Get the real story behind my breast reduction experience
The Day Before My Surgery
Wednesday, the day of my departure for Canberra finally arrived. I was nervous. I also had a lot of things to do before I left that afternoon. The kids were up early as usual. My son that week had been waking between 4am and 5.30am. I put Frozen the movie on and went back to snuggle my eight-year-old daughter who’d come into my bed in the middle of the night. My mind was wide awake, busy with all I had to do before I left that day, as well as full of concern about how my husband would cope with the kids while I was away.
When we were all up, we decided to go out for a farewell breakfast at our local café. We had a nice breakfast together and then dropped my daughter off at school. When we got home, I went straight to my office and finished off some last-minute work that I didn’t want to hang over my head.
My bags were packed so I got my husband to load them into the car and off we went to complete some last-minute jobs before I caught the airport shuttle bus at 1pm. I went to my doctor and got another copy of my referral letter as the clinic had misplaced the original. I also went to the health food store to get supplies (vanilla sleepytime tea and coconut chips).
We popped in to see one of my best friends for a quick cuppa and farewell. My three-year-old Spencer did not want to leave as he was having such a good time playing with my friend’s two sons.
We arrived at the train station with plenty of time to pay for my bus ticket. I had apparently read the bus schedule wrong and the bus was getting into the airport 15 minutes later than I had expected, which would leave me a smaller window to check in. I was freaking out that if the bus was late, I’d miss my plane. I told my then husband, Nick. that if for some reason I wasn’t flying to Canberra, he’d have to come and pick me up and drive me to Canberra. There was no way I was missing my surgery the next day.
While waiting for the bus, Nick reminded me I should do an online check in for my flight. I was so nervous, my brain wasn’t working properly. I tried to do the check in, but it wouldn’t recognise my booking number. Then I realised I was using the third-party booking number and not the one from the airline, so I tried that. No success. I rang the airline, freaking out even more by now, wondering if I had booked my flight on the wrong day or something. Finally, I was able to check in, but only after a very stressful 20 minutes.
Spencer by now was distraught and cranky as Nick and I were on our mobiles, and then my laptop, trying to sort out the flight. So I had to have a big cuddle with him. We took him outside to see the shuttle bus. I put my hand luggage at the door of the bus and waited for the driver. I was determined to sit near the front so I wouldn’t get bus sick.
I gave Spencer my last farewell cuddles and then Nick bought him around to the side of the bus and we said goodbye through the window.
I was a lot more emotional than I expected and hid my tears behind big black sunglasses. I trusted that Spencer would be fine without me, but I knew how much we would miss each other (he was only three after all).
As the bus drove off, I spoke with the driver. I told him how I was worried about the timing of our arrival and my fear of missing my flight. He said he’d get me there on time and not to worry. And he did.
When I got to the airport, I had plenty of time, but I was still worried about missing my flight. I got my big suitcase and put my carry-on bag on top. I then ran towards the departure area. I was just about to stop and reposition my carry-on bag when the accident happened. My carry-on bag, which was heavy with my laptop and other equipment, flew off the top of my suitcase and I tripped. I flew through the air and landed on all fours on the hard concrete. I was stunned, bleeding and bruised. Kindly security guards rushed forth to assist me. One commented that he had seen me running and had told his colleagues that I was going to fall. And I did.
One nice security guard, Jim, retrieved my luggage and assisted me up the escalators to the departure area. He was very kind and I really appreciated his assistance. I didn’t look at my knees until later and found that I had skinned them very badly, losing most layers of skin from my right knee. Everything was aching, and I was still in shock.
I got my luggage checked and then went to the departure gate. I was shaken up and would have liked a good cry. The fright alone, without the pain, would have been enough to make me cry.
I sat down at the departure gate and pulled up my leggings. What a mess. My poor knees looked terrible. I left my leggings rolled up above my knees to let them air. Two weeks prior to this, I had suffered an extreme virus where I thought I’d need stomach surgery, followed by a flu-like virus. So instead of heading into my surgery in peak health, I felt like I was falling apart.
Finally, I arrived in Canberra where my friend and I were nearly run down by a speeding vehicle. Was I attracting disaster because I was nervous and tired?
