Wednesday, January 30, 2013

ONE YEAR post-op...Physical Therapy

My first year boobiversary was over two months ago and I've been meaning to post something since then.  The best thing I can say is that I really don't think about my surgery much anymore.  Even better, I don't stress about what I'm going to wear or where I can find a bra that fits.  Don't get me wrong....shopping for bras is still not my favorite thing in the world, but it is so nice to have more than two options.

During my one-year post-op visit with my surgeon, we discussed making an appointment for scar revision.  In earlier posts, I wrote about the folds at the ends of my scars.  After a year, they have flattened out some, but I still have extra skin on my sides.  My sides were also still quite sore.  Doc recommended that I get physical therapy before we proceed with scar revision to make sure that the underlying tissue is completely healed.

Physical therapy turned out to be even more effective than I had hoped.  I was blessed with a great therapist, and she used ultrasound and massage on the areas that were hurting me.  On my first appointment, there were spots that were painful even to light touch.  A month later, I think I was back to normal.  A bit of sensitivity was normal for me before surgery, especially over the ribs under my armpit.  Advice I would give to anyone before they have a breast reduction is to massage all your breast tissue (and surrounding areas) and take notes about sensitive spots, lumps, and whatever else is "normal" for you.  This will really help your expectations for healing after surgery.  The pain I was feeling extended a few inches beyond the end of my scars into my sides almost to my back.  This was not normal for me, and my guess is that the tissue was disrupted during all the swelling I had after surgery (maybe not having tubes wasn't so great afterall??).  I'm sure there were many factors at work since I had a lot of skin removed.  I don't understand ultrasound therapy, but it seems to have helped those areas heal.

I still massage my scar tissue after showers with a blend of jojoba and essential oils.  I find that keeping my scars moisturized feels better.  Though they don't itch anymore like they did when first healing, they can sometimes feel tight if my skin gets too dry.

When I look back over the last year, I am amazed by everything that I went through, BUT I am SO glad I did.  A huge burden has been lifted (both metaphorically AND literally!) and now I have the rest of my life to live with a little more freedom than I had before.  Sure, I still struggle with self-esteem and learning to love my post-baby body, but I definitely feel more at home in my skin.  I know that my happiness depends so much on my expectations.  I guess that leads me to some more advice that I have.  For those of us who bear a heavy burden, it is easy to get fixated on the burden itself and get fooled into thinking that life will magically be perfect after the burden is removed.  We can't forget that much will depend on our own choices and healthy expectations for those things that are out of our control.  Each day will have new struggles.  Personally, I needed the thorn removed from my paw before I could tackle a new day.  Hear me roar :-)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Scars and tape

Well, some time has passed since I first started taping my scars.  I was never able to tape my areola scars without problems (ouch).  My other scars seem to be doing well with the tape and I think it helps reduce itching.  I don't know if the scars are reducing yet, but I haven't been very diligent about taking pictures to compare.

I called my doc to ask what I could use instead of tape for my sensitive scars.  She recommended Cimeosil...but it's expensive!  I did some searching online and decided to try PediFix Silicone Scar Sheets and cut them to shape.  These sheets are probably thicker than Cimeosil, but maybe that will make them more durable?  They can be washed and reused.  I figured it was worth a shot considering the price difference. 

I also bought some Mederma to use at night.  I wash the silicone sheets and let them air-dry overnight.   I'm on day 2 using this combination of Mederma, silicone sheets, and tape.  Time will tell!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

6 month post-op doctor visit

I went to see my plastic surgeon yesterday for my 6-month appointment.  She told me that I need to start taping my scars.  She gave me some white Micropore (3M) tape and told me to replace it every day.  The idea is to deprive the scar of oxygen and therefore limit the production of collagen.  Too much collagen makes large scars.

I wore the tape overnight and did not enjoy peeling it off this morning.  One little spot took my skin with it!  I tried to remove the rest in the shower hoping that getting it wet would help.  Not so much.  The tape backing came off leaving the adhesive behind.  Luckily, the jojoba and lavender oil combination I've been using after showering took the adhesive off easily.  I waited about an hour after using the oil to replace the tape.  I am still undecided whether I should continue using this method.  I'll give it a few more days and call Doc if I'm still having problems.

