The Rack is Back! — One Year Later

Tammy tweeted “Heading to my one year boob follow up!!!! Viva new boobies!!!!!” a couple of weeks ago, so I HAD to tweet back and ask her to write about it for us.  If you haven’t met Tammy yet, get to know her on The Rack page. For the rest of us, here’s the rest of the story–so far.

I bike to my one year post-op appointment in a tank top and shorts, wearing my favorite bra of the moment, a “full busted” balconette by Paramour. The style is aptly named “Sweet Revenge,” which is what I feel every time I put it on. It’s supportive enough that I can jump around in it, but I feel so sexy in pink and black lace, and I smile to myself every time I ride my bike without a sports bra– I could never have done that a year ago, weighed down physically and emotionally by 34G’s I was squeezing into stretched out 34F bras. Here’s the bra in 34DD. Mine is a 34D, and my girls fit nicely into the cups a lot less of the cleavage shown in this picture.

I lock my bike up down the block from my surgeon’s posh office on 61st street, off Park Ave, an office with a gaudy, gilded lion’s mouth for a bathroom faucet, with framed magazine articles discussing the health benefits of liposuction, where I always feel out of place. The front desk girls recognize me and chirp hello, and I wait about 10 minutes before one of them leads me back to exam room 2, where I’m given a pink gown and told the doctor will be right in. Here I am waiting for my doctor! I have to buy a top or a dress in this color…I love it!

My doctor is in her forties (I think), and I’ve never seen her wearing flats. Even on the day of my surgery, she teetered into the room in 4 inch open-toed sandals, a crisp, fitted summer dress and what appeared to be, through my blurred nearsightedness (I had to take my contact lenses out before surgery), a Burkin bag. Her face is taught, her hair blonde and pin-straight, her breasts clearly augmented, her waist nipped in (maybe with surgery, maybe with a personal trainer named Gunther). She walks in smiling, a first, and holding a digital SLR camera. She says hello, how are you, and walks toward me eagerly to examine her work. Here comes the fun part.

She pulls the left side of my gown away, reaches forward to examine the scarring underneath my left breast. “Nice.” Then the right. She makes a dismayed face. “This scarring is irregular. What happened here?” She’s referring to the raised, pink scars around my right nipple, which formed after the stitches on that side were rejected, causing little pockmarks to open up along the outside of my areola. It happened in August, about a month and a half after my surgery. She was on vacation, and I was referred to another surgeon who cleaned out the oozing wounds and applied surgical tape, telling me that it is not uncommon for one side of the body to heal at a slower rate than the other. Once the sores healed and closed up, they left little pink marks, which thickened over the months, despite applications of scar creams and strips and tape, into keloids. I have olive skin, which is prone to keloid scarring, and we discussed the possibility of irregular scarring before my surgery. My doctor had assured me that the chances of keloid scars forming was very, very slight. “Surgical scars are very thin and precise.”

On the day of my one-year post-op, she stares at my breasts, shaking her head. “I’m really upset about this. Most people don’t come in for a one-year post-op, so I rarely get the one-year pictures. You came, and you have scars. This is technically a bad result.” I laugh. “I think it’s a pretty good result. I feel great, they look great. My back doesn’t hurt anymore.” She sighs. “It was a very large reduction. What size bra are you wearing now?” I tell her 34D. We had originally agreed that the final size would be a C cup, a 4 cup size reduction. She decides I must be purchasing the wrong band size. “You should be wearing a 36C. They’re a C.” I try to explain to her that my rib cage has never measured anywhere near 36″, that at my thinnest I was wearing 32″ bands, and that I’ve lost 15 pounds since last year. She doesn’t seem to hear anything I’m saying. “You should definitely be wearing a 36C.”

I laugh again. In the few times I have met this woman, I have come to realize that she is stubborn, a perfectionist, and, frankly, kind of a bitch. I view my surgery as a life-changing event- it lifted a physical and emotional burden I had been carrying around for years, gave me a renewed sense of self-confidence, and relieved soreness and pain in my neck and back which had been affecting me in more ways than I even knew at the time. Shopping became less discouraging, working out less difficult, walking down the street in a sundress less stressful. Her job as a plastic surgeon, in my eyes, is to emphasize our flaws, to promise instant gratification through nips and tucks and augmentations. Fat? She can fix that. Sagging skin? No more. She makes her living selling youth and confidence, for a pretty, pretty penny.

