Being open and honest about real things that happen to real women is the fastest way to smash taboos and get us all talking about tricky topics. Which is why here, Liz, tells us about her decision to have a breast reduction at just 21-years-old...
Should I have a breast reduction?
"It seems most girls are thrilled when puberty arrives and the bee stings on their chest blossom into lovely lady lumps. I was the same. Age 14-15, I went from being basically inverted to a full B cup over the summer. I had been in high school for a year and was jealous of the older girls walking around in all their booby glory so now, life was good. But then my full B cups were spilling over my bra by autumn, and my new C cups soon turned into D cups and finally settled at G cups. Suddenly, I had mongo boobs; huge, big, giant, obnoxious breasts at the ripe age of 16.
I lived with my dad at the time, who, bless him, didn't know how to handle his ever-expanding youngest daughter. He gave me cash to go and purchase new bras with my girlfriends at the mall. One weekend, I went into the brand new Victoria's Secret that had just opened up. Heading inside with all intentions of finding a beautiful bra to make myself feel better about the boulders on my chest, I asked to be measured to find my “perfect fit”. The sales girl looked at my chest then looked at me and smirked, “we don't carry your size here”.
“I was ashamed of my breasts”
This was the first time I felt truly ashamed about my boobs. My dad took me to a specialised bra store and I ended up getting two beige bras with straps thicker than any tank top. I felt 50-years-old and like my boobs were dangling somewhere around my bellybutton since push-up bras basically gave up on me. I was still only 16. Slowly but surely I started to quit the sports I played in high school because they were too difficult. I was at the point where a bra and two sports bras didn't even help, ignoring the fact that I thought I could knock myself out with my own boobs if I ran hard enough. I struggled shopping at all the cool stores with my friends as none of the tops fit. Let's not even mention bikinis…
Soon enough I was dreading nights out. I could no longer count on my fingers and toes how many times I had been asked if my boobs were real - as if that's a question that you ask a stranger on the street. Not only that but every conversation I had was being directed at my boobs, as if they had the ability to answer back - my face didn't matter, the only thing that existed on my person was my boobs.
I would like to think I was a strong enough person to get over the comments and stares and hand honks but they were not the only thing I was struggling with. By the end of school I noticed my semi-decent posture decreasing, my back starting to ache and indents in my shoulders after taking my bra off at the end of the day. This only got worse the older I got. By the age of 19 I decided that I needed to make a change, I needed to get rid of my boobs, somehow, someway these suckers were outta here.
Making the breast reduction decision
I made an appointment at my doctor's office to talk about my options. I was not successful. I explained the pain I dealt with and was hoping to use the sympathy card, but to no avail. My doctor told me that in Canada (where I grew up) they don't allow breast reductions until you're 21-years-old. I was 20. He did, however, refer me to a specialised surgeon and I set up an appointment to have him take a look at my case.
There I sat, with a nervous looking mother by my side in a flimsy paper top, feeling less attractive than I’d ever felt. Fortunately for me, he was lovely and made me feel comfortable with the fact that my mum was sitting beside me as I sat topless with a man feeling and drawing on my boobs. He explained the procedure, which was terrifying, then booked me an appointment for a year's time. I was dreading waiting a year. A WHOLE YEAR. I wondered how much saggier I would get by the time the surgery happened, would they have made it down to my upper thigh by then? My surgeon also offered to put me on a cancellation list, just in case. I was number 4…. Come on lucky number 4.
The months came and went, I celebrated my 21st birthday. I remember the dress I picked. I had to use duct tape to make sure my boobs stayed put… About three weeks after my 21st birthday I got a call from the surgery office and was told that there was a cancellation in November (3 months away). I accepted, hung up the phone and completely broke down.
What happens in breast reduction surgery?
When you're about to lose something, there are a million thoughts running through your head. You turn into a ball of mush. You’re sad, nervous, scared, excited, uneasy. I asked myself a million times, “are you doing the right thing?” The truth is who knows, I knew I was uncomfortable and unhappy and I just had to trust myself. The operation was only three hours long, it would all be over in a matter of hours. I WOULD BE OK.