We also talked about "fixing" the dog ears (yup, that's what they call them in the biz) and wrinkled skin on the edges of my incisions.  She said it would be a simple in-office procedure.  I'm not thrilled with the idea of getting cut again, but I figure I've come this far...why not?  Doc said it would be best to wait a year-post-op, which is fine with me since I don't want to deal with this during the heat of summer. 

So, now that 6 months has passed, my large bosom is just a faint memory.  Now that hotter weather is here, I am so thankful for comfy bras and tank tops....both are things I never felt comfortable wearing in public.  My favorite "find" is the Genie Bra (or Ahh Bra...they are basically the same thing).  It's cheap, comfortable, and gives slightly more shape than a sport bra.  I bought a bunch on eBay and they have become my favorite daily bras.  I wear a "real" bra when I need a more flattering shape, but after being uncomfortable for so many years, I am reveling in wearing "leisure" bras whenever I can!

Friday, March 16, 2012

4 Months Post-Op

I can't believe it's already been 4 months since surgery!  On the other hand, I really don't think about the surgery very much until I shower/get dressed.

March has brought another round of sickness to my family, which leads me to my news to report for the month.  My feverish baby spent many hours laying on my chest last night...no problem.

I am much happier wearing a "real" bra, at least out in public...and I'm excited to sort through my summer clothes to see how they fit.  But, that's a project for when we are all feeling a little better.  For now, I'm back to my crabby baby.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bra Shopping: Success!

Let me just say that Kohl's totally sinks Wal-Mart's battleship when it comes to bra shopping...among countless other things.

After trying on approximately one million different bras, I ended up with a dozen that seemed to fit okay.  I didn't have the mental capacity to make anymore decisions after spending hours under fluorescent lights, so I just bought them all with the intention of weeding them out at home.  Binge and purge shopping is my secret vice. 
Side note:  I am clean, and I do not have huge chunks of white deodorant nor excessive makeup that I smear onto everything I try on.  (Have you seen this!?  Sheesh!)

My husband selflessly helped me sort out the not-so-flattering bras.  He seems to have a much better eye for shape than I do...go figure.  Half of the dozen went back in the bag.  Next test: comfort.  I have very sensitive skin, so anything itchy has to go.  My scars are still fairly sensitive as well, so I needed to spend some time sitting/moving to test how the bra band would sit under my breasts.  I put a square of toilet paper between the plastic tags and my skin to rule out these itchy spots.  Then I sat down to start this blog.  I can usually tell within a couple minutes if a bra is going to treat me wrong. I was surprised that the underwire bras came out ahead in this department.  The underwire also helped to tame the "side boobs".

The results?  I settled on two underwires (Olga and Warners), and one comfy wire-free (Bali).  I am somewhere between a 38C or 40C depending on the brand.  I hate the idea of going UP in bra band after a REDUCTION (I used to wear a 38G) but on the other hand, it's nice to have a looser band.  I realized my bra band doesn't need the leverage to hold up the gals like it used to, so I can get away with more comfort.  My sides are still a little sore and perhaps there is still some swelling going on.  I guess time will tell!

In the meantime, I am pleased.  My gals are no longer smashed by a sport bra and once again stick out farther than my belly.  All is right with my world :-)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Bra Shopping: First Attempt. Fail.

I've just been plain exhausted the last few weeks.  I finally had a chance to go bra shopping, but I sure didn't feel like going out.  I had a great coupon for Kohl's, so that was my destination after I got the kids in bed.  I got there at 8:40...and quickly found out they close at 9:00 on Sundays.  Classic.

Well, Wal-Mart is next door and open all night, so I figured I would give Wally World a chance since I had some other things to pick up.

I totally struck out and ended up just buying another 2-pack of sport bras.  I've been spoiled wearing sport bras all the time.  "Real" bras are pretty uncomfortable in comparison.  But a gal needs some shape now and then!

Here's my problem:  side boob.  My breast shape is just too wide.  I don't know if this is an issue that will resolve after more time...I'm hoping it is.  The only way I can find a cup size that fits is by going way up in band size.  I used to wear a 38 G...so I should still be able to wear a 38...right?  My measurements indicate that I should be a 38 C, but it seems like I need a 40 or 42 A now.  But that just doesn't sound right.  And it doesn't feel quite right.

