Ready or Not? - Portland, OR

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Hello Real Selfers. Like many of you, I have...

Hello Real Selfers. Like many of you, I have been checking out this website for months now and it is because of your words of strength and encouragement, and shared laughter and tears, I am now opening up and sharing my story as well. It's not so different than the one many of you have told, I only wish I had told this story years earlier.

A bit about myself, I'm 5'5", 145 lbs and 50 years old. Currently I'm a 34/36DDD. The summer between middle school and high school, I went from being an ironing board 32A to a ridiculously busty 34C. Believe me, the boys in my freshman homeroom class who'd known me since the sand box days, could hardly believe their eyes - and neither could I. I'd always been very much the Tom-boy, climbing trees, playing baseball and tearing around on my bike. What was I supposed to do with these things? I very clearly remember the day my mom made me call up Sears & Roebuck on the phone and talk to the operator so I could order four 34C bras to complete my back-to-school shopping. How embarrassing. I was 13 years old at the time.

(Yes, I'm showing my age, this was long before the internet was a even a mere twinkle in Al Gore's eyes.)

This change of events of course forced me to rethink playing sports in high school. The first "jog bra" was not even invented until 1977 and was nowhere to be found on the racks at our local Sears or JC Penney's. As if high school wasn't awkward enough, throw in a couple of C cups when trying to run a 440m, or dive for a volleyball or swim a 400m relay and you get the picture. The final straw came when I decided to go out for the diving team. Standing out there on the end of the board during a home meet, wearing a skin-tight green Speedo, with 80 pairs of eyes staring down at me from the bleachers - what was I thinking?

I'd been swimming since I was 5 years old, but that moment proved too much. I quit the team after the meet that day and found solace in my new best friend - food. I went from 4'11" 95 lbs my freshman year to 5'4" 167 lbs - possibly more - by the time I graduated. I stopped weighing myself once I hit 167 lbs, because that's how much my dad weighed.

Fast forward 12 years through college, grad school, numerous part time jobs and on to my first "real" job with benefits. I was living in a small town at the time, and there was only 1 plastic surgeon. My PCP referred me and I showed up at the PS's office, just over the moon, because I was finally going to be able to talk with someone who could help me ease this burden. By this time, I was a 36D/DD, 5'5" and back down to 135 lbs.

Long story short, it was the most humiliating 30 minutes of my life. He had me stand up against the wall with my shirt off and took photos of me with a Polaroid, which he then sent in to my insurance company along with some measurements and his recommendation for breast reduction surgery. I was turned down not once, but twice by my insurance company, reason being, it was deemed "cosmetic." The PS offered a 20% discount if I paid cash, but at the time (1993), it would have been about $15,000 - more than half a year's salary. I told him I couldn't afford it - heck, I didn't even own a car at that time and was still paying off grad school loans. And, to add insult to injury - as I mentioned, it was a small town - I would run into him everywhere. The thought that those Polaroids were still floating around somewhere made me cringe every time I saw him.

For the past 20 years I have just lived with the back pain and the shoulder pain and the neck pain, and the frustration, the embarrassment, the unwanted attention and the bad posture. And as I've gotten older, I have come to grips with the fact that I can't run or go to Zumba class or even ride my bike comfortably. I'm tired of wearing 2 sports bras at a time or having to wear a bra under my swimsuit because I have yet to meet the engineer who can strap these babies in. And I'm tired of having to work so hard at being active. It's hard enough staying fit at 50 without having to lug these things around. I was backpacking earlier this summer with another buxom friend and we both laughed when I said, "Why do I even bother trying to keep my backpack at less than 35 lbs when I have to pack these things in? I'm at a 10 lb disadvantage. Maybe I could just leave them at home?" To which she replied, "Yea, then you could pack in 2 bottles of red wine instead!" Which got me to thinking, maybe it was time to revisit the option of breast reduction surgery?

Ready or Not, Here I Come.

