Sunday Glory

 

There’s no better time than Christmas to become

the kind of seeker the wise men embodied.

Wise people still seek Christ.

Rick Warren

Gail 

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Breasts, Body Shaming, Bullying, and Body Image- Part Four

I am glad to be finishing up this series today.  As I said in the last post, this is a topic that has not been easy to write about and I’ve wanted to hit delete a thousand times.  When I started this series, I had intended it to be a series about bullying and body shaming in general.  Somehow, it quickly turned into posts about my specific personal experiences over being bullied over my large breast size.  I can only say plain and simply that I had not intended to write a series of four posts all about my breasts!  After all, who does that?  Apparently, I do.  Because it’s the only experience I’ve had with both body shaming and bullying.  And if Ann Voskamp has taught me anything, it’s that we can all learn from sharing our brokenness.  So I’m telling my story and I hope and pray that it will maybe help others in some small way.  If it helps just one woman or influences one person not to bully or to be more kind to someone else, then it was well worth it.  If you want to catch up, you can go here to read Part One, here to read Part Two, and here to read Part Three.

bluesfline

My primary care doctor (who I really respect and downright adore) did not try to push me into having a breast reduction as he had seen first hand the complications patients went through with breast reduction surgeries.   He almost scared me out of having the surgery when he told me about a patient of his who had a reduction and who would not heal.  She ended up having to go to another surgeon who ended up doing a double mastectomy on her.  That, my friends, was scary.  But I’m grateful my doctor was honest and forthcoming with me and let me know what I was in for.  He knew what others didn’t seem to understand, that a breast reduction is no easy surgery.  At times, I almost felt he was trying to talk me out of having the surgery.  But when he realized I wanted to go through with it, he ended up referring me to a cosmetic surgeon he thought I would like and one who he respected.  He told me that this surgeon was very mathematically minded – sort of an engineer type thinker – and I needed to trust him with whatever size he thought I needed to be, because he would proportion me well.  He was right.  I really liked this doctor and knew right after meeting him that he would be the one doing my surgery.  As with the first doctor, he told me there would be no problem with me getting approved by my insurance.  One of the hardest things was having to pose for both pre-op and post-op photos (both for insurance reasons and their records).  I hated getting those photos taken.  It was both uncomfortable and weird.

Preoperatively, I was put in a room and met with the anesthesiologist.  I was given preanesthetic drugs to help me relax and to prevent nausea.  The surgeon came into the room I was in with a purple Sharpie permanent marker to mark each breast for surgery.  He sent my husband outside the room for this “marking” and on the way out, my husband told him he hoped he had more than one marker as he would surely run out of ink with just the one.  The doctor let out a good laugh.  There was much measuring and marking and about ten minutes of real awkwardness where I had to sit up straight and tall, drop my gown, and place my hands crossed behind my head. When he finished, my breasts looked like a Rand McNally road map.  When it was over, the surgeon called my husband back in and tossed the marker to him telling hubby he could have it and that it still actually had ink left in it.  Ha ha.

The surgeon took me from a K cup size to a D cup.   He told me that with the average breast reduction, he usually removes 1-2 lbs. of tissue.  He removed 6 lbs. of tissue during my reduction.  Due to my extremely large size, he wasn’t sure if he would have to remove the entire areola/nipple and then reattach it.  He hoped to do a pedicle flap where he would just make a flap but keep the blood vessels and ducts intact.  He said that’s not always possible with very large breasted women but he would try his best.  He did try and he was successful.  When the nipples and areolas are removed and then reattached, the chance of tissue necrosis and delayed healing is higher.

The surgery ended up being a much harder surgery than I had thought it would be (even after all the research I had done) and I had many complications.  My left breast started bleeding when I was in recovery and the recovery nurse had to get my doctor out of another surgery to tend to me.  Despite the antinausea drugs, I dry heaved and wretched which hurt my incisions.  I was the last one to leave the recovery ward that day.  My breast reduction was done as an outpatient surgery, unlike my sister’s surgery back in the 70s when she got to stay in the hospital for a few days.