She takes her pictures, sighing to herself the whole time, and sends a nurse in to inject a steroid into my scars, which might flatten them out a bit. After 3 of these treatments, I can try laser scar surgery to lighten the pink color to a flesh color. She highly recommends it. I agree to the injections because the scars annoy me, a little. When I realized they weren’t fading as fast as the other scars, I got upset. I traded too-big breasts for scarred ones. I was still embarrassed about taking off my bra, but for a different reason. I obsessed and anticipated the grossed-out face my first post-surgery exploit would make when he saw my imperfect nipple. I imagined him asking about it. (This didn’t happen. My boyfriend thinks my breasts are beautiful and perfect, though he laments not having seen the “old ones.” Actually, people compliment my breasts on a daily basis. And more importantly, I love my breasts on a daily basis, which is new for me.  I left my one-year follow up smiling, despite the sour reception my doctor gave my beloved “new boobies” (my two younger sisters started affectionately calling my breasts “new boobies” and “old boobies” after my surgery, and the term has stuck.)

I can pinpoint the moment I realized a reduction was a viable option– and in that moment, I felt relief, without hesitation. Hesitation and worry came later, when I started to discuss the idea with other people. You might remember from my posts that some people around me felt a reduction would be a mistake, and I even remember some women from this community who seemed a little disappointed in me– why was I writing for a confident, feel-good-in-your-body blog if I secretly wanted out of mine? I love this blog, all the amazing women who contribute to it, Darlene and Campbell & Kate and stories of finding the bra that changed everything, the clothes that fit right, the confidence to be proud of a DD+ silhouette. I struggled, in the months leading up to my surgery, feeling like a traitor and a wimp…I felt like I was taking the easy way out, succumbing to some societal pressure to look a certain way, committing breast-icide!  I searched within myself for the root of my discomfort, and decided it was more than vanity, that I was in pain, and that a reduction was best for me.  I don’t think it is the best option for everyone, but it changed my life for the better. No regrets!

 ————————————-

Here I am, today, in a $12 bra ($12!!!!!) I scored on clearance at Marshall’s this week. I can’t find the brand on the tag, which is a bummer because it fits really well. It’s a 34D.  As you can see, even after 1.4 pounds of breast was removed on each side, I still have breast to spare. Hello, body confidence.

Here I am a couple weeks ago in a Victoria’s Secret bandeau bikini. (I have dreamt of wearing a bandeau for YEARS. This was one of my first triumphant post-surgery purchases.) The top is a large. It falls down when I swim in the ocean. It falls down when I move around a lot. It’s a “sunbathing” suit. I am not really a fan of VS, to be honest. Their bras don’t offer enough coverage or support (but you already knew that!). Even post-reduction, I still have a “full” round cupful, and I am consistently disappointed with the narrow, not-enough-space feeling of their products.

Ta-ta for now 🙂

–Tammy

 

The Rack–Rackless

A picture is worth a thousand words, so . . .

Before & After:

The first picture was taken this winter– the ladies to my right are my college roommates, who I love SO dearly . . . but when this picture was posted on facebook, I immediately untagged myself because all I could see were breasts!! Even looking at this picture now makes me feel insecure and uncomfortable. I remember picking that shirt out (a black and grey version of the Beatles Abbey Road album cover) and thinking it was so much fun, but after that night I only wore it in the privacy of my apartment because as I’ve learned over the years, when you’re trying to minimize (or in my case, hide) large breasts, light colored t-shirts are not your friend.

The second picture was taken this past Wednesday–just three weeks and one day post op. Note the huge smile, tube (!) dress, and my sisters (and cousin Samantha) for breast reference–Samantha is on the left, barely filling out her bikini with what I’m guessing are 34A or AA’s. Michelle to my immediate right, (32B) and Julia to the right of her (34C). I racked my brain for a title for this post-operative post, and laughed when I came up with “rackless” …because even after my doctor removed a whopping 2.5 pounds of tissue, I was left with breasts which fall into the full C/small D range.

I have so much to say, I don’t know where to begin.

Surgery

The day of surgery was nerve-wracking. I arrived at the hospital with an entourage of my mother, my sister Michelle, and my best friend Darren (he’s the one wearing those giant breasts in the party pics). I wore a super low-cut, cleavage bearing tank top to honor the girls on their last day, and in the waiting room we exchanged funny breast memories to pass the time and take my mind off of two things that were making me anxious: my impending surgery, and my next meal. I couldn’t eat for 12 hours prior to surgery (a long stretch for someone with low blood-sugar issues!) and I was as hungry as I was nervous to be cut open. I tapped and fidgeted until a nurse called me into the preparation area, where I was given a locker and told to strip off my clothes, navel ring, and most frighteningly, my glasses.

I waited in the pre-surgery/recovery area for a while with my mother before being transported upstairs to meet my anesthesiologist, who joked and discussed cocktails in between asking important questions about my medical history. He was such a nice man– but since I could barely make out his face, I wouldn’t recognize him if I saw him again.

About an hour after my surgery was scheduled to begin, my doctor stopped by to make markings on my chest and answer my last minute questions. She drew a detailed treasure-map looking design on me with red and black sharpies while I nervously rattled on, and we confirmed that she would be aiming to make my breasts a “full C”–3 whole cup sizes smaller than my pre-operative size of 34F (but Darlene will tell you they were likely a G).

