The good news: it’s my birthday!*
WOOOO BIRTHDAY!!!! 33!
I’m a palindrome number of years old!!
And I got to be a Flowery Princess thanks to a friend of mine, which I have to admit, I now want to be my aesthetic 100% of the time.
Okay, that was basically it for the good news. Maybe some more in a bit, but spaced out with other information, because, you know… Life is complicated and all that. In any case, time to sally forth to the main post.
My darling and dearest Gentle Readers, it has been too long. I mean truly, so very much too long, and too much has transpired to give you the whole story, but I want to let you know what things are looking like currently, how that ties in to why I haven’t blogged in so long, and how I’m hoping to make a triumphant (or at least adequate) return.
Obviously you all know that I have large breasts; that’s the reason for the blog’s existence.
Weirdly shaped and all that.
It’s what connected me to you.
For a long time, even as I grew out of bra after bra (and was sized out of company after company), I managed to find solutions (custom bras from Wellfitting, Comexim, and Ewa Michalak, accessories to help distribute weight, etc.) to keep from developing the back pain and other issues that plague many women with BOUS (still remember this? check the blog’s lexicon if not!) and that make doing various things – finding clothing and lingerie just one of many – more difficult. And as those of you who read my post for The Modesty Panel may remember, I had spent many, many years struggling with being bullied and made fun of, dealing with my own body image issues, and feeling like I didn’t know how to be confident in my own skin before reaching a point where I was able to wear what made me feel most like myself and share that positivity with others, which was an incredibly meaningful transition for me.
So despite being advised by doctors, friends, and even strangers for years, I always refused to even consider getting a breast reduction because I felt my breasts were part of my identity; we’d been through a lot together. I’d never been without them and didn’t know what that would look like, and the idea of surgery scared me (for about a million reasons, aesthetics being only one). I knew that breast reductions ranked among the highest for patient satisfaction, and that not only did I know people who personally felt like it was the best thing they’d ever done for themselves, but it seemed like literally everyone I knew knew at least one person who felt the same way. The key difference I kept noticing, though, was that unlike me, most of the people in question had never liked having large breasts in the first place and were excited to get rid of them. I just didn’t fit into that picture or demographic.
Fast forward to about a little more than a year ago, when after many months of increasing discomfort I had reached a point where I was in constant pain. I was distracted all the time – by the pain itself, by my constant need to move straps and adjust bands to try to alleviate at least some of what was hurting me. It was wearing me down. I started thinking that maybe getting a reduction was going to be necessary whether I liked it or not. I was past the stage of getting grooves on my shoulders from straps and welts on my chest from underwires; I just ached all the time.
Fast forward again to now. A lot has happened in a year. I moved to a new city to try to build a better life for myself. It was exciting and wonderful, but I severely pulled a muscle in my back during the move, and for a day or so, could not raise one of my arms over my head. A few months later I moved from my initial housing situation into the house I live in now, and I sprained the same muscle, which had never fully healed in the first place. Since that initial injury and then even faster since the second, my already difficult back pain went from a daily struggle to actively restrictive of my daily life.
I had been going out and making friends and connections, doing everything I wanted, but the pain got bad enough that I found myself receding, until recently I realized I was spending almost every evening alone in my room, having moved most important things I might need within reach of my bed so I wouldn’t have to get up. I had stopped looking for opportunities and friends, because simply being up and walking around was too painful. I had stopped cooking healthy food (or any food that required more than minor preparation), stopped working on my own creative projects, and stopped trying to network for work opportunities. To my great shame and mortification, I even started losing my ability to maintain professionalism, as I ended up being late to rehearsals and other things because trying to get dressed with the back support things I had gotten was difficult (and half the time made things worse as I would twist a muscle trying to get them on properly). I tried everything I could think of. Physical therapy. Borrowing a mattress topper. Stuffing entire pairs of socks between my bra and my ribcage. Basically just never getting out of bed. I did Not. Want. Surgery.
But I need it.
I moved to Seattle to build a life that was vibrant and meaningful, and I can’t do that while I am in bed shackled by pain. Everything has ground to a halt. So it is with reluctance that I am choosing to have breast reduction surgery after all. I’m ready to get on with my life and, at the risk of sounding clichéd, be the me I’ve always wanted to be.
Here’s the thing, though. That me? She still wants to go back to blogging. She spent years and years learning to be comfortable in her own skin, to appreciate her figure after years of being made fun of and bullied, to enjoy its capacity to be intimate and its capacity to be comforting. She fought off insecurity to show her curves to the whole world, and she told other people that they could be bold, too. You, Gentle Readers, have brought so much meaning to my life in your messages and comments and everything else, and I miss you. I want to share with you again. I want to share this