I Had a Breast Reduction at 18. Here's My Story.

I had to hold my plastic surgeon’s hand as I lay on the operating bed. I was jittery and shivering - a combination of nerves and the cold, sterile room. It was the adrenaline rush that I had been waiting for years to feel, but in the moment, I was still scared. The surgeon gave me something to help me relax because I was shaking so badly, and then a minute later I received the anesthesia. I quickly fell asleep. 

When I woke up, all I felt was pain. I had been under anesthesia before and was aware that it made me espeically groggy. Despite the cloud of sleep and drugs in my head, though, I knew that I hurt. My chest ached, and I mumbled for more pain medication. A nurse or doctor in the recovery room gave me more medication to help with the searing sensation of burning nerves. It took me another two hours to really wake up. I was rolled out of the hospital weak, tired, and high from the anesthesia. I also left with 34B cups in replacement of my 34DDD’s. 

This was taken right before I went into surgery. Photo courtesy of Sara Lo Presti 

I had known that I wanted a breast reduction since I was 15. Puberty itself hadn’t been a problem; I got a little taller and became a B cup. However, after the rest of my body evened out, my breasts continued to grow. It was like the hormones had concentrated themselves in that one area and refused to stop working. I never got acne, and I didn’t really get curves. I only got breasts. By the time I was a junior in high school, I was between a DD and DDD. It was in my junior year that I began to change how I dressed and saw my body. 

My body felt foreign to me, so I dressed like it wasn’t mine. I took advantage of my tall frame and exclusively wore leggings with baggy shirts. Maybe people just thought that I was lazy. I truly did not care, though, what people perceived me to be as long as they didn’t think of me as the girl with the big breasts. To my credit, I hid my breasts very successfully. The only people who could knew about them where those who danced with me and saw me in a leotard, which always provoked massive anxiety for me in the dressing room. However, the overwhelming majority of people that I interacted with on a daily basis never saw my chest. 

I give my parents immense credit because they listened to me when I told them that my body did not feel right with my breasts. My mom had seen me break down in tears whenever we went shopping, and my dad trusted me to know when something was wrong with my body. They could see, too, how having big breasts permeated into every facet of my life. My breasts were both physical and figurative weights that I carried with me everyday. My parents were supportive, then, when my gynecologist gave me the go-ahead to talk to a plastic surgeon.

I don't have many pictures that highlight my breasts. This is one of the few photos that I could find, which was taken about two days before the surgery. Photo courtesy of Abigail Lo Presti 

Almost immediately into the consultation with the surgeon, he told me that he thought I was a qualified patient for a breast reduction. He diagnosed me with macromastia and took pictures of my breasts to send to the insurance company. I was ecstatic to have a professional confirm that what I had been feeling for years was a medical, but correctable, problem. I needed the validation that it was okay to feel mismatched in my body. The surgeon understood that my body was out of my control, which was both terrifying and crippling to me. I knew then that I would get a breast reduction, I just did not know when.

Unsurprisingly, the insurance company denied my initial claim to cover the surgery, which normally costs between $5,000-$8,000. I wrote the rebuttal letter myself, citing the fact that my weight had been stabilized for two years, which indicated that I was done growing. I had multiple doctor’s notes confirming that I had been complaining about my breasts for years. I went through my diet and exercise routine to prove that I did not need to lose weight. At 5’8” and 140 pounds, I was not going to endanger my body through starvation to possibly reduce my breasts to a D cup. Luckily, my insurance agreed with me the second time and accepted my claim. My parents, surgeon, and I quickly set a date for the procedure: May 29, 2018.

The surgery happened almost immediately after I got back from college. I needed to work, so I hoped to spend through the first week of June recovering before starting my job as a waitress. I didn’t really say goodbye to my breasts or do anything sentimental. I wanted them gone, and I walked into the hospital on the 19th scared, but ready.

The recovery was the hardest week of my life. The breast reduction tore apart my body. In order to remove almost two pounds of fat from my breasts, the surgeon had to take off my nipples and slice upwards from the base of my breasts. Nerves, fat, and tissue were all rearranged, if not totally taken out, from my body. The bruising was spectacular. When I was able to take the bandages off two days after the surgery, I almost fainted. My mom actually did. I was trapped between joy at the size of my breasts and horror at how my body looked. My breasts were so small, but they looked mangled. The stitches were nowhere near dissolved. My skin looked like thick curtain fabric that had been hastily sewn together. 

For the first 48 hours, I had to keep my breasts wrappped in these bandages. My stomach and arms are orange from part of an anesthetic used during surgery. I was very bloated during this time from the anesthesia. Photo courtesy of Sara Lo Presti

For the first week, I was incapacitated. I was too weak to open pill bottles because the surgery had put so much stress on my arm muscles. I had to sleep propped upright to reduce the swelling and help the breasts fall into their natural shape. As a result, though, I slept terrribly. The pain also kept me up at night. I spent my days hunched over on my couch, holding ice packs to my chest. In addition, I was, and still am, an incredibly active person. The recovery period marked the first time in five months that I was not able to work out. I felt so physically and mentally debilitated.

I ended up sleeping with the bandages on for about a week because the sports bras hurt my back too much. I am holding a bag of frozen corn over my chest. Underneath my armpits are more ice packs to try to reduce the pain under my arms and bruising. The stitching on the side of my breasts was the most painful and swollen. Photo courtesy of Sara Lo Presti 

My mom finally dragged me outside to visit our favorite farm and walk around the area. She refused to let me wallow and instead made me go visit cows and sheep. This day trip was the first time that I had been outside since the surgery, and even though I mostly hobbled around, it felt so good to actually be out in public. Two days later, my then-boyfriend broke up with me over Skype, which almost threw me off again. I felt so pathetic as I cupped ice packs to my chest, crying in front of the computer screen. That was my lowest of low points. With my family, though, I continued to slowly recover. Ten days after the surgery, I was cleared to resume life with normal activity levels and sleep patterns. I began to live again.

B Cups!!! This was the first bikini top that I ever felt confirdent wearing. Photo courtesy of Abigail Lo Presti 

It has been almost a year since I got the surgery, and it remains the best decision that I ever made. I finally get to dress how I’ve always wanted. I get to wear bralettes (!!), even though most days I go bra-less. I have not had to wear an underwire bra since the surgery. I’m gradually improving my posture too, as I’m working to correct years of a hunching over. My confidence has sky rocketed. People who weren’t aware of the surgery commented on how I had become so much happier and engaged over the summer. The reduction enabled me to become myself.  I had not realized how important bodily autonomy was until I lost it. Before the surgery, I genuinely did not feel like I was living in my own body. My breasts controlled me. Through the surgery, I was able to regain independence as an individual. 

I still have scars on my breasts. They’ve faded significantly, but it is obvious that I have had some sort of a procedure. I couldn’t care less, though. The white and purple lines have become a sense of pride for me. I got my body back, and now I have permanent reminders. 

Photo Courtesy of Abigail Lo Presti