My surgeon was friendly and kind when he greeted my terrified mother and I. He explained what was going to happen. He would cut around the nipple, straight down to where the underboob meets the torso and across the underside of the boob, forming an anchor shape. Basically I was about to be cut open, that's all I heard. I smiled nervously and hugged my mum praying I would see her again (melodramatic, I assure you) then was wheeled into the operating room. I was told to count backwards from 10. The last number I remembered saying was 7.
The next thing I knew a woman was yelling at me to breathe. I felt like I was just having the best sleep of my life, but she kept yelling so I opened my eyes and there I was in a communal post-op room. I looked to my left and could see my mum peeking over the top of the divider wall looking more terrified than when I left her. The lady said I wasn't breathing right and I needed to keep taking deep breaths as I was coming out of the anesthetic. For a minute I thought maybe they didn't do it and I screwed it up but then I hazily looked down and saw bandages and noticeably smaller lumps. The next few hours were a blur, I was transferred to a different post-op room which was horrifically loud and cold, I really just wanted to go home. I didn't want to look at anything on me. I didn't want to be surrounded by people and I hated the smell of the hospital.
How long does it take to recover from a breast reduction?
They finally released me and as my mum wheeled me out to the car, everything started to hurt. My back, my chest, my arms. I moved at the pace of a slug trying to get to my room and knew it was going to be a long and painful few days.
I wasn't allowed to shower for five days! I still had the rank, brownish disinfectant smeared all over my torso. My mum had to change my bandages daily - I diverted my eyes every time she did and refused to look down. Every move I made for about a week hurt. I couldn't sit up on my own and felt like I had been blown open and sewn back together, it was not my finest hour. As if having my mum change bloody boob pads, feed me and help me pee at the age of 22 wasn't mortifying enough, when day five hit, she was on shower duty. I refused again to look at myself. I also attempted to avoid at my mum's face, bless her heart, but her poker face was non-existent.
Slowly but surely, I started to be able to do more things for myself. I could get out of bed on my own, pee, change bandages, go up and down stairs. I still couldn't lift my arms above my waist for a few more weeks. My stitches were slowly disappearing and less gross stuff was coming out of my incisions, which was a plus.
I think it had been about four weeks since I had looked at my boobs. I was scared at what I would see, I thought I may have just ruined what a lot of people associate with womanhood. It took a lot but I decided it was time to take a peek.
I'm not going to lie, it was awful, I looked awful. There were floods of tears but after I got past the grossness I saw my boobs. They weren't around my bellybutton, they actually had a little lift to them. My nipples were even on the boobs (before surgery I had zero nipple awareness and no idea where they were at any given time). They were a normal size. I saw the light!
What life is like after my surgery
I went to a check-up with my surgeon, he said they were looking good and I was healing nicely. I was starting to wear my tops that were too loose in the chest! This had never happened in my life and it felt amazing. It was getting close to New Year’s and I had been invited to a party which would be my first time out with my new boobs. I bought a new dress from Forever 21 (that actually fit!) and a bra from La Senza which was black with lace, I was in a dream! When the 31st came about I was nervous as I had been inside for over a month. I was so scared if someone bumped into my boobs they would explode, but I got dressed and for the first time since I was 16, didn’t feel like a walking boob.
When I got to the party I was greeted with loads of compliments and smiles and soft hugs, I knew I had done the right thing - all the positivity surrounding me was validation.
All and all, my breast reduction was a huge decision, I did not take it lightly. I researched, I asked questions, I weighed pros and cons and came to the conclusion it was the right call for me. In the end, I went from a G to a DD (I begged for a large C but it was unsafe to remove that much). DD is not small but I can shop at normal stores, my back hurts less, I am now more active and own many pretty, sexy, lacy bras, although I have come to the conclusion that bikini tops and strapless bras are just never going to be my friend.
So if you are contemplating this option for yourself let me leave you with this, you will be left with scars but they become a part of who you are. I am not ashamed of them and you shouldn't be either, you are beautiful. The process is scary, you will question yourself, it's not easy and it does hurt, but for me it was the best decision I could have made and I don't regret it. Not for one second.
Do you have an experience you’d like to share? Get in touch to tell us your story.