I'm sure that the extra 30 pounds I'm carrying is not helping my situation in the side rolls department.  Nothing like a dressing room mirror to knock out any residual self-esteem.  I'm pretty depressed.  And I had to come to a realization...as much as I hated my big breasts, I miss my old proportions.  Now I feel pear-shaped and dumpy.  I didn't realize how much I hid behind my bosoms.  Now it's all out there..."it" meaning my momma-belly and everything else that reminds me I'm not 20 anymore.  Sigh.

Well, I'm trying to keep my perspective...striking out at *Wal-Mart* is far from complete failure.  I'm still going to give Kohl's a try.  And hopefully get to the gym more often!

Monday, February 27, 2012

3 Months Post-op

Well....my 3 month boobiversary was on the 17th and I've been meaning to write since then.  Life just never slows down!

The main thing I have to report is that I don't have to sleep with a bra on anymore!  Most of the soreness is gone.  I had another stitch work its way to the surface over the last month and that is all healed now.  I sure hope that's the end of that!

I used up all the lavender oil I had, so I've started using Bio Oil.  I'm skeptical that anything headlining mineral oil will be that beneficial, but I read some glowing reviews and decided to give it a try.  The amount of perfume in the stuff is enough to give me a migraine (I'm very sensitive to strong odors) so I decided to combine it with jojoba oil.  So far, I like this combination better than lotion.  It soaks into my skin and doesn't feel greasy.  The lotion made me feel too damp and was irritating along the elastic band of my sports bra.

I'm still wearing sports bras...basically because I just haven't had time or energy to shop for "real" bras.  I tried on a few but realized I'll need to make a special trip (alone) when I have enough time to devote to trying on a lot of different options.

One of the things that people have told me is that patients have fewer migraines after surgery.  Unfortunately, that is not the case for me.   On the bright side, I am more comfortable while I do have migraines.  The straps from my old bras and the extra breast weight just added that much grief to my already painful episodes.
I just went to the chiropractor for the first time since surgery and I've started exercising again...so maybe my migraine situation will change.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

2 Months After Surgery

Today is my 2-month boobiversary!  The time went fast...in hindsight only!  I have many moments throughout the day that I forget altogether that I ever even had surgery.  My one-year-old's elbow has a way of reminding me.

My scars seem to be healing well, though they are far from pretty or undetectable.  I've been massaging them with unscented lotion and a few drops of lavender oil once or twice a day.  A few of my stitches have worked their way out over the last month (rather than dissolving) and that caused a tiny bit of bleeding and irritation.  I am still exclusively wearing cotton sport bras.  I am tempted to start looking for "real' bras, but my doctor advised that I wait another month.  I think the process of trying on bras would leave me rather sore, so I am content to wait.

My doctor said I could start exercising, but I should take it easy with my arms.  Too many fast movements with my arms may cause more swelling.  I went swimming (in a "normal" swimsuit!) yesterday and it felt good to do something active other than walking.

My breast shape is still a bit high, but I can tell that they are starting to form a natural drop.  They are also much softer due to less swelling.  I don't have any real pain other than some soreness in the morning and a general tightness.  My favorite change this month is that I can reach my arms over my head....so I can reach everything in my kitchen and have a good stretch with my morning yawn.

Friday, December 16, 2011

One Month Post-op

Hooray!  It's been a month since surgery!  It's been a loooong month, but I'm happy it's behind me.  I'm not fully recovered, but I finally don't need bandages!  I can wash my hair with both hands (I had to do one side at a time before) and I can kinda hug my kids if I use more shoulder than chest.  I'm still exclusively wearing cotton sport bras, but I can wear the pull-over kind now which are so much more comfortable for sleeping.  The most exciting change is that I can sleep on my side!  I've been sleeping a lot better, which I'm sure is helping me heal better as well.

I've started massaging my scars with Aquaphor and it seems like some of the wrinkly areas are smoothing out.  I still have some bruising, but my Frankenboobies are well on their way to looking human.  The shape is still a little strange with more swelling on my sides, but I think I look normal with clothes on.  Speaking of clothes, everything fits so much better!  I was concerned that all my clothes would be too big...some are, but mostly my shirts just fit...well...normal!  I feel more comfortable dressing modestly, so another exciting change is that my cleavage starts about an inch lower, so V-necks don't seem to go as low.  I will confess, I liked my belly better back when I couldn't see it, but for the most part I do like my new shape.  And being able to see my belly will help me make better choices.  I'm excited to get the "all clear" from my doctor to start exercising...and I'm excited for summer to run around with my kids.

