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.
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.
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!
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.