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Runnning For My Existence - How I dramatically changed my body and life. Twice.

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It has been ~12 hours since my Gynecomastia surgery. I have been a "lurker" on this website for at about 3 years but honestly too embarrassed (for lack of a better word) to post anything. I will try and be as brief as possible but it has taken ~35 years to type this so bear with me. Plus it's really two stories. I have broken it up into three parts due to it's size and picture/post constraints.  

Childhood: Like a lot of people, I realized I had gyno since I was about 12 years old if not earlier. Hated "skins and shirts" at school, got teased by friends and strangers, picked up the lifelong habit of "popping" the chest section of my shirt every 10 minutes or so and throughout my life probably heard "Yes Ma'am, may I help you" about 300 times. In some sort of distorted reality, I partially blame gaining weight in order to hide my moobs.

Middle Age: Did college, got the job, somehow got married, and continued to gain weight. Tried to lose weight (~100 diets over my life, weight watchers, nutrisystems, etc) but failed every time plus I hated exercise. At ~40 I broke 300 pounds and eventually peaked at ~320 pounds, and remained above 300 until Jan of 2008. BTW, I am only 5'6". Here's a picture of me with friends when I was ~300. Ironically I thought I looked pretty good in the picture, especially since you couldn't really see the moobs, probably due to the fact that I regularly wore compression t-shirts at that point.
 


My First Transformation In May of 2008, at the age of 47, three things happened:

  • Health. My doctor called and told me I was now diabetic due to morbid obesity. She had previously suggested gastric bypass surgery (1st time in her career to ANY patient) but with a 3% mortality rate I decided against it.
  • Biggest Loser My alternative plan to lose weight was to be on the show Biggest Loser for 2008 (and 2007, and 2006...) was  derailed when my wife found out from friend who was on the show that it had already been cast for the Fall 2008 season.
  • Julia My sister in law called to inform me that my 9 year old niece Julia (and the closest thing I have to a daughter) who has Cystic Fibrosis, was back in the hospital and was now on the lung transplant list. Again she was 9 years old...

Based on my doctors "great news" I was out cooking some ribs on the grill when I had an epiphany of sorts. My father had run the Boston Marathon when I was 7 and even though I had never run more than 1/4 mile in the last 30 years, it had always been a life long goal of mine to run it. I decided I could "run/walk" it, lose at least 50 pounds (and the breasts) in the process, and raise $3000 for Cystic Fibrosis research in the process.

Rather than take up a ton space explaining what happened in the following 10 months, it's probably easier for you to go to my website www.RunnningForMyExistence.com and watch the top video. Ignore the "donation" part of it as I am sincerely not looking for any donations now. You can also watch it directly on YouTube. It's a good story with a better ending. :)

Assuming that you have seen the above video, I can now post these pictures that I never thought I would post and have frankly never posted anywhere else. They are disgusting and I am ashamed that I let me body get to this point but I think they are pertinent for this forum. They are frame grabs from a video I had shot of me when I started training for the Boston Marathon. It was without question the most embarrassing day of my life as I rarely, if ever, walked around without having a shirt on, even around my wife. I am sincerely asking you to please never post these anywhere else.

 



While that day at the hospital was the most embarrassing and humiliating day of my life, the picture below is one of the greatest days of my life. I had lost 113 pounds, had just run the Boston Marathon NON STOP in 4:45, was thrown a party that had over 100 of my closest friends there to congratulate me and Julia told her mother "I never realized how much Uncle Roger loved me". I challenge anyone to try and top that.  ;D

 


Linkback: https://www.gynecomastia.org/smf/index.php?topic=21960.0

My Second Transformation
OK, so I was happy that I lost the weight and got my body into decent shape. I am now so much happier with my life and I highly encourage anyone that if you are anywhere as big as I was, that you take a hard look at yourself and change your life NOW! In addition if you have some type of goal, you really can achieve it if you want to. It is sad that I only realized this at 47. Learn from my mistake.

That said, I will admit that if there was one big disappointment with with the whole "journey", it was that I still did not lose the moobs that had haunted me my entire life. They were smaller as you can see in the pictures below but I still have to wear compression t-shirts when working out or running and even sometimes when I go out with friends. And while I still have some excess skin in my stomach from the weight loss, the thought of ever going to the beach or a pool shirtless is out of the question due to my chest. Thanks to my wife's encouragement, and after coming to this website and viewing the pictures, educating myself and reading the success stories, I finally got up the courage to go and see a doctor about taking care of this once and for all.

I live in the greater Boston area and fortunately one of the more respected doctors specializing in Gynecomastia surgery is Dr. Richard "Rick" Silverman. After about 10 "hangups" for a couple of weeks, I finally made the call and booked a free consultation which remarkably was the next day due to a cancellation.

