I’ll be honest and tell you that I have not wanted to finish this series. I contemplated deleting the other two posts and not revisiting this subject again. And I still might do that. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever posted about (and without a doubt my least favorite posts) because it it is such a personal topic. But I happen to think it’s also a very important topic and so I’m going to try to finish this up. I had hoped to finish with one final post but due to the length, it’s going to have to be in two more parts. If you need to catch up, you can read Part One here and Part Two here.
When I was going through perimenopause, I started having irregular heartbeats. They were very noticeable and very scary. Sometimes, I’d get a facial flushing with them and just get a very odd sensation. I would sometimes get long runs of them where I’d think they would never go away. Sometimes it would just be a few irregular beats and that was that. Twice, with the long runs, I went running to the ER because they were so darn scary.
I saw my primary care doctor and he had me wear a monitor for a few days which showed premature ventricular contractions. The entire time I wore the monitor, I never felt long runs of the irregular heartbeats (isn’t that how it usually goes)? I was referred to a cardiologist.
I was given an EKG before the cardiologist came into the exam room. Then the doctor came in to talk to me. He was an older doctor and I had heard only three things about him. I heard he was a very quiet sort of an individual, he was at the brink of retirement, and he was an excellent cardiologist with lots of experience. This doctor made it clear to me that he was much more concerned with the size of my breasts than he was my premature ventricular contractions. He listened to my heart, and then holding his stethoscope, crossed his arms.
“Let me ask you something,” he said. And then he hesitated for just a minute before pointing to my chest and saying, “Have you EVER considered having a reduction?” I was a little taken aback from his statement since I was there for irregular heartbeats and not my breast size. He told me I had to be just miserable being the size I was and that I would sure benefit from a reduction. I told him yes, I had considered the surgery and in fact I had been to a cosmetic surgeon for a consultation. He then said, “WELL MY GOD GIRL, WHY HAVEN’T YOU HAD ONE YET?!” I told him about my sister’s surgery and how I knew this was no easy surgery, and discussed my fears and reasons for waiting. Then he shook his head like he was in total disbelief and totally disgusted that I was walking around on this earth with such large breasts. He spent the next five minutes basically telling me that I was an idiot for not having the surgery. At that point, I changed the subject to my heart palpitations and fought back tears.
I can’t begin to tell you what a total freak this man made me feel like. He was very condescending. I understood his concerns but I think he could have expressed those concerns to me in a kinder and more professional way. I left his office that day and was in tears before ever getting to the car and I think I cried most of the 45 minute drive home.
I had heard good things about the first cosmetic surgeon I saw for a breast reduction consultation. A few days before my appointment, his office called to remind me of my appointment, and I was told if I wanted to, I could park in the back (there was an alleyway in the back of the clinic) and use the back door instead of the front door. I thought that was very odd. It was as if what I was doing was shameful (and therefore I could sneak in the back door). I remember sitting in his waiting room and thinking everyone looked very plastic to me that day, like no one was real. I wanted to run out the door. Even his staff all looked plastic. I was taken to an exam room where they gave me photo albums to look at of actual patients who had been through breast reductions. The pictures were all too perfect with not a breast scar in sight. I felt like I was viewing a playboy magazine instead of post op breast reduction patients and I told my doctor that later. I was turned off. I wanted the truth and I wanted nothing sugar-coated. When the doc came in, we talked about why I wanted the surgery and then he examined me and did every kind of measurement of a breast that can be done. He told me I didn’t need to worry about getting approved for insurance, that I would most definitely be approved. I was. I won’t go into details about the rest of the visit, but I didn’t feel like this doctor was a good fit for me. I knew when I left there that he would not be doing my surgery. The scheduler tried very hard to get me to schedule surgery before I left. I didn’t. I would be looking for another doctor. I put off finding another surgeon and started having second thoughts.
In the meantime, one Friday night, I went to a high school football game. I was walking to the visitor’s side and looking for the friends I was to meet there and I passed some teenagers who began staring at my chest. They started laughing and pointing at my chest and then laughing some more. Then one of the teenage girls walked right up to me, stood in front of me and pointed her finger right at my chest, looked at her friends with her mouth gaping open, and then laughed loudly in my face. When she passed, she screamed, “Can you believe that?” I couldn’t believe how rude she was and how embarrassed I felt. I think I spent the remainder of the night with my arms crossed. I couldn’t wait to get home. I still remember the rust colored shirt I had on that night with a round beaded neck. I never could wear that shirt again. I knew after that night that I was most definitely going through with a reduction. I remember having an appointment with my primary care doctor not long after that football game. I told him what had happened, that I had been made to feel like some circus sideshow freak, and that I wanted a reduction. He said, “Gail, you know teenagers can be so rude sometimes!” I commented that I knew that but still, it bothered me. He told me his mother would have beat his behind had she ever found out he did something like that to another human being. I said, “yeah, mine too.” My doctor advised me not to have the surgery until GAIL was ready, not because some rude teenagers had acted disrespectful to me. It was good, sound advice but I left that appointment knowing I was ready and there would be no turning back.
Not long after that football game, I was walking into a Hallmark Store and I passed a couple walking in the opposite direction. I’m guessing they were in their mid to late 20s. I saw the woman stare at my chest with widened eyes and when I passed they both laughed aloud and then I heard her say, “Yeah…. like THOSE were real!” It took all I had not to run back after them and prove to her that they were real. That interaction was the final straw. If I could have gone out the next day and had a breast reduction, I would have.
I had spent my entire life hating my breasts and trying to hide them. I was tired of not being able to find shirts and tops to fit. I was tired of feeling like a freak. I was tired of not being able to find a bathing suit that fit or that I wasn’t embarrassed to be seen in. I was now tired of being shamed in public. I was tired of being uncomfortable. Sleeping at night was growing increasingly hard. When I laid on my side one breast would get crushed by the other so I’d turn over on the other side only to have the same thing happen to the other breast. Or my arm would go to sleep by the weight of my breast on it. I couldn’t run. I was tired of Dolly Parton jokes and Hooters jokes. I had learned adults could be just as cruel as teenagers. When certain people learned I was breastfeeding, they made comments that I was going to smother my babies or drown them. Yes, I understood that they were only trying to be funny. But their comments stung.
I was terrified to have this surgery but by golly, I was going through with it.
To be continued…