06 May

My Breast Reduction

Posted by Jenna, Under Personal

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.

38 Comments


  1. Jenna, thank you soo much for sharing this personal experience with us. I was always curious about your brest-reduction surgery and what led to your decision to get one. This post explained it all and more! Thank you again for posting this – candid pictures and all. You’ve really inspired me to be more transparent, courageous and honest in the virtual world – as well as in real life.

    You will be in my thoughts and prayers as this next surgery approaches. I’m sure everything will turn out just fine and I hope you recover quickly!

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  2. I’ve had quite some friends having this surgery. I think it’s so brave. Wish I would be close to you so I can just pop by and spoil you a bit after your surgery next week.

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  3. The worst thing for me about surgery is the build up to it.. then last summer I had to have an emergency appendectomy. While it was no fun to have it exactly 1 month before my wedding, I felt SO bad and was in so much pain that I pretty much told them to do whatever they had to do to make the pain stop.

    Recovery wasn’t easy (no gym for 2 months!) but man am I glad they took it out before it exploded. I think your quality of life will be so much better once the pain has been reduced!

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  4. There IS always anxiety about surgery, it’s a big deal but you just have to pray and have faith in your doctor’s and their abilities, and it sounds like you’ve done your research. Recovery is hard but it’s the end that is worth the means!

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  5. I had a friend have this same surgery back in 1998. She was no where are large chested as you (size H?? never heard of that!), but she did have major back pains. The re-found confidence she had after the surgery was amazing. She went from never taking off her bra in front of her boyfriend in fear they would cause damage, to being very proud of her modified ladies :)

    By the way, your hair in that first pc is very awesome. I am a real fan of fun colours.

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  6. Back surgery can be painful, with a very slow recovery time, compared to other types of surgery. After all, surgery on the spine is quite complicated, and it limits all movement afterward, so just getting up to walk to the bathroom can delay healing. BUT, think about how much pain you have now, and how wonderful it will be to NOT have any pain down the line, and that makes the possibility of weeks and weeks of a tough recovery work it!

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  7. Priscilla says:

    Thank you for sharing the story of your breast reduction surgery. I’m in a similar boat in terms of your original cup size and I look forward to having my own breast reduction surgery in the future. I did make the decision to wait until I have my children first because of the possible loss of being able to breatfeed but I certainly commend you for being willing to take the step so early in your life.
    My sister had a breast augmentation surgery to even out her natural cup sizes (B vs. D) several years ago and did end up losing the ability to breastfeed. Even though she is still frustrated by the fact that she can’t feed her baby boy, I know it was worth it for her self esteem and general happiness with her body in the long run.

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  8. I love how you documented the whole experience! The photos are great! I would have never thought to take pics of pre-surgeries and the recovery process! :) Good luck with the back surgery! Hopefully it will take all that pain away!

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  9. Good luck with your surgery next week – I’ll be praying for a quick recovery!

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  10. I’m wishing you luck on your back surgery. I’m quite biased against all types of spine surgery, but I think I’ve just been exposed to some of the worst freak incidents ever. I pray all will go well!

    I think it is so great that you had the reduction. My mom is an E and I told her from the time I was 13 that if I got those, she was paying for the reduction. I stopped at a D-cup, so it looks like she won’t have to pay up :)

    Also, I am working on the question you’ve asked me. I’m in the middle of finals weeks so I’m a bit slow, but an answerwill come!

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  11. This is a world that me and my B-cups (now almost C — God bless pregnancy!) will never understand. I have heard that big breasts are not all they are cracked up to be, though, and I just might have done the same thing in your place. I hate bra shopping enough with small breasts.
    Why did the first doctor send you away? Did she just not want to take time for you to think about the breastfeeding question? Grr… why don’t doctors seem to understand that patients are customers, not just time-consuming annoyances?

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    Jenna Reply:

    I think it’s pretty common for *good* plastic surgeons to reject women who are considering breast reduction for this reason. It just would have been nice for her to include this in the original phone call so that I had some time to think about it, you know?

