BUT FIRST, ABOUT ME:
I’m a 48 yr old single artist who has a studio at home. I’m 5’7”, 150 lbs and was a very saggy 36DDD. I thought about a reduction for 20 years before biting the bullet. I had consultations in my 20’s, 30’s and now 40’s. I think the turning point was one day when I felt something brush against my ankle, and realized it was just a breast. In all seriousness, I was very, very good at disguising my size. I never had anyone suggest I get a breast reduction, except for my mother, and most of the plastic surgeons with whom I consulted were always surprised at the size of my naked breasts after seeing me in street clothes. So why get a BR? It was hurting my neck, which affected how many hours I could work in the studio. And I got tired of the amount of effort it took to make droopy 36DDDs look like pert 36Ds. The final straw was when I found myself daydreaming about working with engineers to create a bra with a hydraulic lift.
CONSULTATIONS, HOUSE HUNTERS STYLE:
I had three consultations this year. Here’s the House Hunters-style synopsis. PS #1 is brash, arrogant and puts down other doctors. While he’s right on budget, patient is put off by his bedside manner and that he seems to be running a Boobs-R-Us clinic. PS #2 is higher-priced, but is much more likeable. Patient enjoys discussing books & politics with him. But will his better personality compensate for his higher fees? Plus patient thinks he’s a bit of a kiss-ass, and has no feedback on his surgical skills. Finally, PS # 3, priced the same as the second option, wants to do a lollipop incision, and patient’s research indicates it’s not as effective for a lift. Patient likes the doctor and the idea of a female PS - she’s not as “handsy” as the male docs - but is unable to find any feedback on her work.
In the middle of the consultation period, I went and got a mammogram because I knew I’d need one before a breast reduction. I asked around at the mammography clinic if they knew any good surgeons for breast reduction. I figure they see a LOT of breasts. Though the PS I eventually chose is a nice man, I don’t care about doctor personalities. I care about surgical skills, because that’s what I’ll have to live with for the rest of my life. Anyway, several of the techs recommended PS #2. One said he rocked. She said he created beautiful breasts with minimal scarring. That was all I needed. I went with PS #2, Dr. Stuart. TIP: get recommendations for plastic surgeons from women who see tons of local breasts. Ask mammography techs. Ask your OB/Gyn. Ask the salesladies at high-end lingerie stores and departments. They may even tell you who NOT to use.
Overwhelmed with nervousness and anxiety, I spent a lot of time in shopping for button-down and zip-up clothing. Turns out I only needed that stuff for about 9 days after surgery. I bought three $8 bras from Walmart (Fruit of the Loom #96014). I got prescriptions filled. I found a stash of unused painkillers in my medicine cabinet – wonder what its street value is? I worried about meals, but really, I just ate the stuff I normally do. I stocked up on chocolate, not because it’s good for me, but because I like chocolate. I did buy soup the day before surgery. I used a gift card from one of those soup/salad buffets and picked up two 32-oz containers of soup, one chicken noodle and the other vegetarian pasta. Upon returning home, I took the bag out of the car, and both soups fell out of the bag and onto the driveway, leaving a vast pile of broth, chicken, pasta and veggie carnage. It was the greatest soup tragedy of my life. TIP: Always take bags out of the car very carefully.
I showed up starving and thirsty to the office, as required. Then I had a quick meeting with Dr. Stuart before the surgery. I had always felt I had enormous breasts, but it was becoming clear to me in my interactions with the doctor that he thought I was quite flat-chested, and that he felt he was mostly doing a lift on me. We talked about making me a C/D at the consult, but right before the surgery I told him to be more aggressive and to aim for a C. I was playing him. I wanted to be a C/D all along because I’m not small of hip, but I felt if I told him I wanted to be C/D, he’d make me a D. (It worked. I am now a 36D/38C. Perfect, if it stays that way.) He measured me and drew all over my breasts and I told him that the lines on one breast were higher. God love him– 10 minutes later he admitted I was right. He came over as the anesthesiologist was prepping me in the operating room and said, “I agree with your artist’s eye, and I’ll fix the problem.” The anesthesiologist made me feel 100 years old when I told him I was a native of our town and he said, “You must’ve seen a LOT of changes.” I didn’t hit him because you don’t want to hit someone who is about to put you under. Then the anesthesiologist asked if I had any questions for him and I wanted to ask, “Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?” Seconds later, I was out. Hours later, I woke up. I was nauseated and a little sore. My parents took me home about noon, and I took a pain pill, and then something for nausea. At 3 pm, Dr. Stuart called to see how I was doing. He was quite surprised when I answered the phone. TIP: Pay attention before the surgery, and make sure the lines are correct, and that you and your doc are on the same page as to desired final size, knowing it’s not an exact science. And, do NOT mess around with the rules regarding not eating and drinking before surgery. Seriously. People have died because they decided to sneak breakfast before surgery.
