The Only Vanity Breast Operation this Busty Gal Might Possibly Consider if I Won the Lottery

Following yesterday’s post, I realize that each of us has our own priorities when it comes to our looks. I don’t wear shapewear to the gym, but I certainly color my hair.

There’s another feature I’ve become particularly vain about since beginning this blog: my full-on-top breasts. We’ve all been told that we’ll start to sag one day, and I think I might be fine with that, but I’m sad about the possibility of losing the plumpness that fills my bra cups to the very rim. Bra fitters and manufacturers have told me that there’s nothing a woman can do about that empty air that occurs between an elderly woman’s breast tissue and the top of her bra just below the straps, so I’ve been trying to appreciate what I have while I have it.

Then I saw the title of Dr. Constance Chen‘s presentation at the Fab over Fifty Beauty Bash, and I dared to hope for a solution: “Breast and Body Restoration: Doing It the Natural Way”.

I made a beeline toward her booth ahead of her speech and told her about my blog. Of course she assumed I would be interested in writing about breast reductions, something she’s very good at and that a lot of women want, but I explained that my readers and I have spent so much time learning to accept and value our breasts that we’d really like to know how we can keep them.

It turns out there’s an operation for that. It’s called a perforated flap breast reconstruction. Here’s how I understand it:

  1. Skin and fat is taken from your abdomen or bottom (basically, it’s a bonus tummy tuck if you want one).
  2. When the fat is removed, the microsurgeon also dissects out one artery and one vein, each no wider than 2mm.
  3. The skin and fat is transferred to your breasts, and the blood vessels are attached to matching blood vessels in your chest wall to restore blood flow to the transferred tissue.

What makes this procedure “natural” even though it involves surgery is the use of the patient’s own tissue instead of a foreign body (such as an implant). It differs from simply grafting your own tissue to your chest (after liposuction, for instance) because grafting doesn’t offer its own blood supply. This quote from her website explains the advantages:

By using the body’s own tissue, the restored breast is composed of soft, warm, living tissue, which integrates with your body over time. If you gain or lose weight, your breast will also gain or lose weight – just like any other part of your body. There is no chance of rejection, as there is with an artificial implant, as an autologous tissue breast reconstruction is composed of tissue that is already a part of you.

In addition, it may be possible to connect the nerves to give sensation to the reconstructed breast. Finally, it may be possible to transfer lymph nodes into the armpit to treat post-mastectomy upper extremity lymphedema.

Another advantage of this method is that it doesn’t use any muscle so there is far less pain or chance of abdominal complications.

While this procedure is often combined with a breast lift or reduction, its main benefit is for women who have lost one or both breasts to cancer. I felt sheepish asking questions for my own vain purposes, but I also felt excited about the possibilities for those of us who may have to face reconstruction in the future or know someone facing it. Only a handful of surgeons currently perform this procedure, and if I were a woman in need of reconstruction, I would want to know one of them. That’s why I’m introducing you to Dr. Chen.

 

Corporate Curves Report: Bust in Your Way?

Welcome to the eighth weekly Corporate Curves Report. I’ve been writing this column for two months now, so I have finally picked up the courage to share my views on the much debated subjects of cleavage, large busts in the workplace, and breast reduction. I’ve read The Rack column here on Hourglassy, which is an excellent series on breast reduction, and I’ve been wanting to write this post ever since reading it.  I must stress that I respect everyone’s own choice, and as long as it is what makes them happy, I have no problem with it. However, personally, it makes me physically nauseous just thinking about it. It’s literally a physical reaction that I can’t control. The reason I felt like writing this post right now was an article about Sophia Vergara in which she said she had once considered a breast reduction because her publicist  recommended she “reduce a couple of things that may have gotten in her way”.

My first point is what people really notice first when they meet someone they’ve not met before:

Some background first. I’m beginning to think that it’s fairly common these days for women to have a D+ bust, so why is it still supposedly a big deal in a woman’s career? But then I asked myself, “Has having a bigger-than-average bust ever gotten in my way in my work life?” and I have to say no, I can’t think of a single thing that my bust has gotten in the way of.

Nor have I ever been assumed to be dumb because I have big boobs. That in my opinion will only happen when one dresses to look like a music video girl. Flashing a lot of cleavage at work is a personal choice, and my choice is no, and my bust has never been frowned upon. The few other busty women in my workplace don’t flash theirs either, nor does any woman in my workplace. There are 88 core team members in our huge ERP project, out of which 29 are women, plus 6 assistants are are women.