    I assume it’s because breast feeding is such a personal issue. Akin to nipple sensitivity, it’s something you can’t get back once you lose it!

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  12. You’ll be in my thoughts and prayers – you’ve picked a great doctor and I hope that you get all sorts of great relief from the pain soon!

    The only surgery I’ve ever had was to have my impacted wisdom teeth removed (which also required total anethesia). I was a total baby the night before, and I have a vague memory of crying on the kitchen floor telling my parents I was not going. That, at age 21!

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  13. Thanks for posting this
    My favorite posts are the ones where you talk about you life or tell us a personal story. I really like posts like this….it makes us feel like we know you better.
    I have no great input…just to comment that I LOVE how open and honest you are….and say “keep it up!” :-)

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  14. Jenna-

    Hope you don’t mind I’m a bit off the topic but I read this a bit ago and it made me think of you.
    http://perezhilton.com/2009-05-06-not-okay-obamas-mother-posthumously-baptized-by-mormons#respond
    My question to you would be when you baptize by proxy is it then recorded in church records that are available to the public?

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    Jenna Reply:

    You might enjoy the comments on this post, which are related to this same topic.

    http://thatwifeblog.com/?p=1065

    I’m not sure if the records are made public, but here is my opinion: If you don’t believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true, then aren’t the ordinances and the things we do just meaningless rituals? People get really worked up over this topic, but it’s not changing anything at all for the. We believe it gets you in to Heaven, but if you don’t believe the same way we do it means absolutely nothing.

    It would be like me getting really worked up because someone of another religion prophesies I will be re-incarnated as a goat or a grasshopper. Those things they say have no meaning for me because I don’t believe in re-incarnation. For me, it doesn’t exist. If the Mormon “heaven” doesn’t exist for you, then the hours of work we are pouring into baptizing by proxy are meaningless rituals, and a big waste of our time.

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  15. thank you for sharing your story!

    i clicked on the link about your weight loss (you look great by the way) and i couldn’t find your follow up where you shared the book the psychiatrist suggested to you. what was it?

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  16. I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and I’m not sure if I’ve commented before.

    I’m glad your experience was a good one and I hope your back surgery will be too. Did you not only have to buy new bras but shirts too? Since I know some women are typically one size larger because of their breasts.

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  17. Sarah663 says:

    Thanks so much for sharing!! I had my breast reduction in 2003- to be honest, it was far better than I every thought it would be! (Of course, hacking my own breasts off with a knife was what it was about to come to!) I had very little pain – only took some advils and boy, are my new breasts worth it! I was just saying the other day that my letter saying that my insurance was going to pay for my reduction was as good as my acceptance into grad school letter!! My insurance was actually great – even though I had went through losing weight and went to an orthopedist to show back pain, they required very little proof. My whole surgery was done for a $75 copay – the best money I ever spent. I too have “before” pictures floating around…scary!! Even though I will most likely not be able to breast feed, it’s totally worth it.

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    Jenna Reply:

    $75? You have got to be kidding me! I feel like I was ripped off now. :)

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  18. very interesting. i know a few women in my life who would greatly benefit from this type of surgery, but they don’t really have the money usually. :\ i’m so glad you got it though. i love the pictures – so much emotion! haha

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  19. Thanks for sharing. I have always wondered what the process encompasses and what the recovery phrase was like!

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  20. Wow, what a story. I’ll admit that I appreciate the gory details. And I feel the need to give some much loved unsolicited advice ;-). Be nice to yourself these next few weeks! You’ve been through a lot. I hope it goes well for you.

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  21. Cristin says:

    I had to have breast surgery in high school to remove cysts that ended up being benign, but I remember feeling so awkward about that part of my body (17 years old). I love how comfortable and open your family seems to be by traveling altogether and apparently being at the hospital at the same time. It is awesome to see that much openness and family support – my Dad and I never talked about my operation, and I don’t even know if my 14 year old brother knew about it… seems so silly, because it was for medical reasons, but its always bothered me. Thanks for sharing your story.

