this all out. I don’t have a significant other obligated by threat of bitchiness to nurse me back to health. I am an extremely independent person and it is so hard for me to ask for any kind of help. If I didn’t have my amazing support system, I would have probably had to hire a caregiver off craigslist. In case you’re curious, it seemed like the going rate for a live-in was $90-100 a day. Though your surgeon can probably arrange home care for a hefty fee as well.
Prepare Your Mind and Body
Again, I’ll feel more comfortable giving advice here once I can personally prove it’s true, but you should be doing these things for yourself anyway.
- Eat squeaky clean. Since you’re already in the surgery phase, you’re probably not actively trying to lose weight other than those last stubborn 5-10 pounds. Nourish your body with whole foods and natural ingredients. Don’t go carb crazy, but don’t obsess either. Maybe lay off the booze about a week before surgery. A healthy body will make for a better recovery.
- Keep moving. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your surgeon is going to do the hard work for you, so you won’t have to exercise anymore. Remember that you won’t be able to do anything except light cardio for 4-6 weeks or more. As I said above, a healthy body will make for a better recovery.
- Quit smoking. This goes without saying and is non-negotiable. I always felt like I was the last person on the planet to quit smoking, but unfortunately I’m not. At the very minimum, you should be smoke AND nicotine free for two weeks pre and post op. But if you’ve made it four weeks without smoking, why the hell would you pick it back up anyway? Don’t be an idiot.
- Do some spring cleaning. Have your house scrubbed and do all your laundry. The reasons for this are two-fold. 1) You should be recovering in a clean environment and 2) don’t you just feel naturally relaxed when your house and clothes are clean? You won’t be able to do any house work and you’ll just get frustrated.
- Line up books, TV shows, and movies you’ve had in your queue forever. But careful not to choose anything that’ll make you laugh or cry too hard. Your stomach muscles will be sore.
- Play with your children, your dogs, your spouse, or yourself. Because you might not be able to for a little while. Seriously, I’m irrationally upset about having to be away from these two for 5 days, and then not being able to snuggle for even longer.
That’s exactly what I plan on doing this weekend, along with a yoga class on Tuesday night just to get centered and stretched or whatever. Four more days…