That night, I was meant to go out to a night market and light show, but I could barely walk. I was feeling emotionally vulnerable after a tough week and I just needed a rest. We decided to just have dinner at a local restaurant instead. It was relaxing and we were all exhausted, so the night ended early. I had been looking forward to my farewell to boobs dinner. I’m not much of a drinker, but I would have had a big drink that night if I could have (you can’t drink 24 hours before surgery).
Georgie and I went home to her house and she set me up in a bedroom in her spare junk room. It was very nice and looked comfy. I went straight to bed as we had to be at the clinic the next morning at 7.30am.
I slept poorly. Nerves. Different bed. I was up early and did some more work that needed to be done (during my recovery, I would be on one international online summit as well as in two book launches, so I had a lot to organise).
I had a quick shower, brushed my teeth and put on moisturiser. I took off all my jewellery and put them safely away. I wore my large 16E bra for the last time and put on the wrap dress I’d be wearing home from the surgery.
In my bag, I had my toiletries, a shawl, a cardigan, and my wallet, along with the clinic’s folder that I had to take with me.
It was time to go. I sat nervously in the car while Georgie drove us to the clinic. When we went there, with plenty of time to spare, we were warmly welcomed by the receptionist.
I was given a basket to put my things in and was shown to a changing room. I was also given a hospital gown of white and green that you were with the opening to the back and an oversized baby-blue chenille dressing gown. Before I got changed, I asked Gerogie to take some photos of my boobs.
Although I’d seen my breasts every day, seeing them in photos was quite a shock. I didn’t realise how low they were hanging and how enormous they really were. You would think I’d already have a realistic perception of them given I was having a breast reduction in less than one hour. But those photos were shocking to me and a real reality check.
I donned the hospital gown and wrapped myself in the soft dressing gown and returned to the lounge area. Georgie and I were there for just a few minutes when the anaesthetic nurse came to take some details.
Then the anaesthesiologist also came and spoke with me about what he was going to do. I would fall asleep within ten seconds. I would have a tube down my throat to help me breathe. Did I have any questions? I did not.
I was given a menu to choose my meal for that evening. Food was the last thing on my mind and I couldn’t imagine being hungry later after intense surgery, but I was still disappointed that there weren’t any choices for me other than one dish. I can’t eat gluten and I’m also a vegetarian who has been forced to sometimes eat fish due to food intolerances to most vegetarian proteins. So I chose the one dish I could, which was some sort of sweet potato patties with salad. They actually looked quite nice. I had hoped to have fish (protein) with salad, but the two fish dishes were salmon with a glutenous crust.
After I chose my meal, I was taken to a curtained cubicle. The surgeon came in armed with a pen. He drew all over me and marked out the operation. Again, I was reminded of how low my boobs were sitting. Right at my navel.
Then, I was escorted to the operating theatre where I lay on the gurney and spoke with the nurse, and that’s all I remember. Lights out until I woke up. I went into surgery at 8am, The surgery took four hours. I woke up in a glassed cubicle attached to monitors and a drip. Of course, that first waking period is hazy. I had bandages wrapped around my chest quite tightly. I was attached to a drip, pain medication dispenser, and a monitor.
I later woke up and had a sip of water, pushed the pain button to get some more drugs into my system, and then went off to sleep again.
I woke at around 4pm and I felt really alert. I sent text messages to a few people, spoke to my husband and two friends. Then I fell hard. I had done too much and been over confident in how I was feeling. I was nauseous and in pain. I tried to be brave and not have any anti-nausea medication, but in the end, I gave in.
I enjoyed the company of the nurses and was probably a bit too chatty as it was a nice distraction from the pain. My left side was incredibly painful. The nurse said it could be the drain. I had two drains in each side of me – tubes inserted into my underneath bandages that emptied into a plastic bag.
I really needed to go to the bathroom about 5pm. I was feeling terrible and I was scared to try and get to the toilet. My nurse helped me. She was pregnant, so I didn’t want to repy on her too much physically.
I sat up with my feet on the floor and tried to get my equilibrium. When I stood, I felt the blood rush from my head to my feet. That feeling of going as white as a sheet. We managed to get to the toilet and that was agony. I sat there but couldn’t pee as I’d been holding on for so long. I asked the nurse to turn the tap on as hearing water can help release the bladder.
