Breast Reduction: Reflections at One Month Post-Op

Disclaimer: This blog post contains stories of some of my most vulnerable moments in life. Sharing these stories has one intended purpose: To show other women who are carrying the burden of large breasts – no pun intended – that they are not alone. If you do not have the maturity to react to this blog post appropriately, please do not react at all. This is a very real problem, and one that I intend to help spread awareness about by sharing my personal experience.

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Let me start by saying that breast reduction advocacy has grown to become something very near and dear to my heart. Having spent the beginning of my adult life as a large-breasted woman, I understand how difficult it is to live with that burden and how rare it is to find other women who truly understand your struggle. I have every intention of being a listening ear for anyone struggling with this. Please do not be afraid to reach out to me.

I was a late bloomer. When I was 15, I finally started my period after years of thinking I was missing out on something wonderful. I was terribly wrong. Periods aren’t fun. I was a flat-chested ninth grader at the time. I’ve included a picture from the summer before ninth grade for reference.

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Once I started my period, I “blossomed” very quickly – in other words, I went from barely an A cup to a D overnight. Here’s a picture of me in the middle of 10th grade, not even one year after starting my period. (I apologize for the blurry quality – I had to crop out the other person in the photo.)

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By the time I was a senior in high school, I was wearing a DDD bra that was much too small for me, but I refused to admit my breasts were any larger than that. The picture below is me during spring break of my senior year of high school. (Again, I apologize for the blurry quality from cropping another person out of the photos.)

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Living with large breasts through the latter half of high school was tough. To say teenagers are cruel is a vast understatement. I felt that three things always happened to me:

1) I was made fun of by other girls for having large breasts. They would make fun of my inability to wear a normal bathing suit top (I had to custom order them from “ugly old-lady stores”), my huge bras that were far from cute, and the fact that my breasts were not perky like other 18-year-olds. There were many times when girls would make fun of “pepperoni nipples” (large nipples that result when breasts grow very quickly and stretch out the nipples) without realizing that their comments were implanting themselves into my mind and destroying my self-image.

2) I was harassed by boys because I had large breasts. Many boys would make inappropriate comments about the size of my breasts. They would “accidentally” brush up against them in the hallway. They would stare at my chest when I talked instead of making eye contact. One time, I was giving a presentation in class and when I sat back down, a boy passed me a picture he had sketched of me – a stick figure with balloons on its chest. You know what I was wearing the day I gave the presentation? A baggy t-shirt.

3) I was berated by adults, especially teachers. Teachers would pull me into the hallway out of the classroom (while everyone was looking to see what was going on) to tell me that I was “lucky” they weren’t writing me up for a dress code violation. Meanwhile, other girls were wearing skimpier clothes and getting away with it, simply because they didn’t have large breasts. What they didn’t realize is how hard it was for me to find clothes to wear. What teenage girl wants to be limited to wearing baggy t-shirts every day while all the other girls are wearing cute clothes? There was one teacher specifically who did this to me so often that by the end of the year, I was forced to stand up for myself by informing her that there were no clothes I could wear to disguise my large breasts and that she was just going to have to try to put herself in my shoes. She left me alone from that point forward.

My large breasts had become a very unfortunate part of my identity. I started thinking about having a breast reduction in high school, but thought I was too young to even consider it.

During my freshman year of college, I met a girl who was a few years post-breast reduction. She strongly encouraged me to consider the surgery and said it was the best decision she had ever made for herself. Now that I’m on the other side of the surgery, I know she was right. Having a breast reduction was the best decision I’ve ever made.

I finished college in three years, so every summer was packed with extra classes to try to finish on time. I never had an extended period of time off that would’ve allowed me time to heal if I had a breast reduction, so I pushed it off until I finished college. By the time I finished college and scheduled my breast reduction, I was wearing a G cup! I knew something had to be done. I was constantly in pain, unable to exercise properly, spending excessive amounts of money on bras, unable to find clothes that fit properly (it was a huge pain in the butt trying to find a suit that fit and disguised my large breasts for medical school interviews), and completely ashamed of my body. I hated looking in the mirror and was so upset by the image staring back at me.