At home it was difficult to get up off the couch or out of the bed since you can’t use your arms to get yourself up.  I stayed propped up on pillows.  I experienced severe pain (despite being told this was not a painful surgery), tissue necrosis, sloughing and nonhealing on the undersides of both my right and left breast.  I had to undergo multiple debridement procedures for the necrosis which was not fun.  Debridement is where they cut the necrotic black tissue off.  I was told that breast tissue just doesn’t have a very good blood supply, and therefore heals very very slowly.  I was told this AFTER my surgery and that healing from breast reduction surgery is very slow going.  I was told that most women who have an easy time with a breast reduction are women who have a small amount removed, like 400 grams.  The surgeon reminded me I had 1200 grams removed from my left breast alone.  He said the more tissue removed, the more trauma you cause to the breast and so women who have larger amounts removed are the ones who usually have the most complications.  I don’t know about you, but I would have liked to have been told this BEFORE the surgery.  I developed fat necrosis in my left breast which made that breast permanently lumpy.  I lost most of the sensation and feeling in both breasts.  I became very depressed at about the three week mark and wondered if I should perhaps just have both breasts removed.  Some of the sensation returned in my right breast but not much at all in my left.  It’s basically numb all over like it’s someone else’s breast and not my own.  I have bad scarring but my scars have faded.  My breasts ended up asymmetrical.  But as my doctor pointed out, even women who DON’T have reductions are often asymmetrical by nature.  Four weeks post op, I found myself still with significant pain and still with large sloughing breast wounds.  In all honesty, I was thinking I had made a huge mistake having the surgery.  I was depressed.  My surgeon, being a little disappointed with the non-healing tissue wounds and scarring, discussed doing another surgery to “correct” these problems.  I said NO.  No one was coming near my breasts with a scalpel again.  Of that I was sure.

After this surgery, I developed a newfound respect for women who undergo breast cancer surgery and especially the ones who undergo reconstruction.  I saw and talked to plenty of those brave women in the waiting room as one of this doctor’s specialties was breast cancer reconstruction.  I’ll never forget the day I was there in the waiting room for one of my post op debridement visits.  The receptionist told me the doctor would be delayed as he was called into an emergency surgery and had to leave right away.  One of his breast reconstruction patients was having a severe allergic reaction to her tissue expanders.  I learned a lot about breast cancer reconstructive surgery in the many weeks I sat in that waiting room talking to patients and I have to be honest in telling you, I can’t imagine going through what they go through.  I’m not really sure if I could do it.  I don’t think I deal with surgical pain well.  I guess you never know until it happens to you and what you would do, but knowing the pain I went through with just a reduction, I admired those women for enduring what they endured.

Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pexels

Having a med/surg nurse for a husband was a big advantage as he was a big help with the wound care after the surgery and did most of the daily dressing changes.  I came home with two JP drain tubes which needed emptying daily.  These drain tubes reminded me of hand grenades and that’s what we called them…. my hand grenades.  My husband was very familiar with these drains and I was not, so he did all the emptying.  They were removed around day 5 when they quit draining.  I wore bandages and gauze around my chest for the first three weeks to a month, then started wearing sports bras (with dressings still).  It was past the 6 week mark before I went to get fitted for my first store bought bra.  I was a D cup.  I did eventually get to the point that I was glad I had the surgery.  Buying store bought bras again was nice.  Exercising without my back and neck killing me was a plus, and finding tops to fit again brought me much joy.  Strangers no longer gawked at me in public.

Image by HeungSoon from Pixabay

What would I do differently or tell another woman who was considering a breast reduction?  I would tell her to do her research but not to make the mistake I made and only read information from plastic surgeon’s websites.  Because they aren’t going to tell you the downside, only the plus side to having a reduction.  They’re only going to show you the “success” photos, not the nonhealing photos.  I would advise them to read blogs by women who have had breast reductions and learn what they’re in for!  I didn’t do that until after my surgery and sure wish I would have done it before my surgery.  Know what you’re getting into.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Someone once made the comment to me that they bet my husband must absolutely hate me for having a reduction!  For the record, my husband was 100% supportive of my decision to have surgery.   He said he would love me no matter what my breast size was.  He knew the pain I was in both physically and especially emotionally with having large breasts.  He knew the bullying I had endured.  Not long ago I found my pre-op photos taken by the surgeon’s office.  I showed them to hubby.  His reply was, “Oh my God, you must have been so miserable…. I had forgotten how large you were.”  I have to admit, I was appalled by those photos.  My breasts were freakishly gigantic.  The friend who I mentioned in part one who was constantly teased at school for being flat chested used to joke with me prior to my breast reduction that we could be the first to make record breaking history.  We could be the first to go through a “breast transplant” and she joked that when I had my breast reduction, she wanted to be laying on an adjacent surgery table and have those doctors transplant some of what they took off of me onto her chest.  Then we would both be happy.  We had a good laugh over that.  I guess in the end we learned to laugh at our situations.