Eventually, I did a stop-start pee. Getting back to bed was a mammoth effort and I was so relieved to be lying down again. I rewarded myself with a push of the pain medication button.
I had some butter menthol lollies and that helped my light headedness. I probably had low blood sugar due to not eating all day. I was finding it hard to even drink water. The nurse also offered me sweet biscuits, but I asked for a packet of chips (crips) instead. Ahh, the salt. That helped. The packet was tiny. It probably only had about seven chips in it, but I couldn’t even eat them all. A couple of chips and I was done.
Later, my friend Georgie came for a visit. I wasn’t up for much conversation, but it was lovely to see her nonetheless. She stayed for a little while and then I needed to go back to sleep.
I normally eat my dinner with my children at 5.30pm. At about 8.30pm, I felt like I should probably try and eat something as my blood sugar felt low. The nurse cut up a fresh salad for me with cherry tomatoes and fresh avocado.
She also pan cooked my sweet potato fritters. The meal was fresh and very nicely presented. I was surprised. And those fritters were amazing. I couldn’t eat much of the salad, but I ate all the fritters and the avocado. I was too full to eat anything more even though the salad looked so good.
By this stage, my jobs were being taken hourly and aside from slightly low blood pressure, I was doing well. Time for a good night’s sleep. The woman in the next cubicle was the last one out of surgery. I had a good six hours on her in terms of recovery time.
She wasn’t able to go to sleep and had the tv and light on. Our rooms were separated by a glass partition. I ended up asking for ear plugs and an eye mask. Heavenly darkness and quiet. I slept until 4am.
Then I was wide awake and in pain. Lying awake in the middle of the night in a hospital is a great time for reflection.
I was thinking about how writing my blog post about my breast reduction had touched many women who had privately messaged me about their own struggles with large breasts.
They were keen to know more about the surgery and any advice I could give them. So as I lay awake listening to the sounds of the clinic stirring, I decided to write a book on breast reduction.
I got out my mobile phone and started taking notes in Evernote. I worked out what questions I’d ask those who’d already had a breast reduction. What I would ask those that were considering a breast reduction. Along with other information I wanted to include. I wanted to make it as personal as possible.
I then went on Amazon to see what other books on breast reduction there were. I was surprised to see only two books. Either there is no market for a book on breast reduction, or no one is writing about it. Neither of the books was from the perspective of someone who’d had a breast reduction, so that would definitely be an advantage for my book.
When I woke the next day, I was pretty sore and tired. The anaesthetist came to check on me and we didn’t talk much. I’m assuming he visits each patient to see if there are any reactions to the anaesthetics or pain medications. I was fine in that regard.
The drip and self-controlled pain medication was removed. I was sad to see that go, that’s for sure. I enjoyed the pain medication as it didn’t make me feel too sick and I could control the amount of medication I needed in relation to the pain.
Then the surgeon came around and his nurse removed the bandage. She came behind me and used a pair of sharp scissors cut through the bandages.
That was the first time I saw my new breasts. They were pert. Not too far apart. A little odd. And definitely swollen. The surgeon put on plastic shields to protect the wounds. The nurse then put on a post-surgical bra. I’d been keen to get black one but apparently beige is the colour for these sorts of hideous bras. The doctor had told her I needed a medium sized bra.
I didn’t get a good look at my breasts and I was advised not to look too closely at the scaring. I had massive bruising on my left side below my armpit. They have to do liposuction and that’s what causes the bruising.
The surgeon told me that the surgery went well and that he’d removed 400 grams of tissue and skin from each breast. That’s 800 grams of boobs gone. That’s quite a lot of weight lifted from my neck and shoulders. I was thinking about how I was carrying around a kilo bag of sugar around my neck, so no wonder I’d had neck and back troubles.
After the surgeon did his rounds, the nurse came back to take my breakfast order. The selection was mostly cereal, so I opted for the fresh fruit salad. I later regretted eating breakfast.
When I was discharged, I was given instructions on what to do for the next few days. Rest. Move a little. Drink up. Try not to get constipated. Take a laxative if needed. I was also given a second bra to have so I could wash the other one. I was also given a script for pain relief.