It's been a tough transitional month, and the winter blues certainly do not help, but I'm optimistic and excited to continue learning about my new body!  It's hard to explain, but my thinking is changing on many levels and it's interesting to look back and see the difference for the better.  It seems there is not much that can happen to the body that does not affect the soul.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Post-op Appointments

I went back to the doctor 5 days after surgery.  It was a bit unnecessary since all she did was look at me to make sure things were healing okay...but it was reassuring.  And I got a new prescription for pain meds, so that's always good.  The doctor sent me home from surgery with a prescription for Percocet, but I think it was giving me some pretty bad headaches and I didn't like how messed up I was feeling.  Vicodin seemed to be a better option for me.  After about a week, though, I started getting headaches again.  I tapered off the meds and took Ibuprofen occasionally when needed, which wasn't often.

My second appointment, 2 weeks later was more invasive.  The nurse removed the tape and adhesive from my incisions.  I did not enjoy this.  My skin is very sensitive and really holds on to adhesive, so it wasn't very easy to get off...and the idea of anyone touching my owies makes me freak out.  This was probably the worst part of my whole experience so far.  In some ways, it set me back a week.  My wounds are more tender and have started to weep again, so I need to wear pads/bandages in my bra again.  They are itchy.  I'm just overall a lot more uncomfortable than I was last week.  However, on the bright side, I look a lot better.  All the dried blood is gone and the scars seem to be forming nicely.

There are a few areas that concern me on my sides where the skin is more wrinkled and not smooth, the skin looks folded.  The doctor said that is something they can fix later.  I'm not thrilled about "fixing" anything later.  The nurse said that they had to work within the sterile field and couldn't roll me during surgery to work with detail on my sides.  I guess that makes sense, but I'd prefer it was just done right the first time.  She did say that once the swelling goes down, some of the wrinkly areas will smooth out.  I guess we'll see.

I have been having trouble sleeping because I'm still very uncomfortable at night.  I still need to sleep on my back...I hate sleeping on my back.  The doctor gave me Tylenol 3 to take before bed and that seems to be helping, though I feel a bit hungover in the morning.

Monday, December 5, 2011

First Post-op Days (more surgery details)

There were two things that I was absolutely dreading:  drainage tubes and staples.  I was ecstatic to find that I didn't have to deal with either!  I was also surprised that I wasn't in more pain.  I mean, it hurt, but I was really prepared for the worst.  I have NO pain tolerance, but it was manageable.  The doctor sent me home with a very small tube running into each breast attached to a small pain medication pump I could wear around my waist.  The tubes were coiled up and taped to my chest right under my neck.  This will probably be the only picture I will post (if you are looking for before and after pictures, there are many online.  plasticsurgery.org is a good source)
In all the research I have done, I haven't seen this used before.  It looked a lot more scary than it was...all the coils just ensure that I couldn't yank the tubes out by accident.  You can also see some of the bruising that was starting.  The combination of this direct pain medication and oral medication kept me at a very tolerable pain level.  It still hurt to move and my arms were fairly useless.  I didn't feel like I could quite straighten my back, so I felt a bit hunched over.  I basically spent the first week in our recliner, but I had to have someone else raise/lower the lever for me.  My sides were the most painful.  The doctor told me that because of gravity, I would have the most swelling there.

The type of surgery I had is sometimes called "keyhole" incision.  My kids had a ton of questions, so I found this video that does a good job of explaining without being too graphic:  http://video.about.com/womenshealth/Breast-Reduction.htm 
(Though that model sure doesn't have much to remove!)

I had about about 450 grams removed from one side, about 550 from the other...a little over 2 pounds total.  I never really realized one side was much bigger than the other, and now I'm curious how that imbalance of weight affected my back pain.  I have stitches that will dissolve and the wounds are covered with Dermabond, a topical skin adhesive.  I was directed to wear a clean bra daily and change my bandages twice a day.  I was sent home in a comfortable surgical bra/vest with a thick band of elastic that sat low on my torso.  I had some front-close sport bras to change into, but I was too sensitive to have that bra band so close to my incisions.  We ended up using a 6" ace bandage to wrap me up while the surgical bra was getting washed.  After the first week, the surgical bra became too cumbersome and the sport bras were better.  After a few days of clean bandages, I'm now able to wear a sport bra without bandages.  I'm still pretty sensitive...always have been, always will be....so I wear the sport bras inside out so the seams don't bother me as much.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Backstory

