Lets dive into this: I started my period at nine years old. Around the same time, I was fitted for my first bra- it was a big deal- mom wanted my first bra to be something I could wear for a while because she thought developing so young must be a fluke. Well, the bra we bought was an uncomfortable B almost C cup (whatever that meant). I was too small for teen and adult bras, but too big for training bras. I actually chose not to wear bras until late into fourth grade when I began to grow at a faster speed and my baggy t shirts couldn’t hide my growing breasts. By sixth grade, I was a D cup but squeezing into a C. I will admit that at the time, I was proud that I was developing quickly. I felt like I had something other girls didn’t. It wasn’t long before I had too much.
When I was in middle school someone whistled at me from a muddy truck, my mom shouted back at them “She’s 12!” I was embarrassed for the first time about my body. Further into middle school, boys would dare me that I couldn’t press my elbows together behind my back. I fell for it once. People, mostly girls, had no issue with touching my breasts without permission; to the point where it stopped bothering me, it was normal. Suddenly, everyone had something to say about my boobs.
My male gym teacher told me I needed to wear a sports bra in seventh grade; I was wearing two. I was humiliated. When I bleached my hair after a horrible experiment with neon colors and black, a specific 8th grader began calling me Malibu barbie, and then a few more joined in. My brother and I went to Fred Meyers and bought a hair dye that was a few shades darker than my natural blonde so Malibu Barbie would die. She did eventually, especially after I cut my hair short.
In high school, I was a cheerleader, I was fit, my body was healthy, but I looked frumpy in comfortable and modest clothing. If I wore what was trendy, I looked like I was one of those toys that you squeeze and soft stuff spills out until you stop squeezing.
I was an E cup by my sophomore year of high school and had been banished to the realm of ugly granny bras and one piece bathing suits that didn’t fit my long torso. When I found sports bras for cheer leading that fit and had underwire, I bought two and they were my daily bras. By the time I graduated high school, I was an I cup and squeezing my boobs into tight sports bras that didn’t fit anymore because I couldn’t find bras that did fit and I couldn’t afford to special order any.
All through high school I begged my mother to consider a breast reduction. I was tired of being “Brette with the big boobs.” I wanted to be taken seriously by my peers and the adults in my life. My breasts were ugly and painful underneath the clothing, but that didn’t matter, I should be “thankful for what I was given,” and “ women pay a lot of money for boobs like yours.” But they don’t. Women buy boobs that are perky and sit above their belly buttons with areolas that haven’t been stretched by rapid growth. They aren’t paying for dense, painful breasts. My aunt told my mother that I shouldn’t get a reduction until after 25, or after children. My mom decided that was the end of the breast reduction conversation.
My mental health took a sharp decline in high school and again after graduation. Something that obviously contributed to my decline after high school was my body image. I was no longer active and the medication I had been prescribed to help with my major depression caused me to gain 20 pounds. I would starve myself, then binge, then starve myself as punishment. I was sick. No matter how much my weight fluctuated, I hated my breasts the most. More than once in high school and into my adulthood I thought “If I maim my breasts enough, they (some medical professional) would have no choice but to remove them.”
I talked to my primary care physician about a breast reduction and she referred me to a private surgeon in the ritziest suburb of the city I grew up in. Albeit, she tried to talk me out of it first. At my consultation appointment, it felt like the surgeon’s office was trying to sell me a car and insisted that there was no way insurance would pay for my reduction. I never took my bra off. My mother was livid and told me that we would not talk about plastic surgery again. She said that I had become obsessed with a reduction and there was no way one would make me happy. Shortly after, my family doctor retired.
Almost half a year later at age 19, I spent an entire day in the breast cancer center at St. Vincent’s hospital, waiting for someone to talk to me about my ultrasound scans. I had gone to an urgent care that morning with a large painful lump in my left breast and the urgent care doctor sent me to the hospital after two different physicians had performed breast exams. Turns out I have fibrocystic breasts (which is very common) and one of my cysts had become infected. Antibiotics and a new primary care physician later, I was determined to get a breast reduction with or without the support of my parents.
My new doctor was incredibly supportive and referred me to a teaching surgeon at OHSU. I told my mom, after I had already made my appointment, that I would like her to go with me. At my appointment, I was instructed to get naked from the waist up before the surgeon ever entered the room. A student came in with the surgeon and they began to poke, lift, and feel my breasts while asking me questions. The surgeon hadn’t been there for 10 minutes when she said that insurance would definitely cover a reduction because I had extensive nerve damage and I would probably need physical therapy to correct the damage done to my back. They took pictures, talked to me about the next appointment, and then took the rest of the time to get to know me. My mother almost cried when they left the room. She hadn’t realized how miserable I truly was.
The follow up appointment was to talk about what I wanted (insurance had approved the reduction at this point). I told her the closest to flat she could make me, the happier I would be. She said she would not take more than was proportionate and the question was primarily to see if I would like to remove less than they intended. I learned that proportionate breasts nipples’ sit halfway between the forearm. I was happy with that. After my follow up appointment, then a separate appointment for mammograms and ultrasounds, my reduction was scheduled for less than two months later.
In July, I went into surgery at 7:30 am and was in the car on the way home by 12:30. They removed 450 grams from one breast, and 475 grams from the other. I went from a 32 I to a 32 DD. My surgeon told me they left most of the tissue in the top parts of my breasts because that’s where most of the parts needed for breastfeeding were. They removed as many cysts as they could.
Recovery was truly a breeze. I didn’t notice the pain, I was more achy than anything and didn’t actually use pain meds other than aleve. My stitches were internal and there were no drains involved. I did develop an abscessed stitch on my right nipple, but keeping it dry and medicated helped it heal. I had a weight restriction of 10 pounds, so I couldn’t pick up my fat cat, or move him when he layed on top of me. I was not allowed to move my arms more than 90 degrees to my body so my mom and grandma took turns bathing me since washing myself above the waist was forbidden.
After four weeks, my incisions were healed enough for me to begin my scar treatment, buy new bras, and for the family to go to Hawaii. My only restrictions were that I couldn’t get my brand-new, perky, pretty, breasts wet and leave them saturated for longer than 10 minutes. I did a lot of public air drying on Maui. I bought my first bikini that fit since I was 13 years old.
Two years later, my scars are barely visible, my breasts have settled naturally and look like I was born with them. I am so incredibly pleased with my reduction and it has been the best decision I made in my life so far. I’m proud of my scars. They are symbolic of my struggle and determination to live a higher quality of life. Cosmetic surgery won’t make you happy, but it might change your quality of life and contribute to your happiness. My back no longer aches, I can wear cute bralettes or go bra less without a care. I have feeling in my breasts again. I can wear the right size dresses and tops without having to size up to accommodate my breasts. I look like a new person. I love my body, and I’m not ashamed that plastic surgery helped get me to this point.