I was really nauseous when I was leaving, and I wish I had asked for some medication for it. When I got into Georgie’s car, it hurt. Then every bump in the road and corner turned was painful. Georgie stopped at the pharmacy to fill my script. By this time I was breathing into the sick bag the nurse had given me. As we got closer to Georgie’s house, I couldn’t help but vomit into the bag. Hot watermelon. Disgusting. I felt absolutely terrible and so nauseous.
I stumbled into bed and basically passed out for a few hours. I took pain medication when Georgie told me too and then went back to sleep. Later, I sat up on Georgie’s couch and we watched a few episodes of Drop Dead Diva (she’s recorded the whole final season for us to watch during my recovery).
Georgie made me a blueberry smoothie. I drank a little but was full very quickly. I then felt sick and that came up too. This is too much information, but a hot smoothie is gross. Sorry for sharing.
I lumbered back to bed and fell into a deep sleep. I had my eye mask and ear plugs from the hospital. They helped me and I’ve become quite attached to them even though before the surgery I couldn’t stand eye masks or ear plugs.
By day two post-surgery, my back was starting to seize up. Lying down is hard on your lower back and I knew that Georgie had experienced the same thing. The previous year, I had been hospitalised with lower back pain, so I knew that I needed to make sure my back was okay.
I woke early and Georgie heard me cry out in pain as I attempted to sit up. It’s so hard to get out of bed when you’re in so much pain. She helped me to the couch and I went back to sleep sitting up in the corner of her lounge. It was such a relief on my lower back.
We spent much of the day on the couch watching Drop Dead Diva. I gave myself a headache from too much TV.
The clinic nurse called at 9.30am. She was surprised I was still nauseous and not feeling so good. She suggested putting a sanitary pad between the surgical bra and my wound. I was shocked at how badly designed the bra was. It had strong elastic at the bottom that sits right on top of the stitches. I had already thought that this was probably making my pain worse.
After we spoke with the clinic nurse, I wanted to freshen up. Georgie suggested I change into the other bra. She helped me get off the one I was wearing and then helped me put the new one on. It’s then we realised that the first bra was the wrong size. It was small and for size A and B cups. When I put the new bra on, it fit totally differently. And it didn’t hurt as much. I was actually quite cross because the surgeon had told the nurse and I that I needed a medium. I had a cry when I told my husband about it later because I felt like much of the previous day’s suffering may have been caused by the wrong sized bra.
I was feeling emotional after this because I felt like my trust had been broken and that I had been made to suffer unfairly. And suffering it was.c
Georgie’s flatmate came home at 11pm. Her room is right above mine. At first when I head noise above me, I thought it was Georgie. But after an hour of elephants overhead, I realised that it was the flatmate. I have no idea what she was doing for so long, so late at night, but it was driving me crazy. I had misplaced my ear plugs and was missing them terribly. I found myself feeling quite angry and pissed off. Finally the flatmate fell asleep, but then she started to snore like a freight train. I can’t stand snoring. I’m a light sleep. I have trouble sleeping at the best of times.
My husband and I don’t even share a bedroom because of his snoring. I got up after about two hours of feeling angry and lying helpless in bed desperate for sleep. I was determined to find my ear plugs. I could have cried with joy when I found them. I was eventually able to get some sleep after 3am. I was grumpy and tired, I can tell you.
When you’re in pain, your tolerance is totally diminished.
I woke up early as I couldn’t sleep and I started working on my breast reduction book. I felt nausea while writing, so it probably wasn’t the best thing to do, but I wanted to make sure I recorded it all so I could share it with you.
I’ve not had a shower since day zero, so I really need one today. I wasn’t up to it yesterday. I got my period last night as well (it was due now, but apparently many women get their periods after surgery due to the stress on the body). I will need Georgie to help me dry off my clear plastic bandages with a hair dryer. I’m weak and don’t know how I will go in the shower. I need to wash and dry my hair too.
I survived. I showered. I dried my boobs with a hairdryer. I even managed to have dinner with Georgie’s family for her brother’s birthday. He unfortunately had gastro and turned up to dinner very unwell and spent most of the evening in the toilet. I was too scared to use the loo as I didn’t want to catch anything as I couldn’t stand to have gastro on top of surgery recovery.