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  22. Wow! You’re very brave to post this! I love it, you will help so many people!

    Mariel
    http://www.oneshetwoshe.com

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  23. Katherine (a.k.a. Sparkles) says:

    Wow! You wrote up a great post about your experience.
    I hope all goes well for you next week. Of the kids I have seen have back surgery, they mainly complained about their chest since they were lying on their stomach the whole time…
    But the one thing I saw every single kid have that they ADORED and I see time & time again: BODY PILLOW. the kind that curve too. They love how they could lie on their side but at an angle so they were applying a lot of pressure on one side or another– & one girl showed me to put the lowermost long part of the pillow or an additional pillow between her legs when she was on her side in order to relieve lower back pressure and even her out.
    I cannot believe how much I learn from the adolescents I work with who go through their scoliosis repair surgeries… incredible.
    So maybe look into a body pillow? =o) If you don’t have one already.

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    Katherine (a.k.a. Sparkles) Reply:

    oops- I meant to say a) the kids complained of chest ache since during the surgery they were on their stomach’s…. and b) ‘They love how they could lie on their side… so they WEREN’T applying a lot of pressure on one side or the other’. They claimed the body pillow relieved pressure while they were lying down…

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  24. First, lots of congrats for being open enough to share this with all of us…I imagine it is really helpful to many. Second, I too have a large bust. And especially since I have now gained *gag* 16 lbs!!! they are even bigger than normal. Unfortunately, I do have back problems because of it…I have horrible posture as a result and hunch forward all the time…when I stand up straight my lower back aches after just a few minutes. For now, I’m not considering any surgery, because even though I already know I am not interested in breast feeding, after having 2-3 kids my breasts will need some cosmetic work anyway (lift etc)…so I;m going to wait. Hopefully I won’t have to wait too long!

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  25. Thanks for sharing your story. I’ll be praying for a safe surgery next week and a speedy recovery! I’m sure the doctors will take great care of you.

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  26. How funny, Jenna. Dr. Isik wrote me a letter of recommendation for residency. I worked with him in October of 2005 when he was still at the UW, right before he left for his own practice. :) Small world.

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  27. Tanya Davis says:

    Thanks for sharing. I am scheduled for breast reduction surgery June 18th. I can’t wait!!! My daughter had this surgery 3 years ago (she was 25 at the time) and says it is the best thing that could have happened to her. Well – I am a little overdue – but now it is Mom’s turn!!! I am a large DD and as someone has already expressed – I can’t wait to get these bowling balls off my chest. Again – thanks for sharing your experience with me. I am positive and excited.

    Tanya

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  28. Hi Jenna,

    My friend is about to get this kind of surgery at the end of the summer, and I wonder what kind of breast-reduction-specific things I can do for her. I mean, obviously I’ll be around to cook meals and her husband will be around to take care of the dog … but is there anything about this specific kind of surgery you were particularly grateful for help with? Or things you wish you’d gotten?

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    Jenna Reply:

    The best thing someone did for me? My mom changed my bandages. It was very very icky and I’m so glad I didn’t have to do it myself. I’m not sure how close you are to this friend or if she would want you doing that for her though.

    I spent a lot of time trying to sleep sitting up on the couch, so loaning her some movies and setting her up with some kind of a “couch goodie bag” filled with treats, books, and other things might be helpful as well!

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  29. Thank you for sharing your experience! I will be going through this surgery in the next month and extremely nervous and a little bit anxious. Praying that God will give me peace. There are not many blogs that share the post-op experience. I am very much an independent city girl so going to my sister’s house in the mountains for my recovery may be tough! But i am so thankful that she and her family are happy and willing to help me out.