I vividly remember the day I snapped.  It was summer, a few months after my second baby was born.  I hate summer and I hate heat.  My experience has been that breastfeeding makes both problems worse.  I was up to an "I" cup at this point which left me only a few options for nursing bras, all uncomfortable and scratchy, and none of which looked very flattering under summer clothes.  I wanted to take my baby and 2-year-old to the park, so I was attempting to find something to wear that would be suitable for public viewing.  I don't know how to explain this to those of you who haven't experienced this and I know I don't have to explain for those of you who have.  Needless to say, the combination of postpartum hormones, the heat, leaking milk, baby crying, itchy bras, the heat, and trying to find clothes that fit sent me over the edge.  We never did make it to the park, but I did make the decision that set me on the path toward breast reduction.  Something had to give.

I spent a lot of time looking for information online.  Chances are if it can be Googled, I read it.  The main thing that concerned me was the possibility that I wouldn't be able to breastfeed after the surgery, so I came to the conclusion that I had to wait until I was sure that I was done procreating.  In the meantime, I started to make sure that my problems were documented every chance I got.  I mentioned how my large breasts negatively affected me at every OB/GYN appointment.  I talked about the possibility of breast reduction with my family doctor and my chiropractor.  All of them agreed that they would help me if I needed more paperwork to convince my insurance company.  In the end, I didn't need their help (or a referral), but there was no way I could have known that at the time.  If I had ended up with a different insurance company, I may have needed it.  All the talking did, however, boost my confidence and made me feel that I really did have a problem that could be solved.  I didn't necessarily have to continue to suffer the rest of my life.  I still had my doubts, but it always helps to have a professional agree with me.

I had my mind *mostly* made up that I would eventually go through surgery, but I was also still apprehensive.  Making such a large change is overwhelming.  I liked how I looked (packed into a really supportive bra) but I hated how I felt.  In a society that apparently puts high value on large breasts, it almost feels "wrong" to wish to be smaller.  Many of my small-breasted friends would make comments about how they wished they had larger breasts.  I would tell them to be happy with the way they are or I'd whomp 'em over the head with one of mine.  All joking aside, I know it's in our nature to want what we don't have.  Women with straight hair get perms, and those with curly hair use straightening irons.  Silly humans, we all are!  Still, I have lived with the "glory" of large breasts long enough to know they just aren't worth the pain.  They make breastfeeding more difficult, they are heavy, my back hurts, bras are uncomfortable and hard to find, exercising and playing with my kids is more difficult, they are hot and bulky in summer, and it's difficult to find clothes that fit and cover.

Over the next five years since that fateful summer day, I ended up having two more children.  My weight went up and down, but my bra size stayed about the same, just a cup or two larger when breastfeeding.  When I was pregnant with my fourth baby, I KNEW that he was my last.   I started looking for a plastic surgeon.  I read through my insurance information carefully.  I was limited to a few "preferred providers" that my insurance would cover.   I started making calls and asking questions.  I looked up the clinics and doctors online.  It seemed the concensus was that breastfeeding moms should wait a year after weening before having surgery, so that gave me a timeline to work with.  The next step was to make an appointment for a consultation.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Surgery

The week before surgery was a little strange.  I almost felt like I was just acting out a part in a play.  I guess that's one of the things that I like about my personality; I am able to focus on preparations rather than get wrapped up in anxiety (usually).  My family was taking care of my kids, my sister was coming to take care of me, and a friend dropped off some meals.  I was feeling loved and so thankful.  Everything was falling into place.

I didn't sleep much the night before.  I found myself walking around the house looking for all the last-minute things I needed to do while I still had the use of my arms.  My husband helped me take "before" pictures of the old gals.  As I filed those pictures away, I felt such finality that my life would be totally changed the next day.  I was excited.

We woke up a little after 5 the next morning and I took a shower with the special pre-surgical soap the nurse gave me at my last appointment.  I dressed in loose pants and one of my husband's old button up shirts.  I was directed to fast after midnight and not wear make-up or jewelry, so I didn't have too much to do before we got in the car headed for the hospital about an hour away.