I met with my PCP in May of this year and she agreed that breast reduction surgery might be an option to help relieve my neck and shoulder pain. She made a referral for PS and one for physical therapy and she also encouraged me to check out the Healthy Spines class that Kaiser offers to see if that would help with my posture in the mean time. She also recommended a lingerie shop in town that specializes in hard to fit sizes.

I was able to get in to see the PS within a few weeks, and this time around it was a much different experience. The PS was running late, so his resident came in and met with me. She was very professional and listened to what I said, even though I was totally freaked out being there. My blood pressure was 180/88 and I told her I was just very nervous and was thinking back to the bad experience I'd had 20 years ago with the small town PS. She was very sympathetic. She didn't take any pictures, just some measurements and typed up my physical complaints. A few minutes later, the PS came in, very apologetic and reviewed the resident's work. He then did ask me to disrobe again, and he checked the resident's work. He then explained the procedure to me and showed me some pictures of what the procedure would entail (Lollipop vs Anchor) and said that he didn't think it would be a problem getting insurance approval and asked me if I'd like to meet with the scheduler.

What, I thought? That was it? I'm in? What? After 20 years of dealing with these gigantic, mismatched, pendulous breasts, that's it? And then there came this flood of shame and tears, but this was my doing. Twenty years of tears in the fitting room every time I'd try on a bra or a swim suit, 20 years of puckered blouses and too-big sweaters, 20 years of anxiety and embarrassment every time I'd take my clothes off in front of a boyfriend, 20 years of self-loathing and beating myself up for something I had little control over. Why I hadn't I done this sooner?

I didn't hear too much else of what he said after that, but he shook my hand and said it was nice to meet me and he looked forward to seeing me again soon and if I had any questions to let him know. The scheduler came in and asked me if I wanted to have the surgery right away, but I told her I had a garden to tend to this summer, and if it was ok, could I wait until the fall? She said she would call me when she was putting together the fall schedule and wished me a good day.

So now the big day is 2 1/2 weeks away. I was originally scheduled for October 31st - great day to be getting those Franken-boobies - but the scheduler called last week and was able to move me up. Thankfully, my supervisor approved the time off. My pre-op visit is next week.

Some days it all feels so surreal and I wonder, should I really go through with this? I mean, I am 50. But then I catch a glimpse of myself in a store front window, or I see some cute top that I know I'll never be able to fit into, or wake up some morning with a new ache or pain in my neck or shoulder and I think yes, this is the right thing for me.

Pre-op appointment

Had my post-op appointment yesterday. I think the physician assistant was more excited for me than I was. It still all seems so surreal. My BP was 122/63 so I know I wasn't stressing too badly. I told her that I was more stressed out earlier that morning when I had to drive downtown for another appointment and was faced with finding parking.

I'm a little weirded out that I haven't spent more than about 5 minutes with the surgeon. As I mentioned in my last post, he was running late for the consultation, so his resident conducted most of the appointment, and now my pre-op appointment was with his PA. She assured me that he pays great attention to detail and BR is the surgery he performs most often. And she said I'll be happy with the results. Seems many of you have consulted with several PS's before you settled on one you like. I have Kaiser insurance, and so if I want the procedure to be covered by my insurance, I don't really have many options. There's only one other plastic surgeon in the practice. But I keep thinking back to something, I think it was JerseyGirl who wrote, "you're just trading in one pair of imperfect breasts for another."

So I've filled my prescriptions and gotten my antibacterial wipes to use the night before the surgery. Don't know what time I'm scheduled for, they'll let me know the day before. I ordered a couple of post-surgical bras from A little pricey, but that's what the PA recommended.

And so we'll see. I'm really surprised at how calm I feel about all this. And I'm really looking forward to laying down this load.

This time tomorrow...

I'll hopefully be halfway through the procedure. Have to say I'm pleasantly surprised at how calm I feel right now. I really think that's because so many of you have shared your stories and your feelings and so I feel quite prepared for what is about to happen.

