Sunday, August 4, 2019

The Best Decision I Ever Made, And I Was 19

I got my first bra when I was 12. From the time I was 12 years old to when I was 19, my bra size went from non-existent to a 44GGG. Yes, you're reading that right. At 19 years old, and only 4'10" tall, I wore a 44 triple-G bra. The same size as Anna Nicole Smith. Remember her?! Not fun, let me tell you that. 

So, at 19, I had a breast reduction. Yup, admitting it to the world. 

Apparently this is a taboo topic, similar to infertility, depression, and plastic surgery in general, but I think it's time to share my story in hopes that it will help someone else. 

I started asking my parents about having the surgery when I was 16. I was struggling with my weight and my identity and lacked self-confidence like you couldn't even imagine. I would wake up before my mom and put on my bra then a sports bra then a fitted tank top and running shorts. I would then take duct tape and wrap it around myself to try and squish myself smaller so I didn't look 'so big' to everyone else. I would then put my clothes on over that mess. Let me tell you, growing up in Florida, it was hot. And being wrapped in duct tape was not fun. But I felt at the time it was necessary. 

When I went to college, I continued this pattern but lost some weight during my freshman and sophomore year from walking so much around campus. And sweating. A lot. I again was asking my parents for the surgery. It got to me asking them weekly. We looked into it with our health insurance and because it was classified as an elective cosmetic surgery it was not covered. 

I started going to the chiropractor every week and doing yoga. My back was a disaster and I was forming permanent indentations in my shoulders from my bra straps. Honestly, I'd get a ton of attention from men but it was NOT the kind of attention I wanted nor was it welcomed. I was incredibly self-conscious and tried everything under the sun to hide them. 

During my sophomore year of college, I went to my dad and pretty much cried that I had to have the surgery. I was struggling internally with my appearance, I was physically uncomfortable, and I felt I needed it done to be able to function normally. The only way to describe was to say it was like having two giant watermelons strapped to your chest. We made an appointment with our insurance provider and an attorney to discuss options. They told me that because I was overweight that I needed to lose 25 pounds first and if my chest size didn't decrease they would consider coverage. I busted my ass and started to run, I barely ate anything, and I lost 25 pounds in less than two months. My bra size did not go down. Not a single cup. 

Back to plead with them we went, along with a note from my doctor stating he recommended it as well as one from my chiropractor. And in October, my surgery was approved. I went and met with my plastic surgeon, who was a family friend and had done work on my dad as well as other family friends. We scheduled it for the first day of winter break so I could be home with my mom for my recovery time. They said average recovery was about a week. Winter break was three weeks so I should have been golden. 

The morning of my surgery both of my parents came and the doctors prepped me, drew all over me, mapping out what I'd look like after. Because I was so endowed in my chest, they literally had to remove my nipple, make it smaller, and put it back on and reattach all of my nerves. I was also two different sizes between my left side and right side so they were adjusting that as well. I remember looking in the mirror before my surgery at all of the marks and drawings and praying that this would be worth it. It was the scariest thing I'd ever experienced in my life. And the scariest thing I'd ever seen in my life. It was like a bad game of connect the dots. 

They wheeled me in and told my parents it would be about an hour and a half, maybe two hours. Over four and a half hours later, Dr. Berger (my plastic surgeon) came out. My dad asked "Is she perfect?" and Dr. Berger said, "Well, she was already perfect, I just made her more perfect." I'll never forget my dad telling me this, as he still tells this story often, over 20 years later. Still makes me giggle. 

He explained to my parents that they remover over nine and a half pounds from my chest, needed more incisions than they originally had planned because they found scar-tissue, lumps, cysts, and buildup inside. I woke up about two hours after surgery was finished (which I don't remember doing) where I was assessed and checked on and then discharged to go home. I was wheeled out to the car, carried into the car, got home, carried into the house, and was put in a reclining position on my mom's couch. I slept on that spot for close to 20 hours. The meds had a dramatic affect on me and literally knocked me on my ass. 

The first time I woke up, my mom walked me into the bathroom. She took my gown off and I looked in the mirror and I cried. I could not stop crying. I was in complete and utter shock at how I looked. I was practically flat-chested. I was still taped and had almost like saran wrap wrapped around me holding everything in tight. My entire body was black and blue and still covered in markings. But that shock was legit and real. And it hit me HARD. I think I stood there crying with my mom for a solid hour. I looked SO different and was so scared by how I looked. I know they said the first week you are much smaller because everything is held in extra-tight to heal and you stay wrapped but the drastic change was just a lot for me to handle. Crying was all I could do. And a lot of it. 