At the consultation, Rick did an excellent job of listening to my concerns and hopes and then took about an hour to explain the entire process. On a scale of 1-10 he said I was about a 5-6. He hoped that it would only be 1 surgery but did warn that there was about a 35% chance that I may need a follow up visit to his office for some additional work. Confident that he was the right man for the job, and due to upcoming marathons in February (Ft Worth) and the April (London!), I decided to just bite the bullet and schedule it asap. Again I was fortunate that Rick had an opening within 2 weeks which I booked for yesterday November 19th.

Below are pictures that my wife took of me just before I left for the hospital.





Yeah, I have some extra skin in my stomach (although I actually do have some definition on my stomach from all of the ab work I do  ;D) and I could stand to lose another ~10 pounds but the purpose of posting these pictures is to show what my chest looks like after losing the weight. I was debating about having the extra skin removed from my stomach and the proverbial love handles sucked out but I didn't want to get too crazy with all of the surgery and recovery plus I am really only concerned with my chest at this point.

The Surgery  
As bad as I wanted it, the day before the surgery, I picked up the phone and planned to cancel the whole operation as I was concerned about the pain!!! of the surgery and the recovery process. Frankly I am a wimp and even though I lived an extremely unhealthy life, I have only been to the hospital 1 time in the last 20 years for a minor sickness. Fortunately I put the phone down and sucked it up.

Operation was scheduled for 12:30 at St Elizabeth's in Brighton (Boston) and I arrived at 11 AM. Extremely nice facility with free valet parking for patients (woo hoo!) and the staff of ~7 nurses and doctors could not have been more attentive and caring. Rick came in prior to the surgery, explained the process to me and my wife and within 15 minutes it was lights out for me.

The surgery lasted for ~2 hours and I woke up in recovery about an hour later to find that my life long nightmare was over. I wasn't really in too much pain as I assume I was still under the effects of the drugs they pumped into my body. They had put me in a compression vest and around 4:30 PM I was in the car and on my way home.
6 hours to change my life...Incredible!

This is me 5 hours after surgery with my vest. :)



As I had mentioned, I was worried about the pain and had a prescription of percocet (oxycodon) waiting for me at home. Not a big fan of drugs but had to be realistic that I was going to encounter pain. That said, the pain was not anywhere close to what I expected and I am now feeling fine and am happy to report that I haven't even had to open the bottle of percocets.

Actually slept pretty well last night even though I was forced to sleep on my back. Again no pain when I woke up or anytime today with the exception when I forget to not keep my arms down a couple of times. I am a little curious to see what my chest looks like under the vest but frankly it would probably just scare me. I go back to see Rick on Monday and see how things look at that point. I also find out how much they pulled out of me and any other specifics.

Well I am sorry that I took so long to tell my story but hopefully someone gets something useful out of it. I sincerely regret not getting any of the above done sooner in my life. I'm 49 now (actually feel closer to 25!) but at least I can now say that I did get it done. Feel free to ask any questions and thanks for reading this epic post.

Roger :)              

INSPIRING -- WHAT A GREAT READ! 

CONGRATULATIONS TO YOU.

Dr Jacobs
Dr. Jacobs 
Certified: American Board of Plastic Surgery
Fellow: American College of Surgeons
Practice sub-specialty in Gynecomastia Surgery
815 Park Avenue
New York, New York 10021
Telephone:  (212) 570-6080
Email:  dr.j@elliotjacobsmd.com
Website:  http://www.gynecomastiasurgery.com
Website:  http://www.gynecomastianewyork.com/revi

No way, bro!  Unbelievable.  Congratulations to you. 

Would you mind sharing more information about your training and diet regimen?  How often did you train and what all did it include?  And what did you eat?  Are you still eating that way?

I think the most amazing thing about all this is......if you had the willpower to do this, where was it for the first 47 years?  You not only had to come up with the willpower to diet, but you also had to find the willpower to exercise.  You didn't have the lap-band surgery, did you?

You are an excellent example of a person being able to achieve anything if they set their mind to it.  What a transformation. 

I also don't understand how your body could physically change so much in 10 months.  To go from where you started to having legs strong enough to run 26 miles seems impossible.  When I get on the treadmill and start walking/running, my legs and feet hurt nonstop during all waking hours.  To go from no exercise to constant pounding on your feet with 277 pounds coming down on them....that's a lot of abuse.  I don't know how you stood it. 

If you dieted, how many calories a day did you eat?  I'd also like your opinion on which was the most effective in your weight loss.....dieting or exercising?

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Offline Paa_Paw

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What a totally impressive story. And what a great example.