POST OP APPT – DAY 1 AFTER SURGERY:
Dr. Stuart took off a lot of my bandaging and seemed to think everything looked okay. Gave me some pads to soak up any oozing and he fit me into my recovery bra. I honestly don’t remember much about this appointment except that I met a former local anchorwoman in the lobby. She was there with her cousin and I was with my parents, and it turned out they were former neighbors. She told me Dr. Stuart had done work on her and he was a genius, but I remember seeing her on TV and thinking her plastic surgery looked awful. So I left thinking that the doc might be great at reductions, but that I’m not sure I’d use him for anything above the neck. TIP: Always look around the waiting room and see if there any former local anchorwomen there.
I noticed the recurring pain at the base of my neck was largely gone. For the first time in years, I felt like I had a torso. It had been so covered up. I was off the pain pills less than 48 hours after surgery. They weren’t helping much anyway, and they make you constipated. The pain wasn’t all that bad. You’d think if someone’s going carve up a sensitive part of your anatomy, it’s going to really hurt. But it’s soft tissue, and surgery on soft tissue doesn’t hurt as much as on, say, muscle tissue. Mostly I rested this week. Tried using a wedge pillow, but hated it and slept on my back in my bed. Breasts were rock hard, swollen and square-shaped. I went around singing, “Who lives in pajamas and zip-up hoodies? SpongeGin Squareboobs!” I was worried sick my giant 7 months old puppy would jump on my chest and hurt me, so I walked around with a pillow in front of me a lot. Had a couple of nasty sinus headaches during the week, so no, the BR did not cure me of all ills. Tried Arnica but I think it upset my stomach, so I discontinued it. I was able to shower about 3 days after surgery and did it very carefully, but then I kind of hurt myself afterwards when I unthinkingly flung the towel over the shower rod. Not good! TIP: Pay attention to everything you're doing in those first few weeks. Don't get lax.
Less pain and the oozing ceased. I did not have drains. I couldn’t see the scars because there was tape all over them. The sensations began. There would be sharp pains and dull pains, tingling and itching, but always something going on with the breasts. I started driving again and doing errands. I’d take a Tylenol now and then for discomfort and a half Benadryl if I worried about sleeping through the night. Began working again in the studio, but for short hours. I tried to stay busy with projects like archiving photos on computer, knitting a scarf and organizing recipe binders. TIP: When in doubt, rest. And don’t get too focused on scarring. There is healing going on outside your breasts in the form of scars, but the insides have to heal, too.
POST-OP VISIT – DAY 8 AFTER SURGERY:
Dr. Stuart removed the tapes and answered a lot of questions. No underwire bras for another month. No vigorous exercise. No walking of dogs – he was worried about them pulling me. No heavy lifting. I could do the elliptical. He said I could wear pullover clothing. He told me not to worry about scar creams yet. I gave him a copy of a poster I had printed out for my bro, also a doctor. It said: “Ask your doctor if taking medical advice from TV commercials is right for you.” He loved it, and showed it to everyone at the office. The staff later said I made his day. As I was leaving the exam room, I said to him, “I am SO sick of breasts!” TIP: Nothing like having a BR to make a normal middle-aged woman more breast-obsessed than a 12 yr old boy. But you do get over it, and then you’re sick of mammaries.
Suddenly the recovery bras from Walmart really started irritating the hell out of me. Nipples were especially sensitive and the material rubbed them. I started going braless a lot, but my shirts were irritating me too. I had the fabled Triangle of Numbness (from under the nipples to the lower incisions) for the first two weeks and it was dissipating, so I think I was sorer in week three. I finally bought a comfy wire-free bra (Bali #3488 – about $20 from Amazon) and that made all the difference. The bra is lightly padded – I NEVER wore padded bras before - and the padding helped with the headlight problem that I think a lot of BR patients get. It also helped shelter my sensitive nipples from little things like greetings from big, crazy puppies. I resumed workouts on the elliptical. But this was the week I found myself getting kind of depressed. This was a BR on the DL and I told very few people, but it also meant I had very little emotional support. My parents left and I was on my own. I was physically uncomfortable, and not ready to go out into public much. It was tough. But I’d see myself in the mirror, finally relieved of long, droopy udders and I’d be so happy with my decision. My plan to keep the BR a secret, even from siblings, will pay off in the end, I think, when I don’t have to have conversations about the surgery. TIP: Don’t expect recovery to be smooth. It’s a roller coaster, emotionally and physically.
I really felt like I turned a corner this week. I started feeling better and getting out more. Took an art workshop, and for a whole day didn’t think about myself, the surgery or the recovery. My breasts started feeling a lot softer and more normal. I started putting in long hours in the studio, and began taking my two big dogs for walks. I’ve resumed most of my normal activities, and if I feel a little sore on one day, I know it’s because I overdid it the day before, so I chill out. I’m enjoying clothes again, but find a lot of my old tops are too large and stretched out. I’ll wait a few more weeks before shopping for some new threads. Meanwhile, my 75lb puppy turned 8 months old during this week and now he has a hardcore bra fetish. Sicko. I can hide a bra anywhere in my room and he’ll find it and take it to the yard or his pen. He had a field day the day I tried on my old bras from my Museum of Bras drawer, and I left the drawer slightly ajar. TIP: Maybe you shouldn’t get a puppy and a BR in the same year.