I wasn’t going to talk about this on the blog. I really wasn’t. But I’ve been telling strangers on the street, so I started to think why not talk about it here? So, here goes:
I had breast reduction surgery.
No, I won’t be posting pictures. Hey – you – the one who just sighed with relief. Those pictures would be amazing and you’d be damn lucky to see them. Still not posting them, though.
I’ve had to wear a bra since I was in fourth grade. I know people who haven’t had big boobs probably think that’s a fabulous problem to have. Let me tell you something: It was mortifying. I spent my adolescent life trying to hide them. Trying to hide myself. What made it even worse was that there has always, always been more than a cup size difference between the girls. Bathing suits were a nightmare. Not because I was fat, that didn’t come until my mid-twenties, but because any suit I tried just enhanced the difference.
So, when my OB/GYN asked me 18 months ago if I wanted a reduction, I jumped at the chance. I had thought about it for years, but wanted to get past nursing my children first. At the time, I wasn’t finished nursing BamBam yet, so I still had to wait, but in January 2010 I had my first glorious consultation with a plastic surgeon.
It was wonderful to talk to her, to finally meet someone who not only understood, but explained things I hadn’t even realized I didn’t understand. I’ve had shoulder trouble for the last few years, but I attributed it to my posture during nursing and the way I carry my kids around, never to the fact that I’ve had humongous breasts for 30 years. I’ve been to physical therapists, always either men or thin, flat-chested women. They talked to me about my posture and told me to try sitting up straight for five minutes a day and then increase that amount of time each week. And I tried, I really did. But I never realized until I met with the surgeon that I’d been slumping for 30 years because of my breasts. Well, I realized it, but I thought it was just because of the shame. I slumped so I wouldn’t be noticed. Wouldn’t, if you’ll excuse the expression, stick out. But talking to the surgeon made me realize that I also slumped because of the weight. These physical therapists don’t understand that. And until they strap 20 pound weights on their chests and walk around with them 24/7 for a few weeks, they never will. They can’t.
It was such a relief to realize that I hadn’t just done this to myself out of shame. That there was a real, physical reason for my shoulders to slump. And I can fix it. Insurance will even pay for it because it’s recognized as causing real physical problems. Such a relief.
But there was another obstacle. Something I had done to myself, and that was my weight. The surgeon explained that reducing the size of my breasts at my weight would make my stomach seem even larger because I wouldn’t have the shelf of my breasts to mask it any longer. In addition, if I lost weight at that point, some of it would come from my breasts, making them even smaller. We set my surgery date for April and I was supposed to get down to 200 pounds by then. If I lost more weight after, it shouldn’t make my breasts any smaller. So I dieted. I lost about 10 pounds and was beginning to falter. I realized I wasn’t going to make it, even though it was only mid-February.
Then one night Marathon Girl (before she was Marathon Girl) told me that she had talked Cookie into doing The Program. I knew that MG had done it. I’d seen her miraculous transformation. But talking to Cookie about it that night, I started to think that maybe I could do it, too. The clincher? Marathon Girl told me it would really help her out to have me go work out with her in the mornings. She lived down the street from me, so she was already planning to pick me up on the mornings we would go to the club. We did for several months. MG has since moved across town, but Book Club Maven has moved closer to me and we’re going to drive to the club together. Anyway, that got me psyched enough to go to the seminar and the seminar did the rest. I also talked Sparky into going with me, but then you already know that if you’ve been reading this blog.
The one hitch to the program, aside from the sheer amount of time you have to schedule for all the appointments, was that I would have to postpone my surgery. I’d waited so long and I was hesitant to put it off. What if I lost weight in my breasts and insurance would no longer pay for the operation? In the end, I decided the weight was more important and went with The Program. But then you knew that, too.
I was down to the low 180s by July and I’ve fluctuated between 183 and 188 for the next two months. Very frustrating. Still, my surgeon was pretty impressed when I came back to her office at the beginning of October weighing 186. Sparky came with me so he could hear first hand about the surgery and the restrictions that would govern my recovery. For six weeks, I would not be allowed to lift my arms over my head, move my elbows more than a foot away from my hips, or pick up anything heavier than 15 pounds. Something like, say, a 30 pound toddler. Oh boy. But it’s necessary so that you don’t tear open the incisions. We had to rearrange various things in the house so I’d be able to reach them. We were very fortunate that my mom agreed to come help out for the first two weeks (THANKS MOMBO!).
I checked in for surgery at 5:30 am on Thursday, October 21. It took roughly five hours and the surgeon removed almost four and a half pounds of breast tissue. That’s just under 2,000 grams. The insurance company requires 500 grams to qualify for the surgery, so I’d say I was pretty well qualified. Times four.