Fantastic!
Grandpa Dan

Thanks for the very kind comments. I really didn't want to come on this board and talk about my initial "1st" transformation (ie losing the weight, running marathons, etc) but it is an important part of my whole story and one that finally allowed me to move on to the second transformation which was to deal my lifelong struggle with Gynecomastia. As most doctors and posters to this forum have continually said, you should lose the weight first THEN get the surgery. Hopefully others will learn from my example and realize that you can achieve anything if you put your mind to them.

So HOW did I do it? Raider Fan asked some excellent questions so I will be happy to try and address them.

First, I want to state for the record that I did NOT have gastric bypass surgery. I did go to an information seminar on it but I left there 3 hours later not even considering it. I know four people who have had it done and all four have gained the weight back in less than 2 years time. If you are even considering this "magic pill" I would sincerely encourage you to reconsider it. There is a better way.

How? Probably the easiest way to explain it is to watch the 2nd video on my www.RFME.org website or watch it directly on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_qufoiKfgw. This is actually the 2nd part of my initial video that I posted above when I was raising money for Cystic Fibrosis. Again I am NOT looking for any donations so please ignore that part of it, but I think it does a good job of explaining how I actually did it.

To be honest, I'm not really sure what snapped this time to finally make me change my life. I think maybe after seeing this picture at a wedding in 2007 and honestly wondering who the person beside my wife was, was a start. Sad when you can't even recognize the same person you see in the mirror everyday. :(



Food Sad to say but losing weight is actually very simple: you simply burn off more calories than you take in. So the first thing I did, for the first time in my life, was write down everything that I ate. I cannot stress enough that you must list EVERYTHING that you ate including 5 peanuts or half a can of diet soda. I created a spreadsheet in Excel and broke everything down into carbs, proteins and fats. It took me ~3 months to reprogram my mind to realize what I was actually eating.

The funny thing is it was not that hard. I first started with 2000 calories a day, 20% of them coming from fats, and 40% coming from carbs and proteins. Ironically, unlike any of the 100s of diets I was ever on before, I was able to eat anything I wanted.but I had to plan out my meals BEFORE I ate them. Once I hit 20% of fats or 40% of carbs, I was done for the day. This taught me to eat better foods and proverbially get more bang for the buck for what I ate. When I reached 200 pounds (something I never ever thought would happen) I then reduced my calories down to 1400 and again, I did NOT go hungry.

The bottom line is diets are stupid! You set a goal weight and (assuming that) once you reach it you get to go back to your old ways of eating. Normally you get sick of the food restrictions (for me it was usually ~2 days) and you never even make your goal weight. Plus what about when you go out with friends for dinner, beer, etc.? You have to be realistic and understand that life is supposed to be fun and that includes eating "bad" sometimes. And that's OK because you can take care of it in another way...

Exercise Hated it. First time I walked 3 miles it took me 120 minutes and I hated every one of those minutes. After a week I was a 1/2 mile from my house and I started running. Made it 10 yards and I was out of breath so I had to stop. But every day I started at the same point and ran those 10 yards plus I added a telephone pole. It hurt but I made a promise to myself that I was finally going to change and I had a marathon that I was going to be running in 10 months. Within 2 months I was able to run a mile nonstop. Then 2. Then 3. Then 10. Then 20. And then 26.2 miles. I figure it's about 25% physical and 75% mental.

In addition to running every day, I added in Spin (bike) classes 3 days a week and weights and swimming (which obviously really sucked getting in and out of the pool) 2 days a week. I still do everything the same except for the swimming which took too much time and obviously made me uncomfortable. I will usually run 35-50 miles per week depending on my race schedule.

The bottom line is that Food and Exercise go hand in hand together and each one is just as important as the other. I now look at food as my fuel to exercise and my exercise allows me to eat what I want. That said, like a car, good food, like premium gas, helps you run better.

Physical Change One positive aspect of being overweight is that the same legs that carried me around at 300 pounds are the same ones that carry me around now at ~170. My legs are now thanking me because as I got lighter they agreed to take me further! ;D That said, if you watch the first video I posted in my initial post, you can see how much strain I put on my legs at that weight when I first started running and looking back, not really sure how I did it.

Unfortunately injuries are inevitable and I have had more than my fair share of them. Shin splints for ~3 weeks (fitted for correct shoes), pretty sure my knees needed to be replaced at several points (nope, pain went away after a while), pretty sure I broke my ankle a couple of times (nope just a strain), calves exploded on me a couple of times (rest and physical therapy), hamstrings (slow down), etc. But everything eventually heals itself it seems.

Gyno Surgery It will be very interesting to see what happens once I start exercising again, which ironically I really miss doing right now as I type this. One hope is that the surgery will make me faster as I will no longer slump over forward to "hide" my chest as I have done my entire life. I have a very interesting before/after of the change in my posture if anyone is interested. In any event, I really can't imagine sticking out my chest and running upright like most runners do but I suppose it's now a very real possibility.:)

Again thanks for reading and commenting on my post and please feel free to ask any additional questions/comments. :)

Amazing story. I am interested to see the post op pics without the garment

Now this is a story!!!! Congrats!!

