Jen Costa, 35, was diagnosed with stage 4 oral cancer in 2016, losing 95 percent of her tongue as a result. Costa previously said that the scary diagnosis actually saved her life at a time when she was topping the scales at nearly 650 pounds, as she was forced to go on a liquid-only diet.
“I had to die a little in order to learn to appreciate how it felt to truly be alive,” she said last year. “I’m alive for the very first time in my life.”
The woman said she now weighs 154 pounds, a number she reached following a roughly two-and-a-half-year weight loss journey. Despite slimming down, she still struggled to wear certain articles of clothing, such as jeans, due to excess skin on her legs.
“Before the operation, I would just feel embarrassed and would live in sweatpants,” she said, according to South West News Service (SWNS). “I would have trouble sleeping with the excess skin and in the summer I would get a rash.”
Recently, however, the 35-year-old underwent surgery to remove about 15 pounds of excess skin, leaving her with about 100 stitches. She said the procedure has changed her life for the better.
“It’s awesome. I’m able to wear pants that fit me properly. I’m now a 32-inch waist in jeans and able to wear jeans for the first time since I was a kid,” she said, adding that surgeons told her that her excess skin “filled up the whole trash bag” after it was removed.
“Now I’m able to look down and see a normal-looking leg,” she said. “It really has been a long time since I’ve seen that.”
Costa has been candid about her weight loss journey, previously saying that her weight trouble began after a car accident left her bedbound. She said she spent her days eating takeout food and had started self-medicating with drugs, eventually gaining 350 pounds over 14 years.
Costa is now on a diet of liquid shakes and has had several procedures to remove excess skin since her dramatic weight loss. Though she says she misses certain foods — such as pizza and the taste of her grandmother’s chicken — she knows she would have eaten herself to death if she hadn’t been diagnosed with cancer.
“The diagnosis just turned my life completely around,” she said.
Fox News’s Alexandria Hein contributed to this report.