A mum bullied for her weight her entire life has told of her distress after the NHS refused her surgery to remove her excess skin.
Now Tara Brown, 39, is fundraising £10,000 to have three stone of excess skin removed after she shed 12 stone.
Tara, of Chesterfield, Derbyshire, says she always struggled with her weight – and reached a boiling point after a fellow mum cruelly branded her a ‘fat c***’.
The 39-year-old has a hereditary nerve condition that means she struggles with her mobility, which when combined with her poor diet saw the mum-of-six gradually get ‘bigger and bigger’ until she hit more than 28 stone.
After years of living an ‘awful’ existence and trying every diet under the sun, it was being called a ‘fat c*nt’ on her doorstep in front of her kids last March that led her to say ‘enough was enough’.
After the ‘absolutely mortifying’ experience, the part-time nail technician was spurred into action and after putting in ‘literal blood, sweat and tears’ she’s since lost more than 12 stone and dropped seven dress sizes.
Despite feeling like a completely different person, Tara is now carrying an estimated three stone of excess skin around, primarily on her stomach, which has become a ‘massive burden’.
Tara claims she was offered gastric bypass surgery twice over the years but since losing weight claims she has been refused skin removal surgery due to not meeting the minimum 25 BMI criteria.
Her excess skin on her tummy forces her to wear uncomfortable control clothing, causes her back pain and has also led her sex life with her husband of 17 years Shaun Brown, 40, to dwindle.
At her wits end, the devoted mum is now fundraising £10,000 to have the procedure done privately, which she envisions will transform all aspects of her life and spur her on to live it to the full.
Tara, of Chesterfield, Derbyshire, said: “My excess skin is a huge burden. My tummy is so large, not with fat but just with a lot of skin.
“It hangs really low down and reaches about an inch above my knees. I have to wear constant control pants and clothing, it’s awful.
“When I move around it’s constantly there, it’s difficult to shower and it’s quite uncomfortable when it’s held in all day.
“I’m suffering with my back with it, it’s a lot, the list goes on.
“My husband and I have been together for 17 years and if I’m just in bed with him I can’t have it [excess skin] out, I need to be covered.
“Obviously the bedroom area is very very tricky, confidence there is so low. I don’t want him to see me without any clothes on.
“It’s massively got in the way of my husband and I’s sex life. It’s definitely dwindled.”
Tara said that she’s ‘always been on the bigger’ side and believes it is largely due to having hereditary motor sensory neuropathy.
It is a rare progressive condition that damages the peripheral nerves, which causes her immense pain and has forced her to have 45 surgeries throughout her life.
She said she grew up lacking confidence, has suffered from anxiety and depression since around the age of 11 and reached around 18 stone in secondary school.
Tara said: “It [school] was awful. I got horribly bullied through school, even by the teachers. I was ‘the fat one’ in school.
“I was always late to school because I couldn’t get there as quick as the other kids and I’d walk into class and a teacher make me stand at the side and point out how awful I looked to all the other children.
“I used to get food thrown at me from buses, kicked and punched.
Tara said her muscle wastage disease has also led to her developing other conditions including a curvature of the spine and allodynia.
She’s in constant pain and relies on heavy pain medication.
She was advised to lose weight by her doctor and have gastric bypass surgery in order for them to operate on her spine, but due to her size it wouldn’t have been safe.
Tara said: “Because I wasn’t very mobile at all due to the pain I got bigger and I wasn’t eating, and that I know now is the worst thing you can do because that itself makes you put weight on.
“From the age of 13 up until literally a year and a half ago, I was living on a coffee in the morning and a meal at night, but that meal meant so much to me.
“Due to my condition, a gastric bypass wouldn’t have been good for me because one I wasn’t eating anyway and two, I would have felt shocking due to having no nutrients in me.
“It [the condition] will continue to get worse and worse all the time. Which of course is a big reason why the weight needed to come off, to benefit my life but the children’s as well.
“Life was awful. I suffered from suicide and self-harm and at one point I tried to cut my own tummy off. It was bad.
“I didn’t have any mirrors, just face ones.”
Tara said she tried all sorts of diets and was particularly successful with one in 2013 where she lost nine stone, but her depression got in the way and she was unable to maintain the weight loss.
She wanted to lose weight as she was fed up of being in ‘horrible constant pain’ and couldn’t go on rides with her kids.
