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 🙂

Which 99% Are You? Breasts, Dancer Bodies and “Real Women”

If we were together in a second grade classroom right now, and the teacher asked us, “Who wants to be a ballerina?”, I would be the obnoxious little girl in the front row, hand extended to the ceiling, calling out, “Me! Me! Pick me!”

Back then, it was all about the fluffy pink tulle.  Today, it would be all about the dancers’ bodies.

I’ve attended three Fall for Dance performances since last Friday and will see two more this weekend. This explains why I have dancers on my mind.  Seeing so many female dancers in such a short amount of time has allowed me to compare their bodies with each other and with the women in the audience.

It began during the  Mark Morris Group’s performance of All Fours last Friday night when Mr. Campbell leaned over and whispered, “Isn’t she a little large for a dancer?” He was talking about Rita Donahue’s body.  That’s her on the far right, in an August performance of Festival Dance.

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The Rack–The Other Team

(The Rack is a weekly Friday column by musician, fit model, waitress and–finally–former babysitter, Tammy.)

I arrived at my breast reduction consultation with a mix of fear and excitement. I had chosen this doctor from a huge list on my insurance provider’s website, where she stood out from the other doctors for a few important reasons. The first was that she has been performing breast reductions for 20 years. The second was that there was a wealth of information available about my doctor–she’s been featured on Dr. Oz and has dozens of before and after pictures of the surgery available on her website. I was thoroughly impressed with how perfectly shaped and lifted the “after” breasts looked, and after waiting about three weeks for an appointment, I arrived at her office, located in a posh little townhouse on the Upper East Side.

My biggest fear going in was my weight. I’ve put on about 15 pounds in the past couple of years, and while I don’t think I’m terribly overweight, medically speaking I am slightly over my ideal “healthy” weight. I worried that my insurance company might argue that my breast size is weight-related and demand that I lose the extra poundage before attempting to surgically alter my breasts. While I could definitely benefit from losing the weight, I know my breasts aren’t going to budge–they were a 34DD (just one cup size smaller than they are now) when I was 15 years old and weighed 20 pounds less than I do now. With this possibility weighing (ha!) on me, I filled out some forms about my medical history and nervously awaited the doctor’s professional opinion.

When she walked into the room, we talked a bit about my reasons for wanting the reduction–difficulty exercising, breast soreness, skin problems from my bra straps, fit of clothing. She took one look at my small frame and commented that my breasts were definitely “disproportionate.” When I removed my clothes, I was surprised at her reaction. I’m so used to my girlfriends saying I’m “Soooo lucky!”, and the only people who have seen me without a bra are boyfriends, fitting ladies at my favorite bra store, my gynecologist and my mother. Boyfriends are always big fans, the bra fitting ladies are thrilled to find me a great bra, my gynecologist says she’s jealous, and my mom would love me even if I were 300 pounds, so the negative feelings I have about my breast size have always come from inside of me.

The doctor was right there with me. The look on her face was part sadness and part pity. I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with this, it seemed to say. What she really said was “Wow, they are quite large.” She palpated them, similarly to how the gyno does in a breast exam, and began lifting and pinching to see where she’d be slicing and dicing.

I asked if she thought I’d be a good candidate for the surgery and whether my weight would be an issue for the insurance company. She recommended an orthopedist for me to see for the postural issues I didn’t even realize I had developed.  (My shoulders hunch forward slightly. In the past, I had amazing posture, but now it has become difficult to push my shoulders back and down, a strain that was undoubtedly caused by my breast size.)

As for the weight issue, she said that it has nothing to do with my breast size, because my breasts have “very little fat on them.” Very little fat? Breast tissue is made up of glands–not fat. There are fat cells in your breasts, which explains why some women go up and down cup sizes as their weight fluctuates. But not me! The doctor said my breasts are made of dense breast tissue, which is also why they are so heavy. She seemed very positive about the possibility of my insurance covering the costs of surgery.

After a visit to the orthopedist and some x-rays, my next stop is a few physical therapy sessions to teach me some exercises that will help with my postural issues, and then hopefully a green light from the orthopedist. I could have the surgery as soon as May or June!

Triangle bikinis and backless dresses are dancing through my head.