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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"Sisters", You've Been On My Mind...

Let's talk about the "girls". I noticed in my last post about clothes that I mentioned my breast reduction but had never really talked before about what a good decision this was for me, or about the thing that a lot of MO ladies worry about.

For many of us, one "silver lining" of being morbidly obese (MO) is having large breasts. We worry about what will happen to our shape when we lose weight. Indeed, what will happen? It depends entirely on what is IN your breasts. If you are young and the tissue is firm and not very fatty, not much will change. The older we get, the more fat is deposited there, and the more the size changes with weight changes.

When I was in my 20s, I gained weight and lost weight, but my girls just got bigger. As I mentioned in the previous post, eventually I outgrew all the "standard" sizes and had to be fitted at Nordstrom, where I was deemed a 38H. There in the fitting room, I decided that my idea of having a breast reduction was going to become reality. To me, H meant "Have to have a breast reduction." Things were outta control. I was tired of people staring at my chest, not in any sort of admiration but in freakish amazement. And I was sick of not being able to really exercise without pain in my shoulders, neck, back and chest. It was too much. I really felt like I couldn't lose weight if I didn't do something about this situation.

So, I went to a surgeon that a coworker of mine had gone to. His name was Dr. Kropp, in Seattle. I would refer everyone in the area to him if I could, but he is retired now. He related to me and my friend Val because we were burn nurses and he had done much of his training in reconstructive burn surgery. He had a special place in his heart for burn nurses. He was also extremely kind and caring. When he did my consultation, he took measurements, had his female nurse take photos (this is routine; the photos do not have your face on them, and go to the insurance company for approval), and then met with me, telling me "If you were my daughter, this is what I would want for you." He explained the 2 different ways that he could do the procedure. He assured me that there was no chance my insurance would not cover the procedure, given how much there was to remove, and he was right.

I knew how good he was from Val. She had been a 42MM prior to her reduction. (They used to call her Valcano.) She was reduced to a C cup. She told Dr. Kropp, "All I want is to be able to jump rope again!" She told me all about her surgery, and her results were beautiful. So I felt very confident in his abilities. I scheduled my surgery for late September 2001--about 2 weeks after 9/11, it turned out.

When he did my surgery, he was able to explain why they had never gotten smaller when I had lost weight. I was 28 years old, and there was almost no fat tissue in them. He took about 1000g (1kg) off each side. (The most expensive 5 lbs I ever lost.) There were no drains, but about a zillion tiny sutures. When I went to have them removed in the office 2 weeks later, it took him and a nurse about 20 minutes, and they looked like tiny insect antennae. He told me to wear a sports bra (one the office provided) after my dressings were removed, and I wore it at all times except when showering for 3 months. This is very important for shaping. When I first saw them post op, they looked completely flat, and there was a lot of tissue around the sides. Wearing the sports bra causes the side tissue to mold into the reconstructed breasts and creates a nice shape.

As an ICU nurse I have seen numerous women post breast reduction (for unrelated reasons, mostly because they have been in car accidents and such). My results were much nicer than most others I saw, so I would recommend that anyone looking for a surgeon shop around, get someone with a lot of experience, and talk to other patients. It makes a big difference.

I am very glad I had the reduction before WLS, because I've been able to exercise vigorously the entire time, and was exercising for over a year before WLS. When I lost 35 lbs in 2003-2004, nothing changed at all. However, when I gained weight again, and got older, I did start getting more fat in there. They are now a bit deflated, enough so that I am considering some additional work whenever I get around to getting a tummy tuck (in a few years most likely). The shape is still pretty good, but there is definitely less volume. You can't really tell when I am dressed and wearing a good bra. My initial post-op size was 38C. Now I am 34D.

Everyone I've ever talked to about having had this surgery has said the same thing: she wishes she'd done it years earlier. Truly, if you have very large "girls" that are impairing your ability to exercise or are causing you neck and back pain, and you have health insurance, I'd encourage you to consider it. It was an emotional decision for me, but ultimately a very smart one. My health has been immensely better since doing it, since I have been able to be so much more active. The scars are not bad. It took about a year for them to start really fading. They are definitely still visible, but they look better than what I had pre-op.

A lot of women worry about what their mates will think if they have a reduction. To that, I'd say that most caring partners will want what is best for your health and happiness, when it comes down to it. They might like the large breasts, but they'll like the active, comfortable you more. My hubby didn't know me pre-op, but has been very happy with what I have post-op. It's not worth suffering over any longer than you have to, or not losing major weight over. That's my perspective, anyway.


Lulu's Journey said...

Totally agree! I am 32yo now and had mine 6 years ago... Best thing I've ever done along with the lap band!

Diz said...

Again...another great post! My problem is I've always been rather large breasted, but always saggy! My promise to myself is...if I keep my weigh steady a year, I'll have them lifted.