I was tired of being home, I took Georgie out to lunch. We went and had a nice Thai noodle meal. It wore me out and I came home straight away for a rest. The worst thing for me is missing my children. It is much harder to be away from them than I had imagined. I was happy to have a break from cooking and cleaning and kids fighting, but I miss my daily dose of cuddles.
My pain is a lot less now. I’m just down to regular ol’ paracetamol. I gave up on the phanaeine forte as the codeine wasn’t agreeing with me. Pain is so relative, so I don’t know how much pain I’m experiencing compared with others who’ve had the same operation, but I feel like I am doing pretty well. My stitches burn. And if I stand up for too long there’s a pain along the stitches line. The bruising is still there from the liposuction.
I finally had a bowel movement after multiple packages of laxatives to get things moving along. A real relief, let me tell you. I know from friends’ experiences post-surgery that having a bowel motion is important and can be traumatic for some. The key is to take a gentle laxative or a fibre supplement and drink lots of water. All the drugs mess up your system making it hard to go.
It’s been four weeks since my breast reduction. And I can’t believe what an impact it has had on me. Of course, there’s the nearly one kilo loss of weight around my neck and shoulders and they feel so much better for it. But what I didn’t expect was the range of emotions I’d experience.
The first two weeks post-surgery were pretty good. I was a little more emotional than normal and would feel tears well up easily. The really stressful emotions began at my last appointment with the nurse at the surgery clinic. She found that both breasts had a small wound breakdown. Nothing to worry about apparently as it is very common.
The left breast healed up quite well. The right breast unfortunately went from worse to worse. While it might be normal to them as clinicians, it’s not normal for me to have a large open wound in my left breast. I’m a squeamish person. I could never be a doctor, nurse or veterinarian. I can’t handle blood and other bodily fluids. I even have a no babysitting rule for children who aren’t toilet trained. So having a gaping wound makes me nauseous and anxious. In fact, when I first saw the wound once the scab had come off, I literally threw up.
Now two weeks on and my right breast has not healed. No one can give me a ballpark estimate of how long it will take to heal. A month, three months, six months? I’m quite surprised by my anxiety about this wound as I am not an anxious sort of person. Sensitive yes. Anxious no. But I’ve felt quite depressed about this wound breakdown and have mostly stayed at home for much of the past two weeks.
I feel like I’ve gone into my shell. I’ve mostly been absent on social media, barely bothering to check emails, and not leaving the house much.
I’ve felt quite unwell and really tired and I’ve taken the time to rest and recover. Something I probably should have done more of in the first two weeks after surgery when I was child free.
I have even started to wonder if perhaps I’d made a mistake having the surgery. While my back and neck are much improved, I’m still in a fair amount of pain and discomfort along my suture lines. I sometimes get a very intense burning pain that is quite overwhelming. And I still can’t sleep on my side and if you’re not naturally a back sleeper, you can imagine how hard it is not to turn onto your side and sleep.
I am still wearing the post-surgery bra and have six months of wearing bras with no underwire. So I haven’t embraced bra and clothes shopping yet. My favourite clothes before the breast reduction don’t sit very well now. I purchased them because they did fit big boobs. So, I will soon have to buy some new clothes that suit my new figure.
Interestingly, some friends and acquaintances said they didn’t realise I was so well endowed before and can’t see much difference. Other friends have noticed a huge difference and have remarked that I am not in proportion.
I am thankful that my shoulders, neck and middle back no longer ache constantly. And I’m pleased with how perky my boobs are considering my age and five years of breastfeeding. I know the wound will have to heal eventually, so for now I have to concentrate on the blessings.
I have an appointment with the surgeon in another week. Hopefully, I can get some answers to my questions then. In the meantime, I’m spending time with my family, doing a bit of work, and trying to take it easy.
My left breast did eventually heal. The wound breakdown was traumatic and it did make me question my decision to have breast reduction surgery.
Six years later, I can say that I am so happy that I did have surgery. I can barely remember the wound breakdown (thankfully) and my scars have healed.
My boobs look good naked, even with the faint scars. I have put on weight, unfortunately, and my breasts are larger than they were post surgery. However, they are still great!
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