Lose 20 Pounds in 20 Days: An Unintended Beneficial Consequence of Oral Surgery

Although my face is thinner and there has been a loss of body mass, I still look much the same after losing 20 pounds.

Although my face is thinner and there has been a loss of body mass, I still look much the same after losing 20 pounds.

I am sure that my dentist, Dr. Vic Etheridge, D.M.D., P.C. or the Oral Surgeon, Dr. Clyde Marlow, D.D.S., M.Sc., did not realize that they were running an unusually effective weight loss clinic when a biopsy was taken of tissue my upper pallet to insure that a discolored area was not cancerous. I was equally ignorant of the nature of the biopsy procedure, which I supposed would be sampling some tissue with a biopsy needle as is usually done with internal organs.

I should have been suspicious when I was not only attended by Dr. Marlow, but also two nurses, was taken under anesthetics and warned prior to the procedure to have someone drive me home. The anesthetic was effective, and I quickly went under. After the procedure my mouth was numb. I was prescribed some opiate-based pain medication to see me through the next few days and warned that oral surgery often took a long time to heal. I was also given an antibiotic, told to rinse my mouth with salt water ten times a day and call if I had any unusual difficulties.

As the initial anesthesia wore off, I could feel swelling and clotted blood inside my mouth. The entire upper rear half of the pallet felt swollen and extremely sore to the touch. Almost as if it had a mind of its own, my tongue wanted to explore these new features of its environment. Each time it touched the back of my mouth I could feel pressure, pain and some hanging skin. I cannot say what instrument Dr. Marlow used, but it felt like he had scraped the roof of my mouth back to the tonsils with the dental version of a garden rake.

I was glad to have the medication, as the pain quickly began to build up. After leaving the Dentist’s office I had the prescription filled. As I had no breakfast prior to the surgery, I ate some Jell-O and pudding that I had brought along and had a couple of popsicles. I threw all of that up in the parking lot. Sorry about that folks, but there was nothing I could do about it.

When the pain started to build, I took the first of the pain pills. I was still very hungry when I arrived at home and attempted to eat. Each spoonful of soup felt like I was attempting to swallow acid. The burning pain on the pallet and throat was intense. Slowly I would take a teaspoon of soup, wait until the pain subsided somewhat and then attempt another. It seemed like it took 10-15 minutes to get a cup of soup down. Even the act of trying to swallow produced pain akin to hitting a toe with a hammer. After the throbbing stopped, I could take another spoon of soup. My pain was directly proportional to the amount that I tried to eat, which was a disincentive to eat anything.

In five days I had a 1000 mile drive to make to Lake Placid, New York, for a conference where I was to participate in a panel and give an hour-long presentation. I also had a follow-up visit with Dr. Marlow the day that I started my trip. Feeling as I did the first couple of days post-surgery, I did not know if I was going to be able to present on my topic, Staying on Message for Obtaining and Keeping Sponsors, to the radio section of OWAA (Outdoor Writers Association of America). In addition I had a goose hunt with a blunderbuss to do on the way to the conference and a four-day bear hunt in the Adirondack Mountains following the event.

My mouth, by painfully slow degrees, was getting better every day. I was slowly able to increase my food intake to up to three cups of food a day and take more and more solids. Not surprisingly, I began to notice that I was losing about a pound a day. By the time of my follow-up appointment with Dr. Marlow, I had lost about 10 pounds. Even during the conference I was only able to eat sparingly, but at least I could now slowly manage salad, lightly seasoned vegetables, meat and soft breads. As a diabetic, I usually avoid sugar, but my diet was so restricted that I consumed small portions of sugar-rich apple pastries and soft ice cream, items that had been off my diet for ten years or more.

I could tolerate a beer or glass of wine a day, which cut my pre-surgery alcohol consumption by about 75%. Although I did not have much direct exercise at the conference, I made up for it during my bear hunt. My hunting clothes were noticeably lose on my body, and I noted that shirts that I had not been able to button at the neck for years now fit.

Prior to the surgery my weight had been fairly stable for at around 185 pounds. I could lose down to the 170s, but had real problems breaking that threshold, despite whatever I did so far as diet and exercise. Returning home after the conference, I noted that I now weighed in the 170s and my weight was continuing to drop. My restricted food intake had made me less hungry. As I cook for myself and seldom eat out, I cooked a variety of stews and soups using meat from the geese that were taken on the hunt and had now progressed to the point where I could eat an apple.

As I write this about a month following the surgery, the associated swelling of the mouth and back of the throat is almost completely gone and my weight has fallen to 165 pounds, down from about 185 before the surgery. Ironically, on my last visit to the Veterans Administration’s Hospital in Dublin, Georgia, my new lady doctor asked if I wanted to consult with an dietitian who might recommend some changes in my diet in order to lose weight. I certainly have lost weight, but not in the way that she or I had anticipated.

This unexpected beneficial consequence of my oral surgery helped me break through my weight-loss threshold, but now that had been achieved and I was approaching what most charts said was my recommended body weight, my real challenge is not to gain it all back. This I plan to do by watching my diet and continuing my regular exercises at the Wellness Center where I was doing two hours one day a week, or however more often I went to town and could spare the time.

There are concerns about very rapid weight loss. Thus far apparently fatty tissues are what are mostly being reduced. I have been actively walking, hunting and moving during all of this period, although during hunting seasons I don’t visit the gym as often. I had frankly rather spend time in the woods. Nonetheless, I feel that continuing exercise even through weight loss is the best insurance for staying healthy during the process. Now that I weigh less, I am curious as to how my body reacts when I get back on the treadmill. I suspect that it will do better, although sitting for hours in a deer stand is not a healthy practice.

I recognize that a good diet and regular exercise are my friends at age 72; and I neglect any these at my peril. Now that I have been provided the “gift” of losing these pounds, I want to establish this new 165-pound weight as a threshold while building and maintaining muscle tone and strength. Regular exercise, much as I hate to do it, is my best guarantor or success.

The biopsy report, received two weeks after the surgery, was negative. This was certainly a relief. For a few years during college and intermittently at later intervals I had been a pipe smoker, although I quit smoking anything more than 20-years ago. I have no doubt that the change in the appearance of these tissues was caused by smoking. I had apparently quit in time, although I know of others who were not so lucky and contracted oral cancer.

Photo taken in 2005  for book chapter on spear hunting.

Photo taken in 2005 for book chapter on spear hunting.

As a vet and having now achieved “a certain age,” I lost all modesty decades ago. A gal friend of mine took a couple of recent non-revealing nude photos of me doing spear hunting and bowfishing which I have previously posted elsewhere. In the near future I will take some of me at my present weight so that anyone who cares to look can see the contrast. I will do a YouTube video using these and post them on Pinterest. One of the reason that I had her take the photos was to spur me into continuing my efforts towards staying more nearly fit, which I was certainly not achieving. I was stable, in better condition than many of my same-age contemporaries; but still had a long way to go towards being “really fit.” I am now closer to that goal, at least so far as gross body weight is concerned. Now my goals are to build muscle strength and stamina.

If you would like to see the video that I made about this go to: http://youtu.be/bG9u4oF5zO0. My first attempt to download it here failed, but you can always use the live link if you have problems with the imbedded version.

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