I was wheeled into the big, white, sterile, SCARY looking operating room *still blind as a bat,* past my scrub-clad doctor at the door, and greeted by my anesthesiologist “Table for one?” and my doctor’s friendly and warm physician’s assistant. The last thing I remember was the anesthesiologist asking me to tell him when I started to feel sleepy. I never got around to telling him.

Recovery

I woke up feeling like there was a large elephant sitting on top of my chest. I glanced down past my chin at what appeared to be a completely flat chest, and in my doped up state, worried that they had completely removed my breasts rather than just making them smaller. The nurses in the recovery room asked if I’d like anything to eat or drink, and my response was allegedly “a grande iced soy” followed by “French toast.” When my entourage came in to see me, they told me they had been worried when I didn’t come out on schedule, not knowing my surgery had begun a full hour late. I responded “Well I’m not surprised I was late . . . the service here is AWFUL. I ordered a coffee 20 minutes ago and it still hasn’t come.” We all had a good laugh about my diva comments once the medicines wore off and I floated back down to earth.

I was discharged about a half hour after I woke up and wheeled out to my mother’s car for the 40 minute ride back to New Jersey where I’d be recovering under my mother and grandmother’s watchful care for the next few days. The new girls and I felt every bump, but soon I was at home in the recliner my mom positioned in front of the tv, with premium cable channels and Vicodin every 4 hours.

The first couple of days were rough–I had drains sticking out of my incisions on either side which were sucking out excess fluid (blood, mostly . . . gross! Thank goodness my mom has a medical background and isn’t squeamish. I never could have emptied them myself without vomiting) and bandages, bruises, and yellow stains all over from the betadine they had used to sterilize my skin. It took two weeks for that icky yellow color to fade!

At my two-day post op appointment my doctor removed my drains (and my bra) for the first time since surgery, and I was able to get a look at what I had done–it was not pretty at first! In the mirror were two hard mounds of bruised and traumatized flesh, almost as high as my shoulders and with a large, completely unfamiliar space in between them. My doctor advised me not to spend a lot of time staring and scrutinizing, as things would settle into a more normal position, soften up, go back to a human color, and start to resemble breasts in a few weeks.

Until then, I’d have to eat a healthy diet and be extra careful not to lift anything too heavy, bend over, raise my arms above my head, wear a seat belt, bump into anything (or anyone), etc., etc. I was surprised at how many seemingly easy and normal activities became difficult without the use of my pectoral muscles and with limited range of motion in my arms and upper body.

I’ll save the boring stuff for anyone who really wants to know it, but fast forward to this past Tuesday, my three week post op appointment, when I got the ends of my stitches removed (most are dissolvable, but the ends were knotted and were really starting to irritate me), and the go-ahead to buy underwire bras! Hooray!

New Beginnings

My doctor says I’m healing really quickly–my bruising is all gone, and my incisions are already starting to flatten out and turn flesh color, as scabs fall off and things settle down. The girls have come down to a more natural (but amazingly perky!) position, and I’ve switched from steri-strips and paper tape to silicone scar tape for as long as the adhesive will hold, before I switch over to mederma or some similar scar cream that I’ll massage on for the few months before my scars are done maturing.

I am proud to say I no longer fail the pencil test, and have been wearing all kinds of things I had completely given up on before. It is no longer necessary for me to belt everything, although belts are even more fun now that my rib cage is visible beneath my breasts! My first new bathing suit was a grey bandeau top from Victoria’s Secret, and I wore it in the ocean…IN THE OCEAN…with no wardrobe malfunctions. The other day I wore a tube top with no bra at all, simply because I haven’t gotten around to buying a strapless yet. My neck and back pain have vanished completely, as well as the numbness I was experiencing in my hands.

This route may not be for everyone…but I can say with confidence that it has been nothing short of life-changing for me.

Thank you all (especially Darlene!) for your continued support!
— Tammy
The Rack

The Rack–Farewell Party

On Friday night, 25 friends came out to celebrate my last weekend as a 34F*. I made these cupcakes for the occasion. They were red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting! Yum! We toasted the girls’ passing at a great little spot on Avenue C called The Sunburnt Cow which has an ongoing special of $20 for 2 hours of unlimited drinks, any day of the week, for any two hours. Needless to say, my memory of the occasion is a bit foggy, but from what I can piece together there was a great deal of motorboating going on as I made rounds through the crowd.

My favorite thing about the night was the diverse group–my college crew, my Chicago/Midwest bunch, my best friend from growing up, my roommates, my sister, a couple of people I have worked on music with, and a dear friend I worked with on the UWS when I was a nanny. It meant so much to me to have so many people show up to celebrate such an odd event with me, and I was thrilled to see them all mingling and laughing like old friends. It was a total love-fest.