I'm the first surgery of the day tomorrow, so check in is at 6a and the procedure is scheduled for 7:30a. The expected time on the table is 2.5 hours. I live alone, so a friend has offered to take care of me at her house for a few days. Just packed my overnight bag and my tooth brush and my percoset all ready to go for the morning. Now I'll watch a little TV and hopefully get a few hours sleep before the alarm goes off and have to put that big ol' bra on for the last time!

Thanks every one for your well wishes. And to 34hto34c and GreatExpectations, I'll be thinking of you both on Friday!

I'll keep you posted.

On the other side!

So far so good. Was pretty much in a fog most of the day yesterday after the surgery, and didn't sleep too well last night - it's tough trying to sleep sitting up! - but I'm feeling pretty good today. Surgery went well and everyone from the receptionist to the nurse anesthetist to the surgeon to the post-op nurse and all the other folks in between were all super nice and reassuring. I'm not entirely sure, but I think the surgeon said he removed 600 cc from the right and 100 cc from the left, but that was when I was in recovery and it very likely could have been a dream. I haven't unwrapped them yet, but he said he would try to take me down to a B cup, and if you've looked at my pre-op pictures, you can see there's quite a size difference between the two so maybe it wasn't a dream?

Pain has been pretty minimal. I took a percoset about 10:30 last night, only because I was having trouble sleeping, otherwise, I've just been taking Tylenol and using ice packs. The surgeon told me during the prep, that he likes to use a local block in addition to the anesthesia, so I'm guessing the block hasn't worn off yet. I can feel the numerous injections sites around my outer and upper chest. He said he prefers this rather than just using anesthesia, so that less anesthesia is used and his patients are less groggy afterwards, and less likely to overdue it on the pain medication when they get home. So far his strategy seems to be working. But I can feel that things are starting to wake up under the bandages. We'll see how I'm doing 6 hours from now.

Not too much else to report at this time. I know I still have a long way to go, but for now, I'm pretty happy with how things have turned out. I will post some pictures once the wraps come off tomorrow.

Post-op pix

Pain and swelling have been pretty minimal so far. I must admit, I was pretty scared to take a shower yesterday and unwrap myself; I was so afraid of how things would look, but thankfully, I am very pleased with the results. There's a lot more bruising than I had expected, but it's not painful at all. Things are starting to get a little itchy, but I know that's a sign of healing, and putting ice on it definitely seems to help. Also having sensation in the L nipple, but at this point, can only detect pressure with the R. And she's still inverted, just a little shy. Hopefully she will pop out for a look around in the next few days.

Other than being a bit tired in the afternoons, I'm really feeling pretty good. And I think I've got the sleeping propped-up-on-my-back thing figured out. Actually felt like I got some good sleep last night.

Following all your advice regarding rest and lots of fluids. I'm back at home now after spending 2 days with friends. I've got pretty much everything I need within easy reaching distance and I'm well supplied with lots of veggies and fruit and healthy snacks. I already miss having someone make me breakfast and cleaning up after!

To anyone else out there thinking about having this procedure done, it's not been nearly as scary or painful as I had thought it would be. All of the medical staff at Kaiser were terrific, my friends have been wonderful and of course, the RealSelf community has been so supportive it's made this journey less stressful and totally worth it.

3 weeks post surgery

I'm 3 weeks post surgery and had my first melt down last night. Others have written of the emotional roller coaster that we ride during our journey to smaller breasts and the changes in body image that we go through as well. I just didn't think it would hit me so hard and so completely out of nowhere. Prior to last night, most of my ups and downs had come before the surgery, ranging from wondering if I was doing the right thing, to would I wake up from anesthesia, to oh my gosh, I'm finally gonna get rid of these things!