I had a consultation with a plastic surgeon in January, and scheduled my surgery for May.

Below are some pictures of me from my college years before undergoing a breast reduction. (I tried really hard to hide the size of my breasts in pictures, so I apologize that these photos don’t do it justice.)

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Hopefully at this point, you can see why I was fed up. I was sick and tired of being the girl that couldn’t/wouldn’t go to the beach because she couldn’t find a bathing suit to fit her. I was sick and tired of trying to exercise but not being able to do anything involving running/jumping/quick movement. I was sick and tired of having to wear three sports bras if I wanted to have a slight chance of keeping up with everyone else. I was sick and tired of back and neck pain. I was sick and tired of people mocking me. But most of all, I was sick and tired of not being able to look in the mirror and love myself. I couldn’t love myself with G breasts, even though I know I should’ve been able to.

So in May 2017, I had a breast reduction. Having a breast reduction was by far the best decision I have ever made, and I mean that with my entire heart. 

Since having a breast reduction, I have had the chance to connect with so many amazing women who are also interested in this procedure. Many of them are struggling with the same insecurities I faced before my surgery. Many of them had questions that I’m sure other women who are considering breast reduction are also thinking about. I’d like to share my answers to some of these questions below.

Keep in mind, my answers are based on my experiences. In no way do my answers constitute a professional medical opinion. Please talk with your physician for medical information. These are simply my experiences.

 

Does insurance cover breast reductions?

It depends on your insurance policy and on the plastic surgeon you choose.

Some surgeons have a cash business, meaning they do not accept insurance. In that case, you would have to retroactively apply for your insurance company to reimburse you for the cost of surgery, but you have to pay out of pocket first.

Other surgeons do accept insurance, but many insurance companies require proof that the procedure is medically necessary. This proof may come in the form of a written evaluation from a primary care physician, notes from a visit with a chiropractor, etc. Speak with your insurance company about what they need from you in order to approve the procedure.

What can I expect on the morning of my surgery?

The morning of my surgery, I had to be at the surgery center at 6:20 AM. I was taken back almost immediately. I was given compression socks and a gown to change into. I was instructed the night before to stop eating after dinner and to remove all jewelry. Then, a nurse started an IV in my hand. The anesthesiologist came in and spoke to me. He asked me about allergies, previous surgeries, etc. I also discovered he did his residency at the same place I’ll be attending medical school, which is also the same place my plastic surgeon did his fellowship! Small world!

After the anesthesiologist finished, my plastic surgeon came in. I removed my gown and he “marked me up,” which basically means he drew all the places he would be making incisions, the place he would reposition my nipple, and any other markings he needed. I asked him all my final questions and he assured me everything would be fine. He let me cover myself back up, then he shook my hand and left the room.

The nurse brought my family back for a few minutes. Then, they started administering anesthesia into my IV and that’s the last thing I remember. Honestly, I don’t even remember much about waking up from surgery or the ride home.

This is the picture my sister snapped of me right before I went into surgery.

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Did you have any techniques to help you relax the night before surgery and the morning of?

The night before surgery, I went and got a massage to help relieve the tension in my back and neck. This was the best idea! I didn’t even think about the fact that I wouldn’t be able to lay on my chest for months, so this was my last chance to get a massage for a very long time and I’m glad I took advantage of it. It also helped calm me down and get in a relaxed state of mind.

The morning of surgery, my sister drove me to the surgery center and we listened to worship music all the way there. Since it was so early in the morning, we were driving as the sun was coming up, and it was so peaceful to sing worship while watching the sunrise. It was a nice reminder that if God can paint such a beautiful picture with His creation, He could see me through surgery.

How long does the surgery take?

I think this really depends on the surgeon and how much tissue needs to be removed. My surgery lasted less than 2 hours.

Were you nervous about going under anesthesia?

Not really. I had been under anesthesia before to have my tonsils/adenoids removed, and again when I had my wisdom teeth removed. But this was definitely the biggest procedure I have ever had done. I was more nervous about the procedure than I was about the anesthesia.

