In 8th Grade, a blonde boy named Derek came up to me and asked, “Why are your boobs bigger than everyone else’s?”
In high school, I hid behind the cotton blend of baggy tees and blouses that were a size too big. My back started hurting, beginning with that ache that eases when you lay down after a long day of standing. My neck tightened as my posture narrowed, and I started seeing massage therapists and chiropractors to correct what they could.
In first year university, the discomfort turned into searing pain in my neck and shoulders. I asked my doctor for a referral to a surgeon for breast reduction surgery, of which I waited 8 months for a 15-minute appointment, only to be told that I was “too young, and overweight according to a BMI chart.” My Euro curves didn’t fit the mold, so I walked away with no next steps, low confidence, and still in pain.
The idea of surgery danced in my head for over 7 years, but it’s this terrifying prospect that I’ve always associated with images of the ER in Grey’s Anatomy (hello Jackson Avery). But on the days where I’d lay down, trying to catch my breath from the pulsing discomfort across my spine, wishing the pain away, the idea became more realistic. From multiple conversations, words of affirmation, and constant reframing to revisit the idea of going to a doctor, I did, and it was the best decision I have ever made.
My surgeon, Dr. Sun, immediately glowed with kindness. I found comfort in her youthfulness and trendy clothes, thinking that she understood me and my situation because she wore fashionable culottes. As a young woman, to go through a surgery that alters a sexualized part of your body is not necessarily the easiest decision. Many of those I knew who underwent breast reduction surgery did so after kids, after finding their partners, and after living their youth. As someone who is single, with no children, and who deals with the world of expectations from social media every single day, I didn’t know anyone who shared my reality, albeit a skewed reality.
A list of Kristen’s unrealistic thoughts (that felt realistic at the time):
How was I supposed to find a partner to accept my scars?
Would I find someone who finds me attractive?
How do I explain why I had surgery?
Do I need to explain why I had surgery?
What will I be known as if not the “girl with the big boobs”?
Why would anyone want to have children with me if I can’t breastfeed?
Would I be able to breastfeed? Does it matter if I can’t?
What if the surgery went badly and I lost my boobs?
What if the surgery didn’t work and I have scarred boobs that are the same size?
What if they completely remove my boobs?
And so on...
After nights of tearful puffy eyes, calls on the phone with my best friends, sleep-preventing anxiety, deep conversations with my Mom and Dad, and straight up fear, the realization that this surgery was about me, and only me, finally hit. No one else could make me feel empowered and no one else could overcome my fears.
It started with the image of going into a store, like Forever 21 or H&M, and buying a bathing suit or a bra that just simply fit, not having to worry about feeling inadequate because I was outside of their sizing and popping out of place. I started thinking about how I could become the healthiest version of myself. I could have the opportunity to feel more confident in my clothes, instead of tugging and pulling to hide under my shirts. I talked to my doctors about breastfeeding, and the options that are available if I’m unable to in the future. I thought about my own body image, and how what I saw in the mirror could connect with what I felt inside. I imagined exercising, playing soccer, doing burpees, and running without pain (other than the good pain that comes along with working out #gainz). Reframing my anxieties and insecurities for a surgery that wasn’t only doctor recommended, but supported, was essential to accepting the unknown outcome on the other side.
At the end of the day, it came down to realizing that I’m not just the girl with the big boobs. I’m the girl with the bubbly personality, compassionate heart, and empathetic soul. I’m the girl who had breast reduction surgery on May 3, 2018. I went from an F to a C. I lost 7lbs from my chest. I was on bedrest for 2 weeks. I took one bottle of T3’s. I received countless messages of love and support. I had 13 visits from special people in my life. And yet, my physical changes were no where close to the mental and emotional changes I experienced throughout this process. The power I reclaimed by focusing on myself instead of the opinions of others taught me how resilient I truly am.
Today I stand in front of the mirror in the morning, dabbing vitamin E healing cream on my scars, smiling because they signify so much more than a surgery. Don’t get me wrong, there are days where I am frustrated and upset. Days where I am uncomfortable and feel like a stranger in my body. Days where I just wish I could be “normal.” But despite it all, I have some rad scars that tell my story, and smile on my face because it happened.
If anyone would like to chat details in regards to my surgery experience, please do not hesitate to reach out. I wish I had someone to talk to who understood my circumstance. I’m here if you need me!