What It’s Really Like to Have a Breast Reduction
A concoction of anxiety, absolute fear, and excitement churned in my stomach. The date was January 29, 2018, and I was about to be wheeled into the operation room for my breast reduction surgery. Inside my hospital gown, I felt utterly exposed, despite the fact that doctors and nurses had been looking at my naked torso for months now — marking up, taking photos, and analyzing how to achieve the perfect look after the breast reduction surgery. At the end of it all, I knew it would all be worth it.
Why Have the Breast Reduction Surgery?
I had considered the breast reduction surgery since I was fifteen years old when I realized that my boobs were larger than I — or other people — were comfortable with. In middle school, I was constantly called into the office for dress code violations. Despite the fact that I wore the same v-neck Hollister tops that other girls wore on a daily basis, the school administrators were less than tactful in saying that these trends didn’t “work” on my body. People constantly called out my breast size, even at 14 years old. Prepubescent boys threw balled up pieces of paper down the gap of my shirt, and older men leered at me whenever I went to the beach with my family. While other girls my age could wear cute string bikinis off-the-rack at the mall, I had to shop at specialty stores that catered to my size. At 15, I was already a triple-D.
After I entered high school, I did everything in my power to hide my curves. I wore oversized sweaters that “skimmed” my breasts. In hindsight, I realize that I looked about five sizes larger than I actually was. I tried everything to blend in. I avoided button-up shirts at all costs to avoid the heinous gaping that would inevitably occur. Eventually, I found a total of 2 bras that fit and were comfortable. Both bras were extremely expensive European brands that were nude, lacy, and totally grandma-ish. Still, when beach days and school dances rolled around, I was reminded once again that I wasn’t like the other girls. I couldn’t wear strapless dresses, shop at Victoria’s Secret, or borrow a bathing suit from a friend should the sleepover turn into a spontaneous pool party.
The Dreaded Bra Fitting
When I entered college, the infamous freshman 15 reared its ugly head. Neither of my old bras fit anymore, and I was forced to do the one thing big-busted girls dread more than anything — go and get fitted for a new bra. Entering Macy’s — aka the mecca for large grandma bras — I anxiously entered the fitting room with the obliging and comforting assistant. As she slipped the measuring tape across my breasts, I prepared myself for her assessment. She remarked that I was a 34G. I was shocked, upset, and knew that my dreams of wearing a “normal” bra or wedding dress were practically out the window. It was in that moment that I knew a breast reduction was not just an idea milling around in my head. It was an inevitability for me.
Two years went by, and I continued to put off thinking about the surgery. However, I remained overwhelmingly self-conscious. When I looked at my naked body in the mirror, I would lift my breasts to try and see what I would look like after the surgery I knew I would have one day. In all of my Instagram photos, I would Facetune my breasts to look smaller. My back hurt tremendously on a daily basis. The grooves indented on my shoulders from my bra straps were red and swollen by the end of every day. I realized that this surgery was no longer just related to how I looked, but how I physically felt in my body.
Getting it Covered by Insurance
The summer after my sophomore year of college, I began researching what I would need to do in order to have the breast reduction surgery. I didn’t come from a wealthy family and knew that in order to have it done, it would need to be partially or completely covered by my insurance company. I met with a doctor who explained that I would first need to go to physical therapy to prove that my back and neck problems could not be cured without the surgery. For three days a week that entire summer, I traveled 45 minutes to go to physical therapy. It involved back exercises, weights, squats, and everything in between to try and strengthen my back, neck, and core. Though the physical therapy did help with my posture, it did virtually nothing to fix the constant weight I was carrying around day in and day out. I received my certification that I had undergone the physical therapy and scheduled my breast reduction for the closest possible date.
Luckily, I did not need to lose any weight prior to my surgery. Some insurance companies require this if you’re overweight, reasoning that large breast size may be affected by excess body weight in general. However, I was within the weight requirement that proved my large breasts were not caused by my weight. In fact, my breasts inhibited me from working out as often as I would like to.
In between the summer and January, I met with my surgeon as often as I could. I traveled back and forth between my home state of Connecticut and New York City, where I was spending my fall semester interning and taking classes. The first surgeon I met with was not in my network. I had to find a new one relatively last minute. For anyone looking to get their surgery covered by insurance, always make sure that the surgeon you’re talking with is in your insurance network. Otherwise, you may be wasting much-needed time. Though it’s an extremely common surgery — surgeons saw an 11% increase in breast reductions in 2017 — you’ll still need to ensure that you’re following the protocol set in place to get it covered by insurance.
The Day of the Surgery
Finally, it was the week of my surgery. In my pre-op appointment, my surgeon marked up where he would be making the incisions and explained the details of the surgery. Since I would be having what’s called a “free nipple graft,” my chances of breastfeeding would be drastically reduced. Further, the doctor explained that the graft may not take, and I might even lose my nipple post-surgery. This was terrifying news to hear. I wondered if the surgery was worth it. In the end, I reasoned that the chances of a successful surgery outweighed the possible complications, which were slim considering I was a healthy, young, non-smoker.
I awoke after the surgery to multiple nurses explaining that the surgery had been a complete and utter success. I felt extremely sore and every bump and curve in the road on the ride home felt like being hit by a truck. Bandaged up in my oversized black zip-up sweatshirt from Walmart (which I bought specifically for the occasion), I lowered myself into bed. I had to sleep sitting up for a couple of weeks but found that I could slightly turn to the side and lean against a pillow to satisfy my stomach-sleeping habit. After the first day, I continued to feel sore and achy, but the pain meds aided in that. Every time I looked down at my bandaged, swollen breasts, I couldn’t help but smile. Even under the gauze, I could see how small they were. A couple of days post-surgery, when I could finally get up and walk around with relative ease, I tried on one of my old v-neck shirts. I could have cried with happiness. I felt that this was how I was always supposed to look. In the end, my entire life-changing surgery only cost me $250 out-of-pocket.
When I returned to school two weeks after the breast reduction, I realized how monumental the surgery had been to my life. I could finally wear the slinky going-out clothes college girls my age had been wearing for two and a half years. Moreso, I could wear them without a bra. I felt lighter than air.
One Year Later
Almost one year after the surgery, the surgery barely crosses my mind. Sure, when I hook up with a guy I give them a heads up about my now mostly-faded scars. When people ask, “would you ever get plastic surgery?” I always remark, to their surprise, that I’ve had it. For the most part, however, I feel the same way that I did the first time I tried on an old shirt and looked “normal.” I felt that this was how I was always supposed to look. I went from a 34G to a 34C and couldn’t be happier.
For anyone considering a breast reduction surgery, make sure you have all the information about what you’ll need to get it covered by insurance. Also, research any complications that may arise. Think about the feelings you may have about your changed body after you go under the knife. It’s definitely not a decision that every large-breasted woman will make, but it’s one that I would never change for the world. When people say that this surgery changed their life, believe them. I know that it completely changed mine.