We didn't have to sit too long in the waiting room.  A friendly nurse took me back to a small curtained room where I changed into a hospital gown and squeezed into a pair of compression stockings to ward off DVT.  I wasn't feeling much anxiety until it was time to start the IV.  I've had bad IVs before that hurt the whole time they were in, so it's not just a fear of needles.  They brought in an old pro who quickly slipped it in while the other nurse chatted to me about her earrings.  It was then that I fully realized the worst part of the surgery was over for me...since I'd soon be "under" and not able to worry about anything even if I wanted to.  I was facing a 3-hour surgery that would feel like 15 minutes to me.  That thought and the nice starter medication had me at ease.

My doctor came in to make markings on my breasts. Maybe it was just the meds influencing me, but there was something about that moment that made me feel so emotional.  My doctor's demeanor, her calm, her confidence and gentleness made me overwhelming thankful.  I still couldn't believe this was really happening to me.  Besides my wedding and the birth of my babies, I can't think of any other experience that would be so drastically life changing.  There are no words.

The rest is a blur.  There are parts that I didn't even remember, like getting into the hospital bed and getting wheeled away.  My husband told me about this later.  I was so thankful that I didn't remember, or maybe I wasn't conscious, for getting wheeled into the surgery room.  Years ago, I needed a D&C after a miscarriage.  It was a horrible experience on its own, but getting taken to the cold, stark and painfully bright room and having my arms strapped down by unknown covered faces....well, definitely not an experience I wanted to repeat.  Most assuredly, this experience with surgery was far superior.  Basically, I changed into a gown, got an IV, kissed my husband goodbye and woke up a few minutes later all finished.  Perfect.

My experience in the recovery room wasn't quite as stellar.  I don't like that foggy post-anesthesia feeling.  I guess that's why I never hit it off as a drug addict, I don't like that loss of control.  I was also a little apprehensive about being sent home.  Other ladies I've talked to spent the night in the hospital after their surgery, so it felt a little risky to be sent home just a couple hours after such a major surgery.  There was a moment when I felt like I could start getting ready to go.  I agreed to get dressed so I could go to the bathroom, but that's when the nausea started to get worse.  When I came out of the bathroom, the nurse was waiting there with the wheelchair to take me out to the car!  Maybe I missed something, but I really wasn't prepared for the ride home right that minute!  I was miserable.  The next almost-hour in the car was totally unenjoyable.  I drifted in and out of consciousness...I'd fall asleep, then wake up totally carsick and nauseous.  I tend to get carsick when I don't watch the road, but I couldn't keep my eyes open.  I'll leave out the next details...it wasn't pretty.

Once I finally got settled at home in my recliner, I spent the rest of the day in a state of unwakefulness.  My main complaint was a monster headache.  At least I'm used to headaches, so I was feeling pretty darn thankful!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Leading Up

Everything has been a blur since my last post and now I'm one week past surgery.  I started this blog as a way to deal with all the stuff in my head, a way to process my feelings about surgery.  But, I think I got to a point where I just resigned myself to go for it and I really haven't looked back since.

About a month before surgery, I heard it through the grapevine that a high-school acquaintance had a breast reduction just a few months ago.  I looked her up on Facebook and asked if she'd be willing to answer some questions.  She went totally beyond just answering questions and invited me over!  Her openness about her experience really helped me feel more confident about my decision.  Before this point, I was feeling timid about sharing anything about surgery on Facebook.  Looking back, I'm not really sure why I felt that way.  Just insecurity, I guess.  I'm still not going out of my way to tell the in-laws, but I'm not trying to hide it either.

Once I "went public", it felt like ladies started coming out of the woodwork.  Whether they had it done themselves or knew someone else who had, they all had positive outcomes.  Very reassuring!

So, from then until the date of my surgery, I've been BUSY!  More precisely, my mind has been busy.  I had a lot of arrangements to make, and I felt like I had a constant ticker tape running through my head.  I wanted to get things as clean and organized as I could, and I finished up any projects I had started over the last few months.  Now in hindsight, I am happy to say it all worked out!  All that time spent thinking paid off...there isn't anything that I would have done differently.  That alone makes me very happy.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Green Light

After the first doctor visit, I did a lot of research online.  I had done a lot of research before that appointment too, but now it all felt more real, more possible.  The doctor said she'd send a request to my insurance company...so I just had to wait.  I made the mistake of watching an actual surgery on YouTube...and the doubts and fear started creeping back in.