I turned sixty years old this past year and I still have body image issues.  I suspect I always will.  I don’t think one ever recovers completely from long term body shaming and bullying, that there are lasting repercussions.  I realize some people won’t agree with that and it is just my own personal opinion.  I endured bullying and body shaming from classmates, acquaintances, strangers, teenagers, adults, men, women, my own mother, and yes, even doctors for most of my life.  It did something to me.  I felt a lot of anger and grew to resent the fact that large breasted women are just about always sexualized.  I did undergo some therapy but in hindsight probably needed more.

I hope my story helps someone, somewhere, especially any woman who is bullied and body shamed for her breast size.  I believe the problem of large breasted women who get bullied and body shamed is much more prevalent than people realize.  I think social media has probably made bullying worse as bullies can sit boldly behind their screens with hidden faces and anonymity, and type cruel and harsh words that they normally wouldn’t say to someone’s face.  It’s beyond sad that human beings can be so horrifyingly wicked to other human beings.  It’s both horrific and tragic that many victims commit suicide over being bullied and body shamed.  IT. NEEDS. TO. STOP.

Gail 

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Breasts, Body Shaming, Bullying, and Body Image- Part Three

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.

Emergency room

EKG

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.

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“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…

Gail 

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Holiday Dangers for Pets

Reposting this later than I had intended but life has been a little crazy lately! Merry Christmas!!

Moonlight Reflections

The holidays are here!  And while this is a joyous time of year, we need to be aware that there can be added dangers for our pets this time of year.  Here is a list of some common things that can pose a threat to our four-legged friends around the holidays. 

Food

  • Chocolate–  Most people are aware that chocolate is toxic to pets.  Dogs are most susceptible since they are known to eat just about anything.  The toxins in chocolate are theobromine and caffeine.  The darker and richer the chocolate (Baker’s chocolate), the higher the risk of poisoning.  Milk chocolate is the least toxic.  The toxins in chocolate stimulate the central nervous system, increase urine output and cause a rapid heartbeat.  The animal may vomit and have diarrhea, may become very thirsty, become restless and hyperactive.  This may progress to a lack of coordination, tremors and seizures.  In some cases…

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A Fall Walk- 2019

I’ll just come right out and say it.  Fall was a little blah in Middle Tennessee this year.  I’ve lived here 59 years and I can’t remember such a colorless autumn, especially right in our own neighborhood.  Our maple trees never did get any color.  Their leaves stayed green, then turned brown and crinkly, and then fell to the ground.  The two trees that I usually love to photograph every year in our neighborhood due to their magnificent orange, yellow, and red colors, were just, well, dull this year.  No color at all.  I heard on the news that if you hoped to see any autumnal colors in Tennessee this year that you would need to drive to East Tennessee, near the mountains.

Hubby and I went to our favorite state park a couple of weeks ago.  There was very little color, when compared to previous years, although you might not think that from these photos because when we did come across the handful of trees that did have color, I stopped and took pictures.  We only saw one tree which had red in it (or a few red branches I should say), a few trees with yellow leaves, but mostly just green and browns.

I also heard on the news that we only had three fall-like days here.  It seemed to go from summer to winter temperature-wise.

Still, I love fall and it’s always been my favorite time of the year.

Loved the clouds!

This cluster of trees was the only color in the entire park.

The only red leaves we saw on the two mile hike we did!

Beautiful yellow!

This is mostly what we saw…. browns and green.

How have the fall colors been in your area this year?

Gail

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Lessons Learned From a Garden Spider

I cried today when I found the dead body of a garden spider friend I’ve been watching every single day for the past two months or more.  I called her Autumn.  And after finding Autumn’s little deceased and crumpled body this morning, my husband was ready to have me committed when I told him I wanted to bury her.  I was dead serious.

Middle Tennessee had its first frost on Halloween night.   We had our second frost last night.  Garden spiders usually perish with the first frost.  Autumn perished with the second frost.  Poor moribund Autumn stayed in her web until 3 am yesterday morning throughout temperatures in the low to mid 30s.  Halloween night, I watched her crawl down the brick under the window where her web was, the first time she had left her web in the two months since she took up residence there.  I knew she was going off to die.  I told her goodbye and I told her I would watch her egg sacs for her when she was gone.  After all, she had worked so very hard at making them, and then protecting them.

When I got up yesterday morning, Autumn’s web was empty.  And I felt such a sadness.  But then just a while later while standing at the kitchen sink doing dishes, I saw something move out of the corner of my eye, and looked up, and there was Autumn!  She was ascending ever so slowly towards the center of her web where she had lived happily for the past two months, close to her egg sacs.  She was cold and weak and looked so thin and fragile.  She was no longer her plump, healthy, and vigorous looking self.