Another highlight of the festivities was the costume my friend Cally donned–a pair of huge, plush breasts she recycled from a hilarious and obscene Halloween costume from one of our years at Fordham. This picture will give you an idea of how funny she looked:


The breasts are on this little string that hangs around your neck, and before long they were being passed around to everyone at the party.

The party was a great excuse to get my friends together for the last night of debauchery for a little while. Tuesday I go under the knife, and I’ll be spending the following week recovering at my Mom’s house in New Jersey before hopefully going back to *almost* normal after that.

As you all know from reading the column, I initially decided to pursue the surgery route for emotional and intellectual reasons–I don’t like the negative attention they attract, I feel disproportionate, etc.  I never really suffered from noticeable back pain until after I was “adjusted” by a physical therapist in March/April, when I suddenly connected my constant shoulder tightness and neck soreness to the size and weight of my breasts.

Even though the surgery has been deemed “medically necessary,” there is a certain stigma surrounding plastic surgery which makes me feel a bit insecure about asking that my employers and coworkers accommodate my needs post-surgery. It’s still a “boob job,” after all, not a broken arm or herniated disk. My restaurant job is not high up on my list of priorities, but I unfortunately can’t get by without the extra income, so it’s important that I can still work after the surgery, and important (to me) that my coworkers don’t feel taken advantage of if they have to lift some extra trays and bus tubs as I recover.  My post-op instructions specify that I can’t lift anything heavier than a gallon of water for two weeks following surgery, and I’m a little bit worried that my coworkers aren’t going to enjoy doing extra work for me since we pool our tips.

My thoughts are all over the place! I would love to hear your thoughts about this. Is a breast reduction any different from, for instance, a surgery to correct carpel tunnel syndrome?

Finally, in my research I discovered that these celebrities have had breast reductions:

1. Drew Barrymore
2. Queen Latifah
3. Janeane Garofalo
4. Patricia Heaton

I’ll be updating again next week to talk about the surgery and my recovery. Stay tuned and wish me luck!

*Darlene’s note:  Some of you may be wondering, “Why is Tammy getting a reduction when she’s only a 34F?”  She seems to correctly fit the Freya 34F’s that she wears, but she also fits the Prima Donna Satin (that I ask my fit models to wear) in a 32 G/H.

*edit*

I thought I’d share this ridiculous photo of my best friend in the whole world showing his support. Pun intended.

The Rack–Going Through With It

(The Rack is usually a weekly Friday column by fit model, bartender/waitress, musician and future superstar, Tammy.  Because of the holiday weekend and Tammy’s exciting news, we’re publishing it today instead.)

Well, it’s really happening. After 6 months of consideration, 2 consults, 4 weeks of physical therapy and a lot of waiting, the date for my breast reduction surgery is set for June 21. I’ve been working non-stop, pulling 4-5 shifts at a new restaurant and devoting every spare moment to making music and working out, so I haven’t had as much time to reflect as I would have liked. I searched “breast reduction surgery” on YouTube the other day and watched a couple of videos of the procedure I’m about to have, and while the images of breasts being sliced open and trimmed down were gruesome, they didn’t shake my confidence that this is the best choice for me. My frustration with my breasts at a 34F far outweighs any of my concerns about the surgery– but there are a couple of things I’m scared about!

1. Recovery Time
My doctor said I’ll be able to go back to work in a week, but I’m worried that I won’t be ready to lift heavy trays and bus bins at my job with just a week of recovery time! I can’t really afford to take more than a week off, and since I just started this job, I’m not looking forward to explaining to my manager that in addition to the week off I requested after only working there for a week, there’s a chance I’ll need more time. I also don’t want to endanger my health, obviously. I plan to talk to my doctor about this more when I go for my pre-surgery bloodwork and health check on June 6.

2. Working Out
My doctor explained that I would need to stop exercising for 6 weeks following my surgery–that means no spin classes, no pilates, and definitely no kettlebell boot camp. Will my muscles turn to jelly in 6 weeks? My current plan is to eat nothing but salad until I’m allowed to work out again–but I plan to ask the doctor if I’ll be able to ease my way back into working out sooner– if I can at least work my lower half with squats and lunges and a LOT of walking, my muscles won’t atrophy completely.

3. Wardrobe
What am I going to wear!? On my list of things to save money for is the ever-important category of clothing. I’ll need all new bras (which will hopefully be less expensive), bathing suits, and probably some tops–most everything I own is stretchy, but it would be nice to be able to welcome my new breasts with some things that were purchased with my post-surgery shape in mind.

With three weeks to go, I’ll be working hard to save money, eat right, and spend lots of time at the gym! I will keep you all updated every step of the way.