This morning I go in to the Doctor’s office for my pre-op appointment before my surgery next Tuesday and the only question I have written down to ask the nurse so far is, “What is my sleeping experience after the surgery going to be like? Because I’ve had surgery on a part of my torso before and sleeping was awful afterward.” I think it would be best for me to try to make my list of questions a little bit more comprehensive.
Two and a half years ago I underwent a breast reduction which took me from having breasts that looked like watermelons, to something much nicer, resembling ripe round cantaloupes. Nordstrom went from measuring as an H, to telling me I was a DD (although, isn’t DD, just E?). What a fabulous decision it was to have breast reduction! My mind has been wandering back to that procedure as I contemplate this new one, and now seems like as good of a time as any to sit down and write out what my experience was like.
Other than the pre-surgery naked breast pictures my mom took for me to document the before and after (which I’ve actually never seen, and it makes me a little nervous to know they might be floating around the house somewhere), I don’t have any really good “before” pictures to show you of what my chest looked like and why I was considered a good candidate for the operation. I was still pretty heavy at the time, so I wasn’t jumping in front of the camera at all times to have my picture taken.
I can’t remember where the idea for a breast reduction came from. I do know that my parents agreed to pay for it, on one condition: That I would set a goal and lose a certain amount of weight before the surgery. Essentially I have my parents to thank for the 50 lbs I have lost, since they are the ones who jump started me on the whole process. I was fat, unhealthy, unfit, and it’s never a good idea to go under the knife when you are that overweight. So I started using Fitday, lost a bunch of weight, and got new boobs. A pretty good deal if you ask me.
The first step was figuring out how to petition to have my insurance cover the surgery. This was so long ago that I can’t remember exactly what was done, so if you are considering the same thing for yourself I’d reccomend giving your insurance company a call and finding out what their policy is. I do remember I had to send them some pictures of my breasts (it’s strange to think there is a person out there who makes a living looking at pictures of breasts and determining of the company should pay to make them smaller), and I had to write up a statement about why I wanted to have the procedure done. I didn’t feel like my chances were likely since I wasn’t having any major back problems (hardy, har, har to that one now), but I sent in my app, crossed my fingers, and said lots of prayers.
The next step was finding a surgeon. Living in the country can be wonderful (the ability to walk outside in your underwear without having any neighbors around to see you is a definite bonus I have taken advantage of), but it meant we would have to find a surgeon in Seattle, 3 hours away. The first lady we visited seemed great, until she sent us home 15 minutes into our consultation after I hesitated when asked the question “Do you want to breastfeed your children someday?” It seems like it would have been prudent of her to ask me such a question over the phone, and not force me to drive 3 hours only to be told to come back again a later day after I had made up my mind on the subject.
In the end, the rejection by the first surgeon was a blessing because a little bit of time reading Seattle magazine’s “Best Doctors” issue led me to Dr. Frank Isik, a fantastic plastic surgeon based in Seattle. Look at his stats!
As a plastic surgeon, Dr. Frank Isik is annually listed in “ Top Doctors in Seattle“, the “Top Docs in Seattle” and repeatedly honored in “Best Doctors in America” listings. Dr. Isik is Board Certified by both The American Board of Surgery and The American Board of Plastic Surgery. Dr. Isik serves as an examiner for the American Board of Plastic Surgery and as an Associate Editor of the preeminent journal for Plastic Surgeons, The Journal of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery.
During my consultation with Dr. Isik, he stressed two different things. The first was the likelihood that I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed after the surgery. Some women can, some women can’t, and no one ever really knows until after they have the baby. I was feeling torn on the subject until my mom confided that she hadn’t been able to breastfeed either of her children anyways, which might mean I wouldn’t be able to either. I I turned out okay with formula, so it’s likely my children will as well. The other difficult Idecision I had to make was the importance of nipple sensitivity versus smaller breast size. If I was willing to forgo all feeling in my nipples, he would detach them completely and shape the breast however I would like (C cup please!). If I indicated that I would like to have feeling, he would leave them attached throughout the procedure and hope for the best. Since I wasn’t sexually active at the time, I didn’t really know how to make this decision. Nipple sensitivity hadn’t ever been something I considered important in my life, and all of the sudden it was staring me right in the face. After some gentle encouragement from my mother, I decided to forgo my beautiful C cups and opt for the sensitivity. I thought my future husband would probably thank me for it in the end. (What do you think TH, was it a good choice?)
