Take it easy - atleast my body's ready for summer

Miserable Michelle Gudgeon, 44, was sick of the wrinkly folds of skin around her tummy. But to get into a bikini, she’d need to take drastic action… “I couldn’t stop the tears rolling as I stared into the mirror. ‘Look at it, just hanging there,’ I sobbed, prodding my saggy tummy. All I could see were folds of lumpy, ugly skin. Thanks to the Atkins diet, I had dropped from a chunky 15st to 10st 7lb in two years. But instead of revelling in my size 12 figure, I now hated my body more than ever. Wrinkly and loose, my tummy was worse than before. “You look lovely, Michelle,’ my husband, Richard, 38, tried to reassure me. But every time I caught myself in the mirror my heart sank. ‘I’ll never get rid of it,’ I despaired. I’d been exercising for months – running, swimming, stomach crunches… but nothing would shift it. ‘Have you tried support pants, Mum?’ my daughter, Alex, 17, suggested. But that loose skin had to go somewhere – pants just pushed it up over the top or out of the bottom. It was hopeless. I hid myself under huge smock tops or wore big belts over my tummy to try to hide it. Everyone was so proud of me for losing the weight, but nothing could change how I felt about myself. And I moaned about it constantly. While Richard tried to reassure me, Alex, and my step-children, Will, nine, and Gemma, six, were fed up with me. ‘Here she goes again,’ Alex would say, rolling her eyes. Summer time was the worst. When it was cold, I could layer up in baggy jumpers, but the sun made it less easy to hide. On holiday, I’d drown my figure in floaty skirts and T-shirts. At the beginning of last summer, Richard suggested we book a holiday, but the thought of baring my saggy body left me miserable. ‘I’m fed up with it, I can’t stand it any more. I feel hideous’, I told him. ‘Well, why don’t you do something about it?’ he said. ‘If it’s making you feel that bad why don’t you get a tummy tuck?’ I was shocked. ‘Don’t be daft,’ I said, shaking my head. ‘It’s only celebrities who have them, not normal people like me.’ ‘No, I read in the newspaper lots of women are having it done,’ he said. ‘Have a think about it Michelle.’ And I did. In fact it was all I could think about all night. The next day I went on-line and looked into hospitals offering cosmetic surgery. I found one – The Harley Medical Group, who offered free consultations. That evening I told Richard. ‘I suppose I’ve got nothing to lose’, I said. ‘Give them a ring’, he replied. Two weeks later, we were sitting in a consultation room in Newcastle. ‘I could really look like that?!’ I said to the nurse as she showed me photos of flat, perfect stomachs. She nodded. They said I’d be a perfect candidate for the surgery. It would cost £5,600, but we had savings that could pay for it. With Richard’s support, I knew I had to go for it. ‘I’ll do it!’ I said. In the car driving home I burst into tears. ‘What’s wrong?’ asked Richard, stopping the car. But they were tears of joy and relief. I’m finally getting rid of it’, I sobbed, hugging him. The operation was scheduled for September 2008 at Oaklands Hospital in Salford, Manchester. I was nervous the night before, especially because I was so far away from our Cleveland home, but I never had any second thoughts. I was in theatre for three hours and when I came round the first thing I did was put my hand to my tummy. It was swollen and bandaged, but I could feel the difference. ‘It’s gone!’ I whispered. Richard was impressed with my new figure, too. ‘It even makes your books look bigger,’ he blurted. Typical man! The consultant came to see me that evening. ‘We cut away half a stone of loose skin,’ he said. Half a stone! No wonder I hadn’t been able to shift it with sit-ups! Before I left hospital, a few days later, the nurse changed my dressing. I expected big black stitches and an ugly scar. But it look OK, just a light scar and some steri-strips. But the pain was bad and I couldn’t lift a finger for a fortnight, not even to make a cup of tea. Richard and the kids waited on me hand and foot. ‘I could get used to this’, I laughed. I had plenty of visitors to keep me busy. ‘Let me see, then,’ my friend Ruth Hunter, 32, said. I lifted up my top to show off my new taut tummy. ‘You’ve got the belly of a 20-year-old!’ she said. All my other friends were so jealous and I couldn’t stop admiring myself in the mirror, turning from side to side gazing at my tummy. I was desperate to show off my new figure, so we booked a holiday to Antigua. Just over seven weeks after the surgery I was on the beach looking, and feeling, a million dollars. ‘You look amazing’, Richard said when I dressed for dinner in a body-hugging blue dress. And for once I believed him. I felt like a princess. A couple of days later, we were on the beach. I got up to get some water, but when I got back Richard was sitting up on his sun lounger, his eyes full of tears. ‘What’s wrong? What’s happened?’ I asked. ‘You just got up and walked right across the beach in your bikini without so much as thinking about it. Last year, you wouldn’t get off the lounger without your T-shirt and shorts on. The difference it’s made to you is amazing’, he said. ‘You’re the only big softy now’, I laughed, hugging him tightly. Having my tummy tuck has totally changed my life. For the first time in 17 years I like who I am. It’s like a dream come true. We plan to go to Portugal soon, but I had my holiday shopping done months ago, treating myself to little summer dresses and six bikinis! Now, if people stare at me on the beach, I know they’re admiring my stomach – not sniggering at my belly”.