It’s only when women themselves think of their bust as an issue that it becomes that–at least in their heads. But honestly, at work people do not concentrate on the bust size of coworkers, and in bigger workplaces for sure noone is the only one with a bigger bust. Sure bigger boobs are noticed, how can they not be? But so are big ears, haircuts, women who use tons of makeup, very thin or very big people. Generally any physical aspect is noticeable that you would use to describe a person so that another person would recognize who you are talking about if they’ve never met, but only seen, that person.

For example, yesterday I had to describe a coworker of mine to someone who said they had not met that person but needed to speak with him. So I described him as  “fairly tall, bold, dark beard and a very loud deep voice”. If a woman might not like to be described as “average height, dark medium length straight hair and a big bust”, then I do think that some men might not be so keen on being described as bold – but then both are true and noticeable, so it should not be a big deal.

What is your eye drawn to in the pictures below? I don’t think it’s the bust for most people. As for the photo on the left, it is  probably the color of the dress and then face. In the second photo, even with cleavage on show, your eye is most likely first drawn to the smile. The second picture was taken to demonstrate why the old Bravissimo dresses were too cleavage-y for work without scarves, a situation that has since been corrected in their latest collection.

Both dresses from Bravissimo in 14RC, equivalent to Pepperberry 14SC which is my standard dress size with them.

Finally,  some ramblings about breast reduction.  I can see why many women who’ve had a breast augmentation might end up wanting to be reduced. The bust is not natural to them, they’ve not been used to being busty, so they don’t know the challenges it’ll bring, and it all might be too much in the end. As a naturally busty woman, I wonder why they don’t think of it before they do it: where will they find clothes that look respectable, where can they get bras and bikinis, and how much large breasts weigh.  In this Dina Manzo interview, she discusses her breast reduction after a boob job.

If you have health issues because of the bust, then such an invasive operation is probably a good choice. BUT–and this is a big but here–a correctly fitting bra, especially early enough, will greatly help prevent shoulder and back aches. Even later later in life with  me, it has helped and I have no health issues that have to do with my bust. For younger girls it would be crucial to get them correctly fitted and into pretty bras early in their teenage/young adult lives, especially sports bras. There is no reason to need to feel ashamed over bouncing boobs and yes, there are pretty undies for busts too. A properly supported bust will lift the whole look and posture so it’s easy to stand up straight and not feel any shame over having a larger bust.

I am also linking to an excellent blog post by The Butterfly Collection on bra fitting, about who needs to add inches and who doesn’t, and how the band and cup correlate. Personally, I have never considered having a breast reduction and could not ever imagine doing so. Ugh – I’ve spoken, long ramble over 🙂

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

 

Off The Rack ~ Taking a Load Off

I’ve been having a lot of back issues lately. Between the card table and antique dining chair I’m forced to sit in at work three days a week (it’s a home office, so there isn’t a real office chair or ergonomic desk), the cramped seats on the subway, and regularly carting heavy bags around the city for my other job as an assistant, my lower back has been in quite some discomfort and pain lately.

When I complained about it to my boyfriend, he also pointed out that my posture is dreadful, even when I’m just standing around. So I’ve been making an effort to sit and stand up straight lately. It helps that I switched to a new three-day-a-week job just this week, where I get to sit in a real office with a real desk and office chair. But even when I’m just standing in wait for an elevator or the next bus, I’m trying to be conscious of my posture.

Then the other night, when I was reiterating this newfound consciousness to the boyfriend, he also pointed out that I’m carrying a lot of weight on my chest. At first I scoffed, but then he lifted them up as I was standing there…and what a difference! It felt like I’d just taken off a heavy purse or other carryall after a long day.

Then I got the genius idea that we should weigh my boobs! We grabbed the scale, weighed me alone, then I stepped off and stepped back on while he held up my breasts. The difference was 5.2 pounds. That doesn’t sound like that much, but I suspect if I could actually remove them from my body completely, it would be even more. (Maybe I should buy a kitchen scale, so I could just plop them right on the scale?) Anyways, this means I’ve got 5.2 pounds at minimum pulling my chest downward all day, every day. No wonder my posture sucks!

With excellent timing, the next day I received a package of four brand-spanking new Freya Deco bras (two regular and two strapless) that I’d ordered a couple weeks prior. My old ones were worn out and didn’t fit anymore, since I went up a cup size a few months ago. Putting on the new bra felt pretty similar to when someone else held my breasts up. That’s what I love about a good molded push-up—if it fits well, it hoists the girls up enough that they feel less heavy. Even if you don’t like the ultra cleavage look of molded push-ups, you have to concede to this most excellent benefit. Plus, just having a bra that fits well, push-up or not, makes it a lot easier to hold my shoulders back and keep my back straight.

Have any of you tried weighing your boobs? Were you surprised by how much they weigh (or how little)? What method did you use?