I stayed the night in the hospital, where the food was surprisingly good. It was under 24 hours, though, so still considered outpatient. Go figure. I was wrapped very tightly in an Ace bandage for a week. It was itchy and, in case I didn’t mention it, excruciatingly tight, so I couldn’t wait to get it off. I also wasn’t allowed to shower and could only wash my hair by leaning over the sink and having my mom do it. We only did that once – when you’ve had surgery on your chest, it kind of hurts to lean over the sink. The bandage was removed the following Friday, but then I put on a tight sports bra that I was to wear 24/7 excepting brief periods (showering and whatnot) for the remaining five weeks of recovery. Blerg.
They removed the stitches along with the bandage and replaced them with surgical tape. They said it should come off by itself after two weeks, but I could remove any remaining tape in the shower. Right. What they didn’t tell me was that I should take heavy pain medication before doing so. After two weeks and three days, my tape was still very much attached except at the ends under my arms. Like the trooper I am, I got in the shower and started to remove the tape. I fear the screaming may have woken up the entire west coast. The tape sticks to the scabs, you see. I’ll say no more. Except OUCH!
The arm restrictions didn’t seem so bad at first. I hurt anyway, so it’s not like I wanted to do anything more than sit quietly on the couch. After a few weeks, though, it became quite annoying. I had to sleep on my back, which I never do, and I had trouble getting to sleep that way. I also had to use these elastic bands I attached to my pajamas and looped around my wrists to keep me from accidentally moving my arms out of bounds as I slept. I had to change the boys’ diapers on the floor at various changing stations we set up in hall closets. I had to coax BamBam upstairs for naps every day because I couldn’t carry him. I stopped taking either boy to music classes because BamBam has a tendency to pitch fits on the sidewalk at unexpected times and I just couldn’t deal with that without the ability to pick him up.
I had planned to do National Novel Writing Month in November, but quickly realized that was just insane. I should give myself time to heal. So I did. I tried to relax, but just ended up getting kind of depressed. And when depressed, as you dear readers know by now, I eat. A lot. And there was no question of exercise. At two weeks, I was permitted to walk on an inclined treadmill as long as I didn’t bounce anything. Right. I did it twice. Not even as easy as it sounds.
So I’ve gained weight instead of lost it. What’s more, it’s all going on my waist, which is where the remaining 40 pounds I need to lose was lodged anyway, and my boobs no longer stick out far enough to camouflage it. This did not help with the depression. Or, oddly enough, the eating.
I started this post over two weeks ago. I had this whole metaphorical post planned on restrictions that I can’t remember now. Something about all these restrictions meaning that I couldn’t possibly be expected to restrict my diet as well. It was very deep.
And I can’t believe Thanksgiving is over and it’s already December. I was supposed to see my doctor tomorrow so she could take another look and release me from the restrictions. To my surprise, they moved the appointment up to Wednesday, so I was released yesterday. The first thing I did was raise my arms over my head. The doctor said I’d done a great job with the restrictions. Go me. I was hoping to be able to ditch the sports bra at that meeting, but it didn’t work out that way. I still can’t go too long without one, so the bra stays, at least for a few more weeks. She did say I could go get a cheap, more comfortable one to wear, though.
She warned me to go slow in resuming my normal activity level, saying that if I did too much too fast I’d end up feeling like a truck ran over me. I, good girl that I am, went home and picked both kids up, bounced them around, and so on. Turns out the doctor was right. I’m taking a lot of Advil today.
I’m also still eating. I thought I would magically be able to go back to the Program and everything would be okay. Yeah, not so much. Luckily, I have a dietician appointment on Monday and am hoping to resume training next week as well. My former trainer isn’t available at the time I need him, so I think I’ll have to have someone new. I need to get started right away, though, so I’m going to do it. I hope I’ll be able to handle that much exercise by Monday. I need to push through regardless because I can’t gain the weight back, especially now that my boobs are smaller. I can’t stand looking down at my protruding stomach. I look like I’m about six months pregnant.
I found it really interesting when the doctor showed me my ‘before’ pictures. I’m still swollen now, so they won’t take the official ‘after’ pictures until I’m three months post-surgery, which will be March. She said by that time I won’t believe I was ever that big. I can’t quite see that now. I feel…not myself and I can’t imagine not remembering the weight I carried around for 30-odd years. I did tell her that several people have been shocked when I told them about the operation because they didn’t see me as having big breasts. She said that’s because I wore a good bra that held them in well, but it didn’t negate the weight. I liked that.
I’m jumping back on the Program (at least BY) Monday and plan to get down to 175 by my birthday on January third. That’s the list deadline. It’s not as far as I’d planned to come, but I’ll get into that in my summary post. I’m hoping to jump back into writing again, too. We’ll see how that goes.
So, if you happen to see me in person soon, feel free to compliment me on my proportionately perky rack, but please don’t mention the protruding stomach.