My mom helped me change my bandages and I saw my incisions for the first time, where my scars would be. They went from in between my breasts at the top of my breast bone all the way down and around under up to almost my armpits. Then another incision up the center of my breast to my nipple then up and around in a circle. And they were RED. Bright red. And my skin was WHITE. Super pale having never ever seen the sun WHITE. That then also sent me into a downward spiral. I did not even think about the scars. 

After a few hours of crying and changing bandages, I went back to the couch and rested. I ate a little bit and had some to drink. I then went back to sleep for another 20ish hours. I continued in this routine of sleeping for almost an entire day for just about a week. The pain was incredible and the pressure around my chest from being wrapped so tight was almost excruciating. My body was in shock and the only way to deal with it was to sleep. 

One week after the surgery, I went back to get checked on and evaluated. The wrapping and dressings were coming off that day and we were going to see how the surgery turned out and if anything needed to be fixed. THIS would be the tell-tale sign of if it was worth it. Dr. Berger unwrapped me in what seemed like slow-motion and I remember it clear as day 22 years later. It was like unwrapping the best present ever, as silly as that might sound. I was SO scared upon that first glance that first day that I was going to be flat-chested after being big for so long that it ended up being perfect. Absolutely perfect. 

We talked about how uncomfortable I was and how much pain I was in and he said my body was pretty much in complete shock. He took just under ten pounds off of my chest so not only was my chest healing but my back was trying to figure out what was happening, my stomach muscles were shifting, and the rest of my body was pretty much like WTF. 

The next two weeks were a struggle. I still had to wear tight-fitting surgical wrapping around my chest and couldn't really do much. I remember getting a lot of videos from Blockbuster and a lot of take-out! I didn't go out and see my friends. In fact, I only told my closet friends I was having it done. I was rather embarrassed of the whole thing but looking back I wish I hadn't been. 

I was home for break for 3 and a half weeks and when I went back to college for spring semester I looked completely different. I wasn't allowed to wear a real bra with underwire for a few months and couldn't bend or carry much for the first month back at school either. Thank goodness I had it done in winter and not summer. Sweating in Florida heat plus being wrapped in surgical dressings would not have been enjoyable. 

I remember walking into my first class coming back from break and EVERYONE stopping me asking what I did and telling me how great I looked. I told them what I'd had done and they were all not only incredibly supportive but most told me how brave I was for doing it. 

About 6 weeks later I had my final checkup with Dr. Berger and I was all cleared for working out, regular activity again, and buying some new clothes. I had gone from a 44GGG to a 36C. Talk about a change. A drastic change. 

But, I was still overweight and wanted to resolve that. Having had this surgery, EVERYTHING was easier. I could walk, I could run, I could stretch, I could bend. You name it. Everything was doable. It was like I was a new person. 

Over the next 6 months, I lost almost 100 pounds (including the 9ish they took out from my surgery) and 22 years later those 100 pounds are still off. 

I still have the scars, although they are MUCH lighter than they were. They faded over time thankfully, but they're still there. 

I have scar-tissue that formed along my scars as I've gotten older. I was told this would happen so I was prepared for it. 

My bra size grew as I got older. I am now a 38DD. But I had the surgery at 19. We knew I was still growing but I was not going to wait anymore. 

I have had a child and while my breasts got bigger while I was pregnant, they went back down afterwards. 

Dr. Berger gave me a 20-year guarantee that they'd be perfect and bouncy and fabulous and 22 years later he lived up to his agreement. Ha ha. 

In 1998 it cost a little over $24,000 for my surgery from beginning to end.  Shocking, I know. And I am ever-so-grateful it was covered by our health insurance at the time. Had we paid out of pocket it would've been worth every penny. 

I am so glad that at 19 years old I knew that this was what I needed to do for myself both physically and emotionally. It took a huge toll on me in many aspects and while the recovery was difficult, it was worth it.

Sharing my story was hard to do. REALLY hard. It's on the internet now, folks. Forever. 
I did it because I was asked by someone to share so others could benefit from it. I hope they do...

 Things I get asked when someone knows I've had it done: 

- Would I do it again? 

Absolutely. Without question. 

- Was it worth it?

Absolutely. Without question. 

- Going back, would you change anything? 

Nope. Not one single thing. Although, I might have asked for a tummy tuck and some liposuction while they were in there, but otherwise I wouldn't change a thing. 

I hope this helps you, your sister, your neighbor, your friend, or someone who finds this someway or somehow. If you're debating doing it, do it. It's worth it.  

If you want to know more or have questions, feel free to reach out! 

1 comment :

  1. How incredible that at such a young age you could make such a life changing decision. I got a little choked up at Dr. Berger tell your dad he made you a bit MORE perfect. And I had no idea the price of this surgery. Can you imagine what it is now? So glad this all worked out for you and that you could enlighten others who may be in the midst of this struggle too!—Melody