That time I lopped off my boobs… for science

Editor’s note: This post has been in draft mode for almost six months. I have been debating for years on whether or not I should share my story. I mean, it’s personal. SUPER personal. But, I remember trying to search for information when I was going through this process and there weren’t a lot of first hand – or boob – accounts. 

Ok, I didn’t really lop them off for science… but things just sound better when you say you’re doing them for science. Example:

“I’m drinking this beer while writing this blog… for science.”

“I’m eating this pizza… for science.”

Back to the topic at hand – boobs (see what I did there?).

In June 2006, I had a double reduction mammoplasty and lift. In other words, I had a doctor cut off some of my boobs and lift ’em up where they should have been for my age.

Having a breast reduction at such a young age (23) was a risk. If I ever have kids, there’s a good chance I won’t be physically able to breastfeed (which I would like to do if I have kids), because my milk ducts may have been damaged during the surgery. I could have lost all sensation/feeling (in case you pervs really want to know, there is diminished sensitivity but it’s still mostly there). Not to mention all the possible complications that come with major surgery…

But, I was 23 and had boobs that sagged almost to my waist. They were ginormous, heavy and caused significant damage to my spine/neck. A “normal” neck has a curve like this:

Image: http://boneandspine.com/
Image: http://boneandspine.com/

My neck curved the opposite direction. As you can imagine, my posture was horrible, I had headaches all the time, I constantly had a rash, my shoulders had permanent indentations from my bra straps and I was almost always suffering from some type of back/neck/shoulder pain or tightness. Physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments, massages and anti-inflammatory medications just weren’t enough.

Not to mention, I was always self-conscious about my breasts. I developed earlier than many of my classmates. In high school, I had a classmate seriously ask me if my breasts were real. He thought that this midwestern 16-year-old had implants. My goodness.

After countless appointments to discuss my care, my primary physician suggested I consider a breast reduction. She said that I was a good candidate and that due to all the x-rays, MRIs and countless therapy sessions, I would have an excellent case to get my insurance company to pay for the procedure since I needed it for medical and not cosmetic reasons. I told her I would consider it and asked if she would refer me to a plastic surgeon. I can still remember the conversation.

Dr. H: I’m going to send in a referral for you to Dr. -. He’s a breast expert.

Me: I’m pretty sure EVERY guy thinks he’s a breast expert.

Dr. H: *laughs* * rolls eyes*

Me: I’m just saying.

Dr. H: Well he is an expert in breast reconstruction – he does a lot of surgeries for breast cancer survivors.

Me: Thanks for the clarification. Now I feel like an asshole.

Sidenote:  I just googled my surgeon’s name. He now has a website. With before-and-after photos of surgeries like mine. THANK GOD I DIDN’T FIND MY BOOBS ON THAT SITE. And no, I won’t tell you his name. 

I remember walking into the doctor’s office and trying not to compare it to the only images I knew of plastic surgeon’s clinics – you know, the ones I saw on Dr. 90210 or Nip/Tuck (which was my FAVORITE show at the time). I remember hoping my surgeon was as gorgeous as Nip/Tuck’s Dr. Christian Troy (but less of a dick). He was very nice but definitely a plastic surgeon. He wore a suit that probably cost more than my car and reminded me a little of Dr. Robert Rey of Dr. 90210 (not in looks, but in demeanor/personality). He was clearly gifted and very intelligent. We talked for awhile, he examined me and then things got awkward. He measured. He took pictures. He measured some more. It was super embarrassing. Here was a 40-something strange guy manhandling my girls… well, for science.

The doctor said I had very heavy, dense breast tissue. He agreed with Dr. H that, based on my history and his examination, I would have an excellent case to present to my insurance company for medical coverage for the procedure. He answered a bunch of my questions and sent me home with some pamphlets and paperwork if I decided to go forward with the surgery.

I don’t remember how long I thought about the decision. It was my last year of college and I was taking a full course load and working full-time (45+ hrs a week) at the TV station. Luckily, I had excellent insurance coverage at the time.

After I made the decision to have the surgery, it was almost six months before my insurance approved the claim and cleared me for surgery. My doctors, therapists and HR director at work all fought for me! Thank goodness they did – that surgery would have been expensive!

The story I told most people (especially coworkers) was that I was having back surgery. Which was kinda sorta true. I was having surgery to fix something that was causing back problems. Friends and family knew what was happening. Some coworkers knew… and I wonder if they thought it was odd that I came back to work only wearing baggy men’s polo shirts for months after surgery.

(The real reason for that was I couldn’t wear an underwire bra for about six months… and even with my reduced cup size, the only non-underwire bras I could find were sports bras. No padding or extra lining. GAH. I needed extra room to cover up the parts of my anatomy that – to this day – still require some type of padding to prevent a 24/7 embarrassing situation. Ladies, you know what I’m talking about.)

The recovery was difficult. I can’t lie about that. I couldn’t lift my arms. My mom had to change the dressings ON MY BOOBS. I sobbed as she changed the gauze. I mean, I was 23 and my mom was touching my bloody boobs. I had frozen peas or carrots down my shirt at all times. I couldn’t shower for a week. It was a couple of weeks before I could shampoo my own hair.

I’d have to say the weirdest thing about recovery was “phantom boobs.” You know how after someone has an amputation, they talk about being able to feel the missing limb? That’s how I felt. I had severe pain – but it was two inches beyond where my boobs now were. It was weird. It was funny. It was months before the phantom boobs went away.

Would I do it again? Absolutely. Even with the oozing incisions that got infected, the painful weeks following surgery and the scars I’m left with – there’s no way I would go through life with those things. Seriously. They were monstrous. Almost five pounds – FIVE FREAKING POUNDS – were removed.

Besides… when else in my life will I sit in a plastic surgeon’s waiting room playing the “WHAT SURGERY DID SHE HAVE” game with my mother. I mean, really. That was awesome.

I kept this surgery a secret for awhile. I didn’t want people to judge me for having “cosmetic” surgery. But over the past five years, I have become more open about sharing that I had a breast reduction. Hell, I make jokes about the best weight loss I ever had – five pounds in just HOURS.

So that’s the story of chopping off my boobs for science. I welcome your non-pervy questions in the comments below.

 

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Of course, one of the reasons why I decided to go through with the surgery was that my breasts were so big it was difficult for me to work out. I used them as an excuse to be lazy. I thought that after I recovered, I would be able to lose the weight I gained in college.

Well… it’s now been more than seven years (and six months since I started writing this post) and I weigh even more. Sure, I lost almost 40 pounds a couple of years ago. Then, I kept getting hurt. I kept pushing myself too hard. Then I had to cut back on the exercise, but didn’t modify my food intake. I was training for half marathons, and even when you’re trying to lose weight you need to keep a certain food level so you don’t pass out. I’m just saying.

I’ve spent more than a year now on the injured list. I’ve started baby stepping to working out and then something happens – my ankle swells up, I get a sinus infection (with a side of vertigo), I throw out my back… It is SO FREAKING frustrating. Two years ago, I was nearly halfway to my goal weight. I felt great. I worked out five times a week. I GAINED BACK ALL THAT WEIGHT and a little extra. For good measure.

Damnit. I didn’t want this post to go to a dark place when I decided to finish it and publish. But I haven’t blogged in months. Because I haven’t had anything to share. I’ve been eating feelings and OMG I AM SO OFF TOPIC NOW. Kthxbai.