Thanks for responding to my questions.  You really are an inspiration for everyone that wants to lose weight.  Thanks for offering your sensible, proven advice in a way that makes sense.  Your story is one that I think a lot of people can relate to, even if they've never been as heavy as you were.  Being overweight and needing to lose weight presents the same problems for everyone, whether you need to lose 100 pounds or 15.  You approach it the same way. 

Your insight into dieting and exercising is clear.  I don't believe I've seen the truth of what it's all about summarized better when you wrote:

"The bottom line is that Food and Exercise go hand in hand together and each one is just as important as the other. I now look at food as my fuel to exercise and my exercise allows me to eat what I want. That said, like a car, good food, like premium gas, helps you run better."

Congrats again.  Those are some GREAT videos you put together; very powerful. 



Thanks again for the very kind words. :)

I just thought I would update this thread as I met with my doctor on Monday and he gave me the specifics in regard to the surgery. Probably will start a new thread on my post surgery recovery but hate it when I read a thread and all of a sudden it just stops with no conclusion. ;D I also hope that people will post questions in regard to weight loss as I think I can help provide some helpful information having been there.

Like most gyne surgeries, I had both lipo and glandular tissue excised. While in recovery, Dr. Silverman told me that the surgery went well and did give me some information on how it went but it really went in one ear and out the other as I was still kind of "foggy".

To illustrate how much lipo he did, he pulled out a 350 CC breast implant and said that that was approximately how much fat he had sucked out which I thought did a great job in illustrating the amount. Kind of surprised when he added "from each side"!

He then went on to explain that he had also excised glandular tissue "the size of a golf ball" from behind each nipple! Thinking about that really amazes me as I never expected there to be that much there.  :o

I had not taken my vest off since Friday's surgery so he helped me take it off to check for bruising, bleeding etc. Fortunately I did not have drains put in and the incisions were healing fine. Self stick foam padding was placed on my chest (see below) and he wanted to keep it on a few more days in order to hold everything together and heal better. I'm actually a little intimidated to see how things look under there so I was almost happy to hear that. I fully expect there to be quite a bit of carnage after they are removed and actually can't believe that they are no longer there as I have lived with them my whole life. I also know that it will take ~1 year for full recovery and that I will more than likely need to have a second procedure in order to finish the job but that's cool.

BTW, I finally walked 3 miles yesterday and 5 miles today and felt great. Both times my feet wanted to take off and fly but I was warned about running and promised I would give it at a couple of weeks.  :(   


You're like a car that had body work and a new paint job, or one of those people that get a make-over on television, where they undergo a complete transformation.  You're not going to look anything like you looked a year ago.  I know it must be a strange feeling.


Such an incredible read. Thanks for the inspiration!! I'm two weeks post-op and am so excited about the changes in my body. At 56, it's been a lifelong battle, that I know you all understand. This website has been such a great support. So thankful to have found it.  Thanks for sharing your story with all of us!

Got back from the doctor today and had the big unveiling of the surgery 1 week ago. I am somewhat shocked and very happy to say that it appears that I have now gone to the other side!  :o

Not much pain in taking off the foam and "stitches" (thought it would be worse), lot's of bruising (expected), and extremely happy with the outcome (honestly not expected)! It is just so weird not having them there any more!

As you can see in the first picture, the nipples are still a little off center from each other and hopefully that will adjust itself as the healing process continues. Frankly even if it doesn't change it really wouldn't bother me too much as they were the same prior to the surgery and it didn't bother me then. I also am aware that there will be some sagging as the swelling goes down but as I had mentioned previously I will give it a year and then reassess the situation.      

BTW, now that they are gone, I am more motivated than ever to get my body in peak shape as I am aware that my journey to a perfect body is far from over. Plus I still have to break the 4 hour marathon mark!  ;D

As I mentioned in my previous post I will probably create a new thread in the User Photos section to document my progress. In the meantime if anyone has any questions regarding weight loss or running marathons or even about Julia, I will be happy to answer. :)







Excellent result -- enjoy it!

Forget the bruising -- it is innocuous and temporary.  Look beyond it to the contours -- which look excellent.  And your skin seems to have tightened as well.

Congratulations on your journey!  And great job from Dr. Silverman!

Dr Jacobs

Today is 2 weeks and 2 days after surgery and I just got back from running 9.30 miles at a 4:15 marathon pace and felt absolutely no pain in my chest or my legs. I'm back, on the 'other side', and running stronger than ever!!! On top of the world!  :D

 


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