'full-time job' Mum who lost 12 stone sets up fundraiser to remove excess skin so she doesn't 'rot'
"Doctors told me I was super, morbidly obese and that I would be dead before I was 30..."
A mum-of-two who shed an astonishing 12 stone has told how her blistering and infected excess skin has made her feel like she is trapped in a 'prison of flesh.'
Leanne Kendellen (31) shed half her body weight in two years after she underwent gastric bypass surgery.
The devoted mum from Balbriggan is now desperately seeking life-changing skin removal surgery before she is left to 'rot' on the public health system.
Leanne, who was 21st 9lb at her heaviest, has launched a GoFundMe to raise the €15,000 needed to remove the excess skin and have the normal family life she has always dreamed of.
"I have been overweight for as long as I can remember. I remember being six years old and weighing six stone. I am only 4ft 11ins and at one point I weighed in at over 20 stone.
"Doctors told me I was super, morbidly obese and that I would be dead before I was 30 if I didn't do something drastic. My fertility was even impacted.
"I have PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome ) and I was told that I would never have kids. I fell into depression because that's all I ever wanted. If I wanted children I was told I would have to lose weight. We did struggle, it took us five years to conceive."
Undergoing gastric bypass surgery at St Columcille's Hospital in July 2020, Leanne vowed to change her life for her sons Luke, four, and two-year-old Liam.
"I was turning 30 and I just thought, I can't go through this for another decade," she says.
Leanne's weight-loss joy, however, soon turned to heartache.
Enduring constant skin infections, Leanne is now subjected to excruciating pain from the moment she wakes up until the moment she closes her eyes every night.
The Dubliner revealed: "I suffer everything from skin infections to sweat rashes, blisters, chafing and ingrown hairs because of the extent of the excess skin.
"It's almost like a full-time job to keep on top of infections. People always say to me, 'you must be so happy that you have lost all the weight?' To be honest, sometimes I feel like a complete fraud because I am not happy, I am miserable.
"I am in constant pain because of the blisters, rashes and fungal infections under my belly, bum, groin and inside my belly button."
Leanne, who also suffers with lichen sclerosus, a condition that creates thinner skin and hidradenitis suppurativa, a condition that causes small, painful lumps to form under the skin, is in constant pain.
"This makes my skin so much worse and prolongs healing and I live in agony because of it.
"The skin makes me feel just as big as when I was overweight. I have zero confidence because it is so difficult to hide, it was actually easier to conceal my body when I was bigger.
"I am only 31 and I just feel like I have no confidence. I struggle to look in the mirror and I don't want to hate my body anymore.
"My skin feels like a punishment and like I've just put my body into another shell or prison that I am not happy in and I just want to look and feel like a normal person.
"When people say, 'it is just a bit of skin,' they honestly have no idea. My skin is not just a bit loose or saggy, it has completely lost all elasticity, is coved in stretch marks from gaining and losing weight, it's crinkly and like crepe paper everywhere. Tissue has completely detached from muscles in places too."
Hoping to undergo extensive reconstructive surgery that includes an FDL tummy tuck, breast augmentation, arm and armpit lift, thigh lift, muscle repair and monsplasty, Leanne is pleading for help.
"I have tried to save every cent I have but there is just no possible way that I can afford this surgery when I am raising two children and we have only John's wage coming in. I am on the public list for surgery on my belly region but I will be looking at a waiting list of up to eight years, I simply cannot wait that long - my mental and physical health cannot endure that.
"I was really hesitant about setting up a GoFundMe but my friends and family really motivated me to do it.
"I am finally taking the plunge and admittedly I need help. I am so much healthier and happier now but the skin is still a painful reminder of the years of abuse and trauma my body has been through since childhood and I want to repair that."
Hoping to travel to Turkey or Lithuania for surgery, Leanne has ruled out Ireland due to restrictive costs.
"I would love to have surgery at home but it is just way out of my price point. All surgeries, flights, accommodation, aftercare, medication and bits I'll need for recovery come in at the same price as a standard FDL tummy tuck over here," she says.
Deciding to share her journey on social media @bypassingtheoldleanne Leanne has shared her weight loss story from the beginning.
"I am nine and a half stone now and I wasn't even that weight when I was nine. My life has completely transformed. I can play with my kids now and be the mam I have always wanted to be. Before I couldn't breathe or keep up with them.
"I lost out on so many memories with the kids because my weight held me back. I have been with my partner for 11 years and we have never been on a foreign holiday because I have always been too self-conscious."
Leanne says she became accustomed to being judged on her size.
"People treat me completely differently now too. In the past I could have been doing my supermarket shopping and people would look in at the fruit and vegetables and say, 'oh are you going on a diet?'
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