Jacqueline Adan says her legs are her “biggest insecurity”
“They’re my biggest insecurity,” the 32-year-old tells PEOPLE. “I always struggled with loving my legs, and the size of them.”
And they were also a source of bullying — Adan, a Montessori preschool teacher — went viral in 2017 after she shared a photo of herself on the beach, post-weight loss, and said that a couple nearby started pointing and laughing at her legs.
But when she started the long and painful process of skin removal surgery in 2016, her doctor said that she would have to be patient.
“He said that we’re putting my body back together like a puzzle, and we can’t start with the legs,” Adan explains. “We started with my stomach, because it was the largest area, and then we did the upper part of my stomach and my arms.”
The surgeries and the lengthy, difficult recoveries that followed took three years, and during that time her legs struggled to hold up the excess skin around them.
“The pain in my legs from the loose skin keeps getting worse, because they’re just so heavy,” she says. “I was going to physical therapy because my knees and my hips couldn’t keep carrying that weight, and there’s nothing I can do until I get the skin removed. They started putting me in compression garments to hold the skin, but then all the loose skin got pulled to the top. All the leg skin is sitting at the top of my hips. I just need it removed.”
On March 21, Adan is finally getting her wish. After a consult with her doctor last week, they determined that she’s ready for skin removal surgery on her legs. Over the 7-hour surgery, Adan’s doctor will cut from the groin area down to the backs of her knees to take off pounds of excess skin.
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But as excited as she is for the surgery to finally happen, Adan struggled with her mindset after their consult.
“I started getting really hard on myself and angry because I have to get this surgery, and asking myself why I let myself get to 500 lbs., and all that negative talk started coming in,” she says. “I started getting annoyed with myself that I have to go through another intense surgery that I could have avoided if I didn’t get myself to 500 lbs. But I can’t change the past. I have to focus on right now and getting mentally prepared so I can deal with it in the best way possible. Going into these surgeries with a positive mindset is so important because it helps you heal faster.”
And Adan is thrilled at the thought of hitting the beach post-surgery.
“The next time I’m on a beach or in a bathing suit all that skin is going to be gone, and it makes me really emotional,” she says. “I get so excited thinking about what it’s going to feel like and what bathing suit I’m going to buy. I’ve been so hard on my body and my legs, and others have been so cruel about my body and my legs, and I’m excited to know what it’s going to be like without all that skin.”