So, I had a breast reduction on January 24th, and these are my observations/reflections/thoughts. I’m going to talk about the surgery first, and then at the bottom, I’ll have my thoughts on it as well as the reasons behind it. I’ve done it this way so people looking for information on having this done can find it quickly and easily, and people who just want my thoughts and not the details of the thing can just skip down to that. (This is much like my tonsil removal post, so if you didn’t find that entertaining in any way, you probably want to skip this one too.)
My pre-surgery research references:
I combed through the internet for the sane blog posts and articles from people who have had the surgery. I paid a lot of attention to sections that said “things I wish I had known before hand” and that helped a great deal in preparedness and expectations. To all those people, especially ones who posted photos of before, and after, Thank you. I will not be posting photos at this time, however a few years down the road, I can see adding some time lapse back in to this post, as the photos I found the most helpful covered a span of years.
Some of the links I found and used as my research:
Pre-surgery prep recommendations:
1. Ask the doc for more than one post-surgical bra if you are required to wear one. If you have a second one, you can wash one while you are wearing the second, and just keep a rotation going. This is preferred.
2. Go ahead and have bandages/guaze and surgical tape on hand ahead of time. You’re going to need them. Maybe not right away, but you will need them. The best ones I’ve found to use also happened to be the most affordable ones I’ve found. You can get them here. Get at least two boxes when placing an order and even with paying shipping it’s still cheaper than the pharmacy/drug store. I ended up doing bandages on my incisions for 7 weeks afterwards and went through 3 boxes of these bandages. We put the leftovers in our first aid kit. I don’t have a tape recommedation other than find one that doesn’t make you itch or irritate your skin. I originally purchased Nexcare tape because their bandaid generally work for me quite well. Their tape made me itch, so on my second Jeffer’s order, I picked up some of theirs, and that worked better.
3. Get your prescription filled ahead of time and have it near where you will be recovering so it doesn’t have to be filled or located after surgery. You’ll thank me for this. You’re welcome in advance.
4. Take a pillow for padding between you and the seatbelt for the trip home. I live less than 5 miles from the hospital, so it wasn’t a huge ordeal for me, but if you have to drive for a longer amount of time, you’ll want the pillow for sure.
Actual Surgery related notes:
1. The marks they make on your body for the reduction are a lot like a Tailor’s marks for corset contstruction. I found this an interesting correlation. Afterwards, it was amazing to me to see how far down my stomach the marks went because the new smaller boobs were so much higher.
2. Standing Prep. I was awake in the OR. I stood up on some paper, naked as hell, and got swabbed down with cold cold iodine. Then shuffled over to the table, and got up on it and laid down so that I was placed exactly how the surgeon wanted me to be, then they knocked me out and proceeded. I’m not an exibitionist so this was a little awkward, but I quickly got over it because I was going to be unconcious with these people anyway, so it’s not like they weren’t going to see me at my worst as it was. And honestly, I don’t much care if someone went home and said “OMG this fat lady got surgery today and I saw her naked before hand” because if that’s the highlight of their day, they have other problems.
3. Catheter. It turns out they give you one because of the amount of time you are under. Plan accordingly. The nurse I was talking to about this unexpected bonus said the same thing happened to her for her C-section. You may not care, but you might, so you plan accordingly if you do.
4. Sleeping arrangements. Recliner recommended and if you don’t have one, you need a lot of pillows. Sleeping sitting up more than lying down is needed for proper drainage, at least the first few days. After that drainage slows down or stops and it’s not as big a deal but you can’t really sleep on your sides yet either so I slept in the recliner for almost a month afterwards until I got the all clear to sleep on my side some because if I had slept in bed, I would defintely have tried to sleep on my side.
5. Speaking of drainage, Shmoo’s entry for this list is that “Drainage” means blood. So when they tell the person giving you after care there will be drainage and to change the pads as needed, they mean blood.
Recovery related notes:
1. Your boobs are going to look like a train wreck right after surgery. Healing takes time. Don’t panic.
2. One side hurts more than the other, and from the start I’ve had more mobility in the less painful arm (my right). The side that hurts less and has more mobility seems to be draining more, but I have no evidence or subject matter expertise to support that’s the difference.
3. Speaking of sides… the sides of your body will heal at different speeds. No shit. My doc says this happens with facial reconstructions and such as well, even when it’s an incision going across the mid-line of the body, each side will heal at a different speed. In my case, my right side healed faster.
4. Everything is really tight right now. My skin especially. Gravity appears to not be a thing for my boobs. From everything I’ve read, it will take some time for them to “settle” and look less like little square shaped skin sacks and back to more natural boob shape. And by time, I mean months.
5. Do not buy bras in advance. You don’t actually know what size you will end up being until all the swelling has gone down and some healing has happened. Surgical bras should be worn at least 2 weeks if you need one (I was told a sports bra would have been more than enough, but I also got lipo under my arms to get rid of the sideboob that would have been left behind otherwise). I’ve been told and read that the longer you wear the surgical bras (1 to 4 months) the better your boobs end up looking. Also, underwire bras are out for a bit for sure. That wire would be right on a seam/scar. Some people can’t wear an underwire bra up to a year afterwards. As it currently stands, I may never wear one. My incisions feel like I am wearing underwires all the time right now. Additional pressure on those scars as they keep healing would be super painful and likely make me nuts.