She stayed there near her two egg sacs all day and all night yesterday.  When I went to bed last night, it was 36 degrees and SO cold out.  I knew I wouldn’t be seeing my Autumn girl again.  When I awoke this morning, I went to the kitchen window and as I suspected, her web was empty.  I went outside and looked around and found her lifeless little body under our recycling bin, directly underneath her web.  She was gone.  And I wept.  Wept just as I had that 3rd grade day when the teacher read the ending of Charlotte’s Web to the class and I learned that Charlotte the spider had died without ever seeing her babies.  I wept because in some strange way, I felt I had lost a friend.  I wept because 60 year old postmenopausal women can be just plain silly like that sometimes.

You see, I watched this spider spend many, many hours building and rebuilding her web every day.  I watched her catch and inject venom into her prey,  watched her wrap that prey in silk, and later, ingest that prey.  I watched her cut the shells of the remains of bugs she ingested out of her web and then watched her tediously repair her damaged web.  I watched her spend hour upon hour making her eggs sacs which absolutely fascinated this nature loving girl.  I watched her fiercely defend those egg sacs.  I loved waking up and seeing what Autumn had in store for me that day.  I somehow wished I had spent my own life working every bit as hard as that spider did every. single. day.

R.I.P. my Autumn girl.  You taught this 60 year old woman many lessons about hard work, perseverance and the circle of life.  Lessons, that unfortunately, aren’t always easy to learn or learned in a timely manner.

Tomorrow, as silly as it may seem to some, I will bury you under the red maple tree closest to your egg sacs.  I think you deserve that much.

Gail

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The New Egg Sac

This fall, I have enjoyed watching our resident garden spider (I call her Autumn), who decided to make her web right outside our kitchen window.  About a month ago, Autumn, who was nice and plump, made an egg sac.  You can read about it here.   She slimmed down considerably after making that egg sac.

I’ve noticed for the past week that Autumn has quit re-spinning her web every morning.  Her web is no small creation.  In fact, it’s quite large – about two feet across.  She starts it before the sun is up and finishes it just as it’s becoming light.  I stood at the kitchen window early one morning and watched her finish it. It amazed me how her little body could just keep making more and more silk.  I was mesmerized and I couldn’t quit watching.

It’s been cooler here at night (anywhere from the 40s to the 60s).  One night it got down to 36.  I don’t think we’ve had a frost yet and I know garden spiders often succumb to the first frost.  I notice Autumn’s activity decreases significantly when the temperature drops.  Her web is looking very shabby now and I haven’t witnessed her catching any prey or eating in the past two weeks.  I doubt her dilapidated little web could even catch any prey now.  But I noticed a few days ago that she had become nice and plump and round again.

Last night when I was letting the kitties out on the deck, I had the outside lights on which shine on Autumn’s web (which is between the kitchen window and the screen of the deck) and I noticed that I didn’t see her silhouette in the center of the web on the stabilimentum (the silky zigzag pattern they make) where she just about always sits.  My heart sank a little.  I’ve known her time is about up and I feared Autumn had passed on to that great web in the sky.   My eyes glanced up to the egg sac, and there she was!  She was depositing more silk around the sac.  I thought to myself that she must know her time is drawing near and she was just reinforcing the sac to afford it a little more protection for when she’s gone.

I’ve read that garden spider egg sacs are heavily parasitized by wasps and flies.  A blogger friend commented on my last post that mud daubers are big enemies to the egg sacs and that she often finds baby garden spiders inside the mud dauber nests as she’s washing them away.  I thought about how very hard these spiders work in making the sac and what an incredible amount of energy it takes.  It made me sad to think that all of this spider’s hard work might be in vain.  But then I guess it’s helping the mud daubers.  I keep reminding myself that it’s all about the circle of life.

Two hours went by and I checked on Autumn again and she was still busy working and depositing more silk but this time I noticed a bleb and it dawned on me that she was making a new egg sac!  Where is her energy coming from, I wondered?  Another hour went by and I checked on her one last time before going to bed and she was still busy at work.  It was midnight at that point.

This morning, hubby told me to go check on Autumn, that there was a second egg sac.

Autumn, the garden spider, and her two egg sacs. The oldest sac is the top sac and the newer sac that she spun last night is at the bottom.

Autumn and the new egg sac.

I can’t imagine how exhausted that spider is.  Making that egg sac took many, many hours and I’m sure she worked until the sun came up.  Today I watched a time lapsed video of a garden spider making an egg sac.  I had no idea it involved so much work by the spider.  It’s really amazing when you stop to think about it.

Watching this spider has absolutely fascinated me.  I will miss her when she’s gone.

Gail

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