How did you persuade your parents that a breast reduction was necessary?

My parents were pretty supportive of my surgery from the beginning. My dad was a little concerned about the psychological toll, but once I explained the psychological toll of having large breasts, he was on board. My family has been very supportive through this process.

Did you have large areolas before surgery? Do they resize them during the surgery?

Yes and yes. I had very large areolas before surgery, which was a result of my rapid breast growth. When you have a breast reduction, the surgeon will cut around the areola/nipple and move your nipple to the appropriate height. When they do this, they also reshape/resize the nipples to match the new size of your breasts.

Can a breast reduction and breast lift be done in the same procedure?

As far as I’m aware, a breast reduction usually consists of a lift also. When they remove excess tissue and close the incision, it lifts at the same time.

To watch an animation of how a breast reduction is performed, click here.

How bad is the scarring after surgery? What do your scars look like? How dark are they?

The scarring has not been as bad as I expected. I would imagine the scarring would be different for everyone based on things like skin color, skin elasticity, complications of surgery, experience of surgeon, technique used to close incisions, etc.

My scars look like an anchor and they are actually very light. I plan to start using scar cream and vitamin E to help reduce scarring once I’m sure the incisions are fully closed.

Did you feel immediate relief after surgery?

Yes! I never realized I had trouble breathing until after surgery when I discovered what it felt like to be able to breathe normally. I also have not experienced any back or neck pain since my surgery (other than the pain from sleeping in a chair for two weeks). It’s amazing the difference I can feel already!

What was the pain like during the first week?

Honestly, the pain wasn’t bad at all. This may be because I was taking narcotic painkillers or because I am young so my body is resilient. I’m not sure. But I didn’t really feel much pain. The only thing I felt for the first week or so was pressure when the drains were being emptied, but even that was minimal.

Did you have to have drains? Did they hurt while they were in? Did they hurt coming out?

Yes, I had drains for 5 days. I only really needed them for 2-3. However, I had my surgery on a Thursday, so the office was closed over the weekend and I had to wait until Monday to have them removed. They didn’t really hurt while they were in, but the longer they were in and the less drainage I had, the more I could feel them.

I got my drains out at 5 days post-op. When the nurse took them out, it felt like a whirlpool coming out of my breast. Before they were removed, I had imagined that they were just inserted at the underside of my breast. I had no idea they were coiled up in my breast tissue. When they came out, I could definitely feel it. Getting the drains out was probably the most painful part of this whole experience, but even that was maybe a 3 on a scale of 1-10.

How bad was the bruising after surgery?

It wasn’t as bad as I expected. Some people have liposuction on the sides of their breasts along with the actual breast reduction, but I didn’t have to have that done. My plastic surgeon said the liposuction actually hurts much more than the incisions and causes a lot more bruising. Overall, my bruising was minimal and did not turn to any dark colors. The darkest it ever became was a mustard yellow. It wasn’t too bad at all.

Were your stitches dissolvable? How long did it take them to dissolve?

Yes, my stitches were dissolvable (I think most are for this type of procedure). It took about two weeks for most of the stitches to dissolve, but the stitches on the end where the knot was tied took a bit longer (3-4 weeks). They were barely noticeable.

What bra would you recommend wearing after surgery?

The surgery center I went to gave me a surgical bra to wear for the first few days. I woke up in the surgical bra with dressings in place after my procedure. I had heard crazy things about how you won’t be able to lift your arms for a month and things of that nature. But the surgeon said that shouldn’t be a concern, and I was able to lift my arms and put on a more comfortable sports bra after about 5 days. Since then, I have been wearing over-the-head sports bras with no cups, no underwire, and no padding. Just the bare minimum. Honestly, after this surgery you won’t need a bra. Your breasts will be very perky on their own. I mostly wore a bra for the purpose of holding the gauze in place as my incisions were healing.

How long did it take you to get back to normal functioning after surgery?

