Clarenville woman fundraises for skin removal following drastic weight loss

Kevin Curley
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Melanie Lethbridge before and after she went from 557 pounds to 211. Lethbridge is trying to raise $10,000 to help assist with a skin removal surgery which she says she needs to live a normal life. 

To be comfortable in her own skin

Melanie Lethbridge has come a long way in the last few years.

She went from 557 pounds to 211 pounds and is looking for assistance for a medical procedure to make her life easier.

Seven years ago, at the age of 25, Lethbridge was diagnosed with cancer, requiring a complete hysterectomy. Following the surgery she was cancer-free but depressed because she would never be able to have children.

"I had always wanted to be a mom. I wanted a house full of kids all the time. I was 25 and now I had no opportunity to have children. It was very devastating," Lethbridge told The Packet.

This was followed by dramatic weight gain. Lethbridge went from 300 pounds to 557 pounds. She says a pivotal moment was when she became ill and went to the hospital and they were unable to weigh her.

"I had to go down to the operating room and get weighed on the industrial scale. They told me I was 557 pounds. It broke my heart," says Lethbridge.

Her doctor enrolled her in bariatric surgery, a weight loss technique achieved by reducing the size of the stomach with a gastric band.

In order to apply for the surgery she had to lose a certain amount of weight on her own. She doesn't attribute any special diet to her success; she just moved home and stayed active.

"I moved in with my mom in Februray of 2013. It was being free and having a new life. It made me a whole different person," says Lethbridge.

She loved her job and worked hard, often pulling 12 hours shifts, and didn't let her weight hold her back from being active and a productive employee.

But since shedding the pounds, Lethbridge has been in a struggle with her medical care plan and eastern health-care system to help with skin removal to ease infections caused by the excess skin.

She was told they would pay for the bottom part of her stomach to be removed.

"My belly button is what's bad. I wear a wick in my button belly to keep the infection drained. I wear bindings to go to work and for everyday living," says Lethbridge.

She says removing skin from the bottom of her stomach won't help the infection go away.

The surgery will require full body contouring and health insurance will only cover $10,000 of the $24,000 needed.

She's trying to raise the $10,000 needed through a GoFundMe account, which will still leave her with travel expenses and several thousand dollars to pay herself.

"In order to get fixed enough to do that I have to get a tummy tuck, which still comes out of my pocket," says Lethbridge.

Lethbridge says she doesn't believe the surgery to be cosmetic. She did her part in losing the weight and reducing the risk of being a burden on the health-care system and now she wants her stomach fixed to the extent where her belly button isn't infected. "I went from taking 87 pills a day to taking none. I don't care about the weight, I just want my belly button fixed," says Lethbridge. She recently got engaged, which was also a boost to her morale.

"I want to move forward in my life. I want to be able to go bed with my fiancé and not have to tell him he can't touch me because I'm bound up today," says Lethbridge.

"I want to be able to just live."

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Geographic location: Clarenville

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