Dear Abby: As a child, I was sexually, physically and mentally abused. As an adult, I suffered several miscarriages and two of my children died as infants. I have two living children, ages 9 and 16. It should be no surprise that I turned to food for comfort; I ate myself to a whopping 420 pounds.
After my marriage ended in a bitter divorce, I decided it was time for a complete makeover. I have lost more than 200 pounds. Because of my weight loss, I have gained better health, more energy, a better outlook on life - and almost 36 pounds of baggy skin. With this much excess skin, I'm sure you can imagine that I bring a whole new meaning to the word "skinny."
Insurance will not help with skin removal. Burn centers use skin from cadavers, so I can't donate it to a good cause. I view myself as an overcomer of many things. I just need assistance in overcoming this oversized birthday suit. Can you please advise? - Left Hanging in Colorado
Dear Left Hanging: I addressed your question to prominent Los Angeles plastic surgeon Joel Aronowitz, who suggests you start calling around to universities that offer plastic surgery residencies. It's possible a resident could perform your surgery under the supervision of an experienced attending physician and you would pay a lower rate for the procedure than you would be charged by a private physician.
He also told me that insurance should pay for the excision of skin in areas where it overlaps with other skin because it could be medically necessary if it causes rashes or infections that are giving you problems. If this is documented by an experienced plastic surgeon, those areas of your body might be covered by your insurance.
Many people finance their plastic surgeries through companies that specialize in this. The doctor's patient coordinator can direct you to one that works with the practice. However, I would advise you to wait until you have lost all of the weight you intend to before getting anything done.
Dear Abby: About 10 years ago I became involved with a man I later found out was married. It was hard for me, but I ended the relationship and ceased all contact with him because I didn't want to be the cause of a broken family.
Since then, I no longer think of myself as a good person, Abby. I can't forget that I was the "other woman," and I feel horrible about it.
I have tried my best to "keep my nose clean." I returned to college to complete a degree, and I avoid the dating scene. I graduated with good grades, but with all the free time I have now, I realize how lonely I am.
The majority of my friends are married or in long-term relationships. I visit with them less and less because it reminds me of my aching to have a special someone. I'm tired of hating myself and feeling lonely, but I'm afraid I'll mess up again. Do you have any advice? - Miserable in Killeen, Texas
Dear Miserable: Yes. Please stop feeling guilty and flogging yourself for what happened. In a sense, you were as much a victim of this cheater as his wife was. Instead, thank your lucky stars that he didn't waste more of your time.
While I understand why you'd question your judgment or have some trust issues, by avoiding all contact with men, you have gone too far.
If necessary, talk this through with a religious adviser or a licensed mental health professional.
If you do, it will help you more quickly get on with your life.
Write to Dear Abby at P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069 or at dearabby.com