I think “normal functioning” is a relative term. For the first week or so, I wasn’t able to really use my arms for anything. I gave myself my first shower on day 5. I didn’t drive until the end of the second week (after I was off narcotics). I slept in a recliner for two weeks. It’s still hard to sleep on my side at 5 weeks post-op, but I can manage. I still can’t reach things that are too high and force me to stretch too much. I’m not able to lift heavy things. But I’m not limited in very many things, and I think that’s great!

Have you experienced any negative things in relation to your breast reduction surgery?

The only negative thing I experienced in relation to my surgery was a blister on my left breast, which is currently healing and should be fine in the long run. Other than that, everything was seamless.

What did you experience during the first month post-op?

Day 1: I was extremely elated by the results of my surgery. I was also taking painkillers every four hours and couldn’t really feel much.

Day 2: I had my first post-op appointment with my surgeon and got to see my breasts for the first time. I was so happy and excited about the results. The dressings were removed but the steri-strips remained in place and the nurse put new dressings on the incisions. My breasts were very stiff and high up on my chest, but the surgeon said they would fall and settle over the next several weeks.

Day 3-4: I relaxed around the house, ate a lot of Italian ice, and watched a lot of Dancing with the Stars. I didn’t do much and barely used my arms. My family came over for dinner and I had a massive headache due to light sensitivity from the painkillers. I also experienced terrible nightmares from the painkillers.

Day 5: I got my drains out! It was such a weird sensation. (Read above about drain removal.) This was the first day I was able to take a shower as well. Man, was that an amazing feeling. I stopped taking my painkillers as soon as the drains were out because I was so tired of nightmares and migraines. The only medication I took from this point forward was Tylenol, and even that was usually only before bedtime. I also started noticing that my nipples were hypersensitive and very easily irritated. This was a sensation I was not used to because when my nipples stretched when my breasts grew, I lost most of my nipple sensation.

Day 10: I had another post-op appointment with my surgeon and he said everything was healing wonderfully. I had a small blister on the underside of my left breast, but he ensured me it was nothing to worry about because it would resolve itself.

Week 3: I left my family and went to stay with my boyfriend. He’s been a wonderful caretaker also. Healing progressed normally. My breasts started to fall and settle into a more natural shape. The blister started scabbing over and looked like it was resolving itself like the surgeon said it would. The nipple hypersensitivity I was experiencing in the first two weeks had resolved to a normal level of sensitivity.

Week 4: Everything was wonderful except the blister. When pieces of the scab began falling off, the blister opened up and got irritated. It grew and became concerning. I sent pictures to the surgeon, but he said it looked like it was healing fine.

Week 5: I’ve been putting MediHoney on the blister and it’s healing, slowly but surely. I have an appointment with my surgeon next week.

When will you know your new cup size?

It’ll take up to six months for my breasts to settle completely. Until then, the surgeon suggested I avoid buying bras with fixed cup sizes. For now, I’ll be rocking sports bras, bralettes, or bandeau tops – because hey, I can do that now!

Has your breast reduction taken a psychological toll on you?

Yes, but in the best way! I am so confident about my body. I love looking in the mirror. I feel like a normal woman in her 20s. I can go shopping for cute clothes and wear bralettes/bandeaus. I can go without a bra if I need to. I absolutely love it!

If I’m being completely honest, there was one day where I felt a negative psychological toll, but not from what you’d expect. There was one day where I looked in the mirror and wondered if I should have gone with a smaller size. I wondered why I asked him to keep them so big. But by the following morning when I looked in the mirror, my worries were gone and I was back to loving my results.

 

Again, I am so happy I made the decision to have a breast reduction. It is the best thing I have ever done for myself. 

Here are some pictures of me after my breast reduction. Keep in mind, I am currently only 5 weeks post-op, so I have a lot more healing to do. But I am in love with the newfound confidence I have because of this life change!

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I advocate for breast reduction because it has made such a profound positive impact on my life.

If you have any questions about this procedure, please feel free to reach out. You can contact me by clicking here or by messaging me on Instagram (@whitecoatwisdom).

 

Peace and blessings,

Michelle

 

 

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