And then, the letter came!  I think a small part of me was hoping that I'd be denied so I could put surgery out of my mind.  But there were the words in print: "Your request has been approved."  It's an odd combination of excitement and dread that comes with elective surgery.  Though, I'm pretty sure I'd be driven over the edge of insanity if I had to do another round of bra shopping, so I suppose it's just about picking the lesser of evils.

I called my plastic surgeon to make an appointment.  I was told that I should wait a year after weening my breastfeeding baby, which would mean a December appointment.  I want to make sure to have the surgery done before the end of the year and December just feels too close to the cutoff, so I opted for November.  My pre-op physical will be in October.  With dates on the calendar, it really feels like this is going to happen!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Still Thinking

It was a rare moment as my one-year-old lay still on my chest.  I could tell he wasn't sleeping, just calm, looking out the window, hearing my heart beat.  These are the moments I always savor and soak in, but this time was especially sweet because I am planning to have breast reduction surgery before the end of the year.  I know I will be in pain for several weeks (or months?) afterward and I will miss hugs from my kids.   My heart grieves over things like this.  I am scared, nervous.  I am also excited, anticipatory.

I went to my first appointment with the plastic surgeon a couple weeks ago.  The nurse took my height, weight and general medical history.  She took my blood pressure.  She looked at the dial, then looked back at me, then back at the dial.  "Are you nervous?  Your blood pressure seems a little high."

Yes, I was nervous.  My heart was racing.  I was nearly scared out of my mind that the doctor would say, "no, you aren't a good candidate for the surgery."  Or worse, she would mirror my own mocking thoughts and say, "You don't really have a problem.  You're oversensitive.  You just need a good bra and you'll be fine!"

The truth is, I'm not fine.  My back hurts.  I feel weighed down.  I feel like I can't run outside to play with my kids without feeling like everyone is watching me "bounce".  When I was breastfeeding my babies, I was in agony trying to find supportive nursing bras.  I have to order all my bras online.  When you think about how many bras a "normal" woman tries on before finding a good fit, then add postage and hassle to the scenario, you will just begin to understand.  There have been many times that I was so hopeful a certain bra would fit only to have my hopes crushed...again and again.  Every bra I own hurts me.  Going without a bra hurts me.  Like water-drop torture, this struggle has become nearly unbearable.  I am terrified to go through surgery, but I am more terrified to go through the rest of my life with these burdensome bosoms.

To my relief, when the doctor came into the room, she got right down to business.  "Does your back hurt?  Do you have grooves in your shoulders from bra straps?  Do you have neck pain?  Headaches?  Irritation under your breasts?  Can you run?"
Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  Sometimes. Nope.

The doctor took pictures, recorded measurements, and explained the procedure.  She said I could easily have 400 grams removed and restore a good proportion to my body, but warned me that some insurance companies require 500 for coverage.  My heart sank.  I was so afraid she'd say something like that.  I thought back to my postpartum moments of insanity when I wished I could just cut my breasts off myself and be done with it.  I told her I wouldn't mind even if she had to take a little more than I'd like.  I think she could see the fear in my eyes, because she reassured me that until the surgery is finished, all speculations about how much will be removed are only estimates.  I was amazed when she told me they would send the request forms to my insurance company for me!  I was certain I would be faced with a mound of paperwork and phone calls.

I asked if they had any photos of past patients.  After the doctor went on to her next patient, the nurse brought in a binder with photos.  The first few pictures were surgeries gone wrong.  One woman was a smoker and had bad circulation, so the bottom of her breasts were huge wounds rather than healing scars.  I was shocked that they would include a "failure" but in hindsight, I think that shows they aren't trying to hide anything.  Some of the pictures looked literally like the bride of Frankenstein, but others actually looked pretty good!  That was reassuring.

I am not overly concerned with my final appearance, but I don't want to look like a freak.  The pictures that were taken about a year after surgery looked almost normal.  There were some interesting pictures too.  One woman had a large tattoo on the top of her breast in the "before" picture, and in the "after" picture, her nipple was now in the middle of her tattoo.  It's probably hard to imagine it without seeing, but that's how far they moved her nipple.  It occurred to me the strangest thing about the pictures were not the scars, but the nipple placement.  The nurse explained to me that's where the nipple is "supposed" to be and that over time, gravity will continue the downward pull.

The nurse was very patient and kind answering all my questions.  My brain was mush from the stress of pursuing something so drastic.  When I got back out to my car, I just sat there for a few minutes mulling it all over.  I was still just plain scared.