5. If you are prescribed Opiods for pain for after surgery, go ahead and get some Correctol or Seneca etc. You’re going to need it as long as you are on the Opiods. You won’t notice you need it for about 2-3 days, and then you’ll suddenly need it a lot. It turns out, the cells in your lower intestine/bowels respond the same way the cells in your brain do to Opiods. So your body says, “hey, shouldn’t you be working?” and the cells say “nope! we’re good”, and that keeps going until the body says “HEY! YOU NEED TO POOP NOW! NOOOOOOW.” and the cells are all “Nope! it’s all good.” But it’s not. It’s really not.
6. Your nerves have to remap and regrow. This causes a lot of really wierd sensations. Not a damn one of the stories I read in preparation for surgery mentioned this. So let me say it as loud as I can. IT IS GOING TO BE WEIRD FOR YOU WHEN YOUR NERVES ARE ADJUSTING TO YOUR NEW BOOBS. One nipple is super sensitive and any time anyone comes near it and like.. you know, walks into the room, it twitches and gets hard. The other nipple has no feeling at all directly in the center, but the areola around it has feeling. The skin on my boobs is constantly having odd sensations. Sometimes there are itches in places that just don’t exist anymore because my brain can’t interpret where the signal is coming from correctly yet. Sometimes my brain tells me the nipple that has no feeling is desperately itchy. It’s not, it has no feeling, and there is no way to communicate this back to my brain in a way that makes the itchiness go away. My chest often feels like it has a massive fever in the areas affected by the surgery. It’s not hot to the touch, but the the skin has this buzzing burning sensation to it and it’s super super senstive. It’s like when you are coming down with the flu and even the hairs on your head hurt and the breeze from someone walking by you irritates your skin. That is how it feels, for hours at a time, and this goes on for weeks. NO ONE MENTIONED THIS!!! It’s not like this would have been a deal breaker for me, but it would have been nice to know in advance.
7. You will very likely reject some of your internal stitches. It seems to be pretty common with this surgery. The internal stitches are supposed to dissolve and be absorbed into the body. But! If air touches them, it allows bacteria to find them. Bacteria really like the material the stitches are made with, so they are attracted do it, and then it hangs out there. Your body wants nothing to do with this, and proceeds to evict that shit from your body, as it should. This means your incisions take longer to heal, because your body isn’t trying to close off an incision when it’s trying to kick something out of that location. Once the stitch gets to a point it has been evicted (or removed by your doc, or possibly you in between visits) it’ll proceed with closing up the that lingering incision site. At 5 weeks post surgery, I still had open incision locations where I was rejecting stitches, and was still doing wet to dry bandages twice a day until the incisions closed over (at around 7 weeks out).
Mental/Emotional observation type notes:
1. I was an H cup. I am now a large C/small D cup. (Not sure which yet, because I’m still in post-surgical bras and sports bras, and will be for a while.) I am totally satisfied with the change. I told the Doc I wanted a C or smaller, and he did his best. It turns out you have to keep enough breast to keep the nipple viable or it dies or something to that effect, but he was able to take more off than he originally thought, and I was pretty happy about that.
2. Suddenly having a much smaller breasts is a bit of a mind-fuck. Your body perceptions and what you think/feel about yourself changes. I am still the same person I was, but now I am not weighed down by what society has taught me about women with large breasts. I’m getting a lot more eye contact from men, and I’m no longer an obvious “easy” sexual target. I’m just me, and that’s pretty fucking awesome. You don’t realize the day to day crap you put up with until it’s suddenly just not there anymore.
2. My body profile is less balanced. My stomach is more obvious. Not that it wasn’t obvious before, because hey, I am fat and you could all see that, but it’s more obvious to me now because I don’t have ginormous boobs sitting on top of it. I am OK with that. Honestly, I feel like a kid again. My boobs haven’t been this size since around 7th grade. You know how you felt super free as a kid in the summertime running around in sprinkler in your underwear? That’s a lot what I felt like in my first shower after surgery. I know visually I have boobs, and I can feel them and see that they are there, but they are so much smaller and so much less in the way I feel like they aren’t there and it’s AMAZING.
3. Healing takes time. Everything I read made it seem like after a few days I’d be chomping at the bit to be moving again and after the 2 weeks, it’d all be back to normal. It wasn’t. Maybe it’s because I am 42 instead of 22. Maybe it’s the amount of tissue I had removed. Or maybe it’s because I have RA and healing is always slower for me. But from everything my doctor has said, I am progressing normally. So anyone who says it’s not big deal, tell them to suck it ’cause they lie. It has taken 7.5 weeks for me to recover “fully” from this surgery. By fully I mean, I can lift my arms over my head again easily and without pain (though it still pulls a little). I can lift more than 10lbs. I have been cleared to exercise and swim again. I can wear (sports/sleep) bras that aren’t my post surgical bras, without discomfort. I don’t think “damn, my boobs hurt” 100 times a day from nerve pains or incision irritations. I don’t need to wear bandages and replace them twice a day. Sleeping in the bed as opposed to the recliner doesn’t make me uncomfortable.
That’s not to say there aren’t still some things that are quirky, but mostly, life is normal. The doctor’s office doesn’t even take the post surgery pictures until 3 months after, so if you really wanted a time frame for full recovery, that’s likely it.
If I had to do it over again, would I? Yes. In a heartbeat. If you live near me and want the doctor’s name, hit me up. He’s not internet saavy, so don’t expect a lot of fancy tech anything. But since I was paying him to fix my boobs, and not to internet all the things, I am just fine with that. He’s good at what he does; he’s honest and up front with you even if you don’t like what he’s got to say. He worked well with both me and shmoo, and that’s a pretty high standard from any angle.