The person I am in college is not the person I was in high school. There are a lot of changes I went through, but the most life-changing one was the choice to have a breast reduction surgery after I graduated high school, the summer before I started college. A breast reduction is where breast tissue aka fat, is removed in order to reduce pain caused by the breasts being too large for a person’s body. My plastic surgeon described it as the most rewarding surgery he has done in his career for patients because you can actively see how it changes their confidence. Here are the four things you should know about a breast reduction.
You Need a New Wardrobe
The purpose of a breast reduction is to do what it says it will do, reduce the size of your breasts. The amount of fat being taken out varies by person. If you are paying out of pocket, you can decide what size you would like. If insurance is covering the surgery, they also have a say in how much fat can be removed. Prior to my reduction, I wore a size 40G, but I was closer to a 40H. My doctor and I discussed what size would best fit my body, and we settled on a D/DD because anything smaller wouldn’t match me. After surgery, I had to get all new bras, which was scary because I never got the opportunity to buy strapless and sports bras that actually provide support, since I had big boobs from such a young age. I went down in a shirt size because I didn’t need the extra room for my boobs, and I finally felt like clothes fit me correctly. It was so freeing to shop with the boobs that finally fit me and did not define me.
Give Your Body Time to Recover
Going into my surgery, I was told that you’re not in a lot of pain, but it is uncomfortable. I’d say that is an accurate representation. I remember walking out of the hospital standing up straight and feeling so much lighter. Your chest is extremely swollen for the first few months, so how your boobs look a few weeks out, is not how they will stay. They are definitely smaller though, and I always joke with my friends that I have small boobs now because of how big they were previously. I certainly underestimated how uninterested in food and how exhausted I would be the first week, which makes sense since I had almost four pounds removed. Your body needs time to recover and adjust, and it was a lot more work to change the gauze pads than expected. It took three months for the incisions to fully close shut and become scar tissue.
Insurance Is a Battle
Many people, myself included, have the misconception that all plastic surgeries are paid for out of pocket and only for cosmetic purposes. That is not entirely true, and there are medically necessary reasons that a plastic surgery procedure is required. I can only speak to breast reductions, but it took over a year to build a case for why it was medically necessary. This started with a chronic back, shoulder, and neck pain diagnosis and macromastia diagnosis from my primary care physician. I did physical therapy, saw a chiropractor, massue, physiatrist, and competed on my high school’s swim team, practicing 10 or more hours a week. All the professionals agreed; I gained muscle, but my pain never left after treatments. Eventually, my doctor referred me to a surgeon who worked with me to compile all my evidence, including pictures to submit to my insurance’s board. They denied me both times because it was not deemed medically necessary. The indents in my shoulders from my bra straps, the stretch marks from the weight of my chest dragging my skin down, the sores under my breasts, the way my back arched over, all were not enough. My doctor said it was because I was 17 at the time and insurance company’s feel you have to be an adult. I was two months away from my 18th birthday at the time of my surgery, and now that I am 20, a legal adult, I would still make the same choice for my body.
The Scars are Forever
Doctors talk about the physical scars with any surgery, but the mental ones are equally as hard. The physical scars are covered by all bras and swimsuits I own since they are around my nipple and go down and underneath (it’s the anchor method). Only people I give access to are able to see them, so it’s not something many people get to see. There are also some parts of the scar tissue that took a while to gain sensation back and some spots are still numb. While I have come out a lot better emotionally, it still hurts to look back at how unhappy I was. I can see the girl with long hair to cover her big boobs in pictures, wearing clothes too big for the rest of her body and standing short to not stand out. It’s sad, but I also recognize I would not be the confident woman I am today without my story. Not everyone in my life was supportive either. I had close members of my church community tell me that I was perfectly made in God’s image and I was destroying his creation by mutilating my body. My aunt called me the day before my surgery and told me she thought I shouldn’t go through with it because I did not try hard enough to lose weight. Those scars are forever, but I’m still here and the love and support I got, defeats them.
If you or a loved one is thinking about a breast reduction, get started with the process now. It’s a long emotionally and physically draining process, but I would not change my decision for the world. If you don’t know what someone who is going through this feels like, walk around with 2.5 lb weights attached to either side of your chest for a day. That physical pain of extra weight that does not fit the rest of your body is taxing on your neck, shoulders, and spine, sometimes leading to headaches. The stares you get from strangers, either fetishizing you or pitying you, makes the whole thing worse. I fully stand by my decision and I encourage anyone else who is going through something similar to consider the surgery. Do it for yourself. I will never regret my decision.