Some would kill for big boobs, but one woman told Shape that breast pain stopped her workouts and tanked her mood—until surgery gave her new hope
In 2010, when I was 22, I started thinking about having a breast reduction. I had just graduated from the University of Kansas and had gained a bunch of weight throughout college. My boobs had grown bigger than they already were—and they had always been big. By graduation, though, I was an H cup. (A change in weight is just one of 15 Every Day Things That Can Change Your Breasts.)
Friends had always said how lucky I was: I had big boobs! But I just never felt comfortable. In fact, my breasts hurt.
For one, they made it hard for me to work out. Exercise has always been a part of my life; in high school and college, I played sports, but running was really difficult. The bouncing up and down—it was like something was pulling on my chest with every step. No sports bras fit. I had to wear a regular bra and two sports bras for anything more rigorous than simply walking.
The weight was really hard on my back too. I couldn’t stand for even 10 to 15 minutes without something hurting. I was in chronic pain and my posture was suffering. I would throw my neck out all the time just because I would tense up from hunching—I even pinched a nerve in my neck! At my part-time job at Pottery Barn, when I went to pick boxes up, my breasts would even be in the way of that.
I always knew that breast reduction was a possible procedure—I had a few friends who had done it—but I hadn’t really researched it, and I didn’t know much about it.
While I started toying with the idea after graduation, it wasn’t until 2014 that I called my mom and told her I was thinking about having the surgery. It had gotten to the point where the pain was simply too much.
So I started doing more research and decided to go on a high deductible healthcare plan. If my doctor and insurance company decided I was a candidate, I’d pay the $2,000 deductible and the rest of the surgery would be covered by insurance. I was fortunate that my mom also said she would help me pay.
During this time, I researched a number of plastic surgeons near me in the Kansas City area—where I was living—and landed on my doctor, who a couple of other people I knew had used. I called his office and scheduled my consultation, which cost about $250.
I also set a goal for myself: to lose 20 pounds before the surgery. This wasn’t a requirement, but I did this so that I could go in there and say, ‘I know I can do this and I know I can maintain this lifestyle post-surgery.’
Three months later, after cutting out drinking and switching up my diet, I had successfully lost 20 pounds. That felt good, but I was still in pain, so I knew I had made the right decision.
At the consultation, your doctor basically assesses the situation. I took my shirt off and my doctor measured my breasts and took a photo. He said he strongly recommended I do the surgery: My breasts were so big that they were bad for my frame—and he could tell that my posture wasn’t good.
My doctor also showed me photos of some of his past work. No one’s face is shown and you don’t have to look if you don’t want, but I wanted to see how my body would look post-surgery.
As for the surgery itself, he explain that because my breasts were so oversized, the incisions would be different than with a breast augmentation. Staples and stitches would go under my breasts and then up to my areola, and he would also make my areolas smaller. The surgery would remove fatty tissue and skin and take me from an H cup to a C.
My doctor also explained the downsides of the surgery: because of how the incisions are made, I might not be able to breastfeed when I’m pregnant, and there was a possibility I may never get sensation back in my nipples. Besides that, though, the surgery is fairly common.
To be honest, I didn’t even think twice about the negatives. I was 26, single, in constant pain, and this was the right time to do it.
After that, he wrote a letter to my insurance company detailing his opinion that the procedure was medically necessary. Then we waited.
Four or five weeks later, my insurance company approved the surgery. I was so relieved that the pain I knew I was experiencing was substantiated by my doctor and my insurance company. It was proof that I wasn't being overly dramatic about my situation. I couldn't wait to get the process underway. I was confident in the outcome and with how better my life would be.
I scheduled the surgery for June.
My surgery was on a Thursday. I went in around 6 a.m. Before it started, I was a little bit nervous. I’m not the type of person who does a lot of things to change—so to do something as big as surgery was a bit scary. I’d never even broken a bone, so I was overwhelmed and flushed. But my doctor talked me through it, marking where the incisions would go and telling me to take a few deep breaths. When the surgery started, I think I was out from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
When I woke up, I felt fine but I was very, very sore. My breasts were completely Saran wrapped and then wrapped again with an ACE bandage. I wasn’t to touch the ACE bandage until my follow-up appointment three days later. And I needed help putting my clothes on those first few days, to make sure I didn’t strain my arms too much. It’s really difficult to lift your arms—the incisions go up the sides of your chest too.
And though I was in and out of sleep and bandaged during those next few days, I could tell that my chest was a lot smaller. The pressure was different. Two pounds of weight was removed from each breast.
Three days after the surgery, at a follow-up appointment, my doctor took the staples out and took a look. His reaction was so funny: "Great work. This looks really great." He took the ACE bandage off and gave me a post-surgery bra since I couldn’t go bra shopping until the swelling had stopped—which wouldn’t be for about six weeks. I was back to work in six days. (Did you know there's a Right Bra for Every Breast Type?)
As the days went on, I knew the surgery had worked. I like to wear button-down shirts, but now the buttons were actually closing. I didn’t feel vulgar. When I wore clothes before, a lot of times, they didn’t fit or I’d have to wear a scarf to cover cleavage. A couple of weeks out, I realized I could wear a lot of clothes I had worn in college that I hadn’t been able to wear in years.
When I went out six weeks later to buy my first C cup bra, it was great. I could finally buy a buy pretty bra like the ones my friends always wore. Before the surgery, I always had to meander over to Macy's and buy some skin-tone, full-coverage piece—pretty much the most unattractive thing in the store. That was all I could buy without underwire digging into my armpits, straps pressing into my back, or constantly making sure my boobs didn't fall out of the cup.
Post-surgery, I really nervous about everything, from running to rolling over in my sleep to the pressure from the showerhead. But in March, I started exercising again. My roommate at the time had a dog, so I’d take him on walks then gradually I would run for a mile or even just for five minutes to gauge my comfort level. Soon, I was running again and I lost another 10 pounds. I was ecstatic! I hadn't been able to run for a mile, let alone five minutes, without being so exhausted before the surgery. Each time I ran, I remember just being shocked that I could do it! Gradually, my scars and my body completely healed.
Today, I am completely back to full strength. I have hardly any back pain, my posture is a lot better, I run four times a week (which improves my mood!), and I can walk for a long time now without any sort of issue. I’ve also found I can pick things up much more easily.
The surgery also helped my confidence level—I was confident before, but I’m even more confident now. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.