In January, I’ll turn 32. When I think back on my life so far, it feels like I’ve always had breasts. I know there was a time in my life, before puberty, when they were nothing more than mosquito bite-esque bumps on a flat little torso, but I don’t remember what that feels like. I can’t think of a time in my life when I remember what it felt like to not have varying degrees of, yet constant, back, neck, and chest pain from these heavy fat lumps affixed to me.
I don’t remember exactly when my breasts started growing. I just know that by the time I hit high school, they were large and in charge, and I hated them. They’d always, as far as I can remember, been severely lopsided, with my right one being about two full cup sizes larger than the left. I remember learning that it was normal to be asymmetrical, but I compared myself to a lot of other women, and couldn’t find anyone who looked as asymmetrical as I did. In addition to heavily padding the smaller side, I wore minimizer bras, bras that were too small for me, heavy duty sports bras, often a combination of a regular bra and a sports bra, all to hide my ever-growing chest. I avoided most any sort of intimacy for fear of people discovering my padding. Even still, my large breasts became my defining characteristic, becoming the butt of jokes amongst friends, becoming a focal point during outings (especially if there was alcohol involved), even gaining me short-lived nicknames based solely on their prominent size. I used them to gain attention from men, and when I didn’t, men still threw their attention at me because of them. Men and women alike begged me to see my naked breasts. I indulged a few of them. I laughed at the jokes. I played along with being a walking pair of tits. But deep down, it only fed more into my insecurities and my hatred for this part of my body that I couldn’t get rid of.
I’d been seriously toying with the idea of seeking a reduction since my teenage years. But I was terrified of surgery, and terrified of a botched result, so I made excuses to myself. I told myself and others that I didn’t suffer back pain. I told myself and others that I liked them and that I was happy with my body. I lied, and as the years passed, I continued to fight with my body, to loathe myself, and continued to develop a curvature in my upper spine.
Last year, I had my gallbladder removed because it became a cozy home to an inch-and-a-half-diameter gallstone. After I recovered from that, surgery wasn’t so scary anymore. I started toying with the idea of a reduction again, but it was still something that I viewed as unattainable. I thought that maybe if I worked out, lost weight, my breasts would shrink and I would stop hating my body so much. The joke was on me, because working out always left me in pain, and my breasts didn’t get any smaller. But I guess that’s what happens when you genetically inherit them from both sides of your family tree.
Then, in July, I finally took the plunge. I did a google search for breast reduction in the Los Angeles area, and called the first plastic surgery practice that came up in the results. They offered free consultations for breast reductions, so I made the appointment. What’s the harm? If I decided to not go through with it, I wouldn’t have to, but at least I knew what my options were. My consultation was in August. The office is in the heart of Beverly Hills, in a very swanky area. I sat in the waiting room, filling out my first appointment paperwork and medical history, and feeling severely out of place. The surgeon I was scheduled to see was running late because she was attending to an emergency at the nearby hospital, but they brought me back into the exam room and the patient care consultant sat and chatted with me until the surgeon arrived. She told me all about the surgeons who work at this practice, about her own experience with plastic surgery, and asked me a bit about myself, as well. The surgeon showed up, did some measurements on me, told me about herself, and walked me through the entire procedure, start to finish and recovery as well. It was during this consultation that I knew that she was the one. If I was going to get this surgery, I’d want it to be with her. I’d reviewed before and after pictures on the website, and I’d researched her qualifications. After that consultation, I didn’t have any hesitations or reservations about having my surgery done by her.
And then I heard the numbers. The surgery would cost me just under $14,000, and this practice didn’t take my insurance. My heart sank. I candidly told the patient care consultant that those numbers were well out of my price range. My only option for financing it would be through Care Credit, with a whopping 14% interest rate. If I financed it, it wasn’t something I could ever hope to pay off in the near or even distant future. The patient care consultant encouraged me to consult with other surgeons, and hoped I could find one that would take my insurance or that would be more in an affordable price range. She also told me that if I could get the money together, she could reduce the price for me to fill in a cancellation slot. But the “deal” she was able to cut me was still a lot of money, at a little over $10,000.
I left my appointment feeling utterly defeated. This was something I’d wanted for more than half of my life, and it was still just out of reach. But having had a consultation and being told I was the perfect candidate and being told exactly what could be done for me made it sting. I cried. I pored over the information packets they gave me and cried the whole way home from Beverly Hills.
My mom had sent me some money that my grandparents had in a trust for me, but it wasn’t even going to be half of what the surgery cost. Kyle offered to cosign on a bank loan. I called my insurance, and asked them if they covered breast reduction surgery. They gave me a runaround answer that sounded a whole lot like “sometimes, but usually no.” If I had any hopes of them covering it, I’d have to see my primary care doctor first, who would refer me to a specialist, and if the specialist deemed it medically necessary, they’d appoint me a surgeon. I absolutely did not like the idea of not being able to pick my own surgeon, especially because my insurance is through Medicaid and I feared that whatever surgeon I’d be given wouldn’t live up to my standards and expectations. The bar had been set unreasonably high with my first consultation, and I was willing to just spend the rest of my life in misery and pain than submit to a doctor I didn’t fully trust.
I reluctantly set up an appointment with my primary care doctor, and while I waited for that to roll around, I set up a GoFundMe with the last glimmer of hope I had in me. I wasn’t expecting much, to be honest. But in a mere week, I’d raised over $5,000. Between that and the money from my grandparents, as long as the discounted offer for surgery was on the table, I’d be able to go through with it. In the next few days I called up the patient care consultant at the office in Beverly Hills, and I told her I had the money. A 20% deposit later, and I had my surgery date, October 7th.
Today marks 4 weeks until my surgery, and I’m at a point where I can’t believe this is happening. It feels surreal. I’ve become indifferent about my boobs, assuming I’d be stuck with them forever. But thanks to reaching out and receiving an overwhelming amount of support from friends and family, something that I’ve wished for half my life is finally coming true, and hopefully I can start to repair some of the damage these breasts have done to me for so long. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect this surgery to be a magical fix to all of my self-image issues and the physical damage my body has suffered. I know that it’s only a single step in recovery, but I think it’s a huge and important step. So far, I’m only upset that I didn’t go through with this earlier in life, but we’ll see how my life changes after the surgery. Stay tuned for part 2 in about a month.
Also, for anyone who wants to donate to my GoFundMe, which is ongoing, you can do so here. All donations will be used to pay for surgery and related costs (mammogram, new bras, transportation to followup appointments, etc.). Thank you!