Last night, I decided to try on some of my old bras thinking I would finally toss them, and was so disappointed to discover that I'm currently a 36D, which is a far cry from the little B-cups I had dreamed of. I have been wearing the post-op/compression bras 24/7 as I was told, but hadn't really checked in to see where I'm at size-wise. T-shirts definitely fit better now, but I still thought my bust line was pretty big. I kept telling myself that my breasts were just swollen from the surgery and would eventually get smaller, but then I compared photos from a few days after the surgery to last night's photos, and I see that other than the faded bruising, they're pretty much the same size now as they were right after surgery. I know a lot of women say they wish they'd gone smaller, and I guess I am now in that category too. They seemed so small the day after surgery, but now...?

My surgeon did do a fantastic job - especially given what he had to work with - but I'm just so bummed that to me, they still feel too big. I just don't see myself being able to go braless or wear strappy tops or dresses, or go to Zumba class or swim without wearing a bra under my swimsuit. I'm still feeling so self-conscious about my breasts.

I know I'm just having a bad day. I know I need to balance my expectations with my reality. Compared to my pre-surgery life, things are much better now, and I am so thankful that I have had a relatively easy and uneventful recovery. I am smaller than I was before and my breasts are the same size now - something they have not been since I was 14.

Ok, I'm feeling better now, I guess I just needed to write my feelings down. I know it's only be 3 weeks. I need to work on accepting me as I am. Besides, cup size ain't nothing but a number. Ok, a letter. It's more important how I look and feel and not what bra size I wear, right?

This website can be so cathartic. Thanks.

4-Month Follow Up

I met with my plastic surgeon yesterday - the first time I'd seen him since my surgery on September 12. All of my other post-op appointments have been with his PA. I met with her 2 weeks ago, and she suggested it was time to meet with the PS to discuss a revision.

Now that it's been 4 months and the swelling is gone and things have settled, it's pretty apparent that things are not quite even or symmetrical. I'm really liking the size and shape and profile of my right breast - it feels about right for a 50 year old woman - but the left breast feels like it belongs to a post-pubescent girl who's never worn a training bra!

It's a cup size or so larger than the right breast, and I'm afraid what effect gravity will have on it in the coming years. I'm also a little dismayed at the size and orientation of the nipples and areolas. At first I thought maybe there were 2 surgeons (my doctor and a resident) doing the surgery because my breasts looked so different. I couldn't believe the same surgeon could have turned out 2 such different looking breasts. But my PS assured me that when I left the OR, things were pretty even and pointing in the same direction. His explanation was that prior to surgery, my right breast was so large and pendulous that the areola and nipple were stretched to the max. Now there's not nearly the weight pulling down on the tissue, the areola has actually contracted during the healing process, giving it a much smaller appearance than the left. The right one is 3 cm across and the left is 5 cm. And the left areola is placed about 2 cm lower than the right. Pretty noticeable to the discerning eye.

The meeting went well yesterday. The PS said he could revise the left one - move the nipple up a little higher on the breast and size the areola to match the right, and he suggested removing about another 50 g of tissue to make them more even matched. I've also got a pretty sizable dog ear associated with the right breast, but he said that would be pretty simple to repair.

I'm feeling a little on the fence about having the revision done though. I feel like this time, the surgery would be completely for cosmetic reasons. I'm so glad I had the BR done in the first place - the neck, shoulder and upper back pain I had been experiencing is now gone, and exercising, running, jumping, skipping is sooo much better now. And I feel sooo much less self conscious - I'm actually looking forward to buying a swimsuit for the beach this summer.

I felt like that first surgery was necessary, even though it was elective. Now I just don't know if I should have this second procedure done. I feel so fortunate that I came through that first one with no complications and minimal pain. I just don't know if I want to go under anesthesia again. The PS did say it was a much simpler procedure and I wouldn't be under for long. I don't know. Any of you gals who've had a revision, what was your experience like? Or is anyone else considering a revision? Bottom line - sure it would be great to have my breasts look and feel more symmetrical, but is it worth the risk of another surgery?
Kaiser Permanente

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