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  30. Lauren F. says:

    I had a breast reduction in October 2007. It was the best thing I ever did for myself. I was measuring as a DDD/E. I had horrible back and shoulder pain. I would get yeast infections under my breasts because they were so huge and if I would sweat it was trapped under there. I was also totally lopsided, too. When I would exercise, I had to wear two sports bras. The last sports bra I bought (before surgery) was the Enell Bra- which cost me $64 and had 11 hook & eyes that I had to fasten while trying to keep all my “boobage” contained. Then, I still had to wear another sports bra on top of it because I still had a lot of “bounce.” It was so bad that I had some guy sit outside the gym and watch me workout for 20 minutes one day…. scariest thing ever and I couldn’t get the attention of any of the gym staff until he pulled out of the parking lot. That was the last straw for me. That and the fact I couldn’t find a strapless bra to fit me. Even when the amazing foundation expert at Nordstrom went through every bra she had in stock and tried every trick she knew to help me out.
    I was very fortunate because at the time I had a plastic surgeon’s child in my classroom. I also was working part time as a Nanny for an anesthesiologist. I had very good insurance. They covered my surgery nearly 100%… I just had to pay the amount of my deductible- which the doctor and the anesthesiologist actually forgave as a gift to me. They knew how much pain I had been in and being a teacher, I wasn’t rolling in money.
    My surgery and recovery were very easy. I left the hospital an hour and twenty minutes after I came out of surgery. I slept most of the first day. The next morning, I woke up, went with my friend (who graciously offered to be my nurse) to take her children to school and then went to the doctor for my post op visit and to get my drains taken out. I was very pleased when the doctor took off my bandages and I saw my new breasts. They were really awesome! My friend said “You have the boobs of a 16 year old!” I told her “I never had the boobs of a 16 year old- even when I was 16!!” So, it was the best feeling ever. I went shopping after my doctor appointment. I didn’t take any pain meds during the day (after day 1- only at night before bed and that was only for the first 3 days and I only took Vicodine) I went to a child’s birthday party that afternoon. People couldn’t believe I had surgery the day before. I had it in my mind that I was going to rebound quickly and I made sure that happened. I swore having my breast reduction was just like working out too hard at the gym- my arms and chest hurt, but it was pain I could manage.
    I don’t know if I’m typical or not, but I knew this was an opportunity I had been given and I wanted to make it a positive situation. I said it hurt worse to get my wisdom teeth taken out than it did to have a breast reduction.
    I feel like a normal person now. I’m not just a girl with HUGE BOOBS. I have a nice, normal “C” cup. I can buy bras off the rack. I have bilateral symmetry. My back and shoulders don’t hurt anymore. I don’t have to wear two sports bras anymore when I workout. I took great delight in throwing away that Enell Bra.
    Thanks for sharing your story. I have my before and after photos…. let’s just say, I cried when I saw them. I’ve almost forgotten what it was like before my surgery. If I had to do it again, I would in a heartbeat. Thanks again for sharing your story!

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  31. Dominique says:

    Well I’m 15 and I just had my baby about 4 months ago and I’ve always had big breasts and my mom says there not “normal” and she set up all these appointments and I’m approved and my date is on September 7. But the thing is I’m afraid. I don’t want to regret this. Im already really insecure about my weight. And I feel like when I go down to a B I’ll look really odd since I’m currently a DD. or what if I get is surgery and my boobs grow back? What will my classmates say? I need advice

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    Jenna Reply:

    Hi Dominique! Are you breast feeding? I wish I had waited to have my reduction until I had all my kids and was done trying to breast feed.

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  32. Thank you for sharing your story – and for adding humor to it! I am in the planning process of breast reduction and I do not fear the surgery, pain or the change. My fear is the anesthesia. Please tell me about it!

    If anyone has any pre surgery suggestions for calming nerves, I’ll take that too!

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      I'm a farm-raised almost-crunchy stroller-pushing picture-taking lifestyle-blog-writing gastronomy-obsessed divine-seeking thrift-store-combing cheese-inhaling pavement-pounding laughter-sprinkling lover of individuality and taking chances.
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