When I met with Dr. Isik he had just opened his own practice, which meant his schedule was free and clear, giving me the oppotunity to keep working at my waitressing job as long as possible, and have the surgery just a few weeks before I left for BYU once again. December 20, 2006 was set as the big day.
But where would we get the money to pay for this very pricey procedure?
There are a few times in my life when I’ve had the “I feel like I just won Miss America”, hand fluttering, heart pumping, can hardly breathe feeling. When I received my acceptance letter to BYU. When I got engaged. When I was accepted as Mrs. Avocado on Weddingbee. And the day I got the call from my insurance company, letting me know that they would be covering 80% of my costs for the procedure. 80%! I’m still shocked that someone with little to no back problems (at the time) would have their application for that kind of coverage. Guess they saw how huge my girls were and decided to have mercy on me and my watermelon globes.
On December 19th, 2006 my entire family drove over the mountains with me and checked into my favorite Seattle hotel, Hotel 1000 (the hotel where I would later have my wedding reception). According to Fitday I had lost 8.5 lbs in two months, and my parents were happy to see that their motivation had worked, and I was hoping the losses would continue.
My sister entertained herself during the drive by both taking pictures of me, and torturing me with descriptions of medical procedures. I don’t do well with needles or thoughts of people slicing into me. After checking into the hotel I indulged in a long bath, where the water fills from the ceiling. I did my best not to think about what was happening the next morning.
All too soon I was sitting in the waiting room, glasses on my face (ugh), paperwork in hand.
I asked my family if they wanted one last peek of the goods before they were hacked to pieces. No one took me up on the offer.
The anesthesiologist arrive and it was time for robe, cap, and booties. Lovely!
All I remember about the actual surgery experience is stressing over the needle. The needle! The needle filled with anesthesia stuffs. Oh…. how nice…
After the surgery, once I was back in our hotel room, my sister and I indulged in horrendously expensive room service. And I devoured every last bit I could get my hands on. I will forever maintain that this was the best fruit I have ever hard. Must have been the drugs.
Christmas Eve, four days after the operation, was hosted at my parents house that year, so I didn’t have to travel far for any of the festivities. I managed everything quite well, although I did turn in for bed really early.
In this picture you can kind of see how many layers I had on. Support was essential or my chest ached, something akin to the way they feel right before Aunt Flo comes to visit, except 14 times worse.
Recovery wasn’t easy. I remember vividly how badly I wanted to sleep on my side. For the first few days I was forced to sleep sitting up on the couch, an absolutely miserable experience. When my mom took my bandages off I cried and moaned because it was so awful and bruised and smelly and sticky. What had I done to myself? I would have had a tough time taking care of things properly if she wasn’t there to help me. I wore an Ace bandage for about 3 weeks, and a sports bra for about 6. Visiting Nordstrom for my first bra fitting post surgery was so exciting!
Though I had hoped for a “lollipop scar”, with the stitches running around the outside of the aereola and then straight down underneath the breast, I ended up with a modified version of that, with the scar running around my aereola straight down, and then extending out to about 3 inches away from my armpit. And I have nubbins. Over two years later I still have the scars, but they’re very faint and I hardly notice them anymore.
The breast reduction was mainly done for cosmetic reasons, this upcoming surgery is happening due to an incredible amount of pain. One week out from back surgery I’m left wondering if I will be feeling the same way about my operation on the back as I do about the one on the front. Will recovery be quick? Will the resulting pain be worth it? A few weeks from now I’ll know the answers to those questions, with plenty of posts documenting the experience from start to finish. 7:30 AM, May 12th, 2009, I’m going under once again.