But her main motivation was after being viciously name-called during an altercation with a fellow mum after her son got into an argument with hers.
The following month she started her weight loss journey weighing 23 stone nine pounds and was a size 28.
Tara said: “His mum isn’t the nicest and she called me a ‘fat c*nt’ multiple times in front of my children which absolutely killed me.
“I was absolutely mortified and that was enough to say, that’s enough. It was just a snap decision.
“I was fuming. A few choice words were said, it was in front of my house and I told her to move away from my house because my kids were there.
“I walked in, sat by myself and just sobbed. I was mortified.
“Because the kids hear it all the time from the other kids, which is enough in itself, but hearing it from a parent in front of my children was just beyond.
“It’s always the same case, ‘oh your mum’s a fat ba*tard’, ‘look at her she can’t fit through the door or step up on the step’, even pointing out things like that is horrendous.”
Tara said that from last April until September she focused on changing her diet before she joined the gym, started swimming and using the sauna in September.
In January she also started walking, which she’s built up over time.
She now weighs 16 stone 12 pounds now, is a size 18 going into a 16 and hopes to eventually achieve her goal of reaching 12 stone.
Tara said: “I lost the weight all myself. I massively changed my diet and I had to learn to eat, rather than not.
“I am always in a level of pain but I think I cope with it a lot better now because in my mind it’s like productive pain, I’m in pain for a reason.
“I have friends and family that I don’t see for months and they think I’ve done it so easily but they’ve not seen the literal blood, sweat and tears that have gone into it and the amount of brick walls that I’ve hit along the way has been immense.
“Because I’ve seen the results now and that I can do it, all I keep telling myself is that I just have to keep carry on.
“I can’t go back to where I was because I literally might not be here. If I went back to where I was, I’m not sure if I could cope with it again.
“I need to be there for my children because I am the glue that holds this family together. If I’m not here, where are my kids going to be?
“They need to see that you can change your life and if you put the work in you can get the results.
“I’ve got three disabled children so even more so they need to see, just because you’re disabled doesn’t mean you can’t try and do something. So that spurs me on massively.”
Tara claims she first approached the NHS regarding excess skin removal surgery in January and has applied for funding once, but her application was rejected.
She claims her BMI is currently 45 but it’s impacted by scarring following multiple surgeries as a result of her condition as well as fluid in her body.
Tara said: “I set up the GoFundMe page because unfortunately there’s no help for people like me on the NHS, which I could talk to you about until I get blue in the face because it makes me really angry.
“They can throw gastric bands out left, right and centre.
“I know two people that have had the procedure, not stuck to the rules and it’s failed.
“So statistically if you think about how many pounds has been wasted on gastric bands that has failed when potentially a woman that has done it all herself with no help from any professional, yet they can’t provide one surgery. I don’t think it’s fair.
“You can apply for funding. They’ve already done it once and it’s failed because my BMI isn’t below 25 which the doctors have even agreed with me, that’s a ridiculous number for me to get to because of the amount of scarring and fluid I’ve got on my body.
“So that BMI isn’t relevant to my body because it’s not fat that’s making those numbers.
“The doctor was very understanding and sympathetic and held my tummy and said how massive and heavy it was compared to my body frame, and how it must be a massive burden on my life.”
Tara’s GP has applied for funding for a second time, but Tara says she has been led to believe it is highly unlikely that it will be successful so has been forced to resort to fundraising to have the procedure done privately.
Tara said: “I’ve seen that mother many times in the car but I recently walked past her on the same side of the street and the feeling I had within me was quite incredible.
“I had my head held high while I was walking past and thought ‘yeah. I did it.’ It was a feeling of accomplishment and pride.
“Having my excess skin removed would change my life so much. It would help me mentally with my confidence, self-esteem and would make it easier to carry on moving that extra weight.
“I wouldn’t have to constantly push it into my body to the point where I’m uncomfortable.
“When I have it removed, I’ll feel comfortable naked in front of my husband again. It will make a massive difference.”
A spokesperson for NHS Derby and Derbyshire said: “NHS Derby and Derbyshire does not normally provide comment on the cases of individual patients.
“In general terms, where care is not routinely funded under a clinical policy but patients believe their case is exceptional when compared to the rest of the population, their treating clinician can make a case to have funding provided for treatments. We treat these requests on an individual and objective basis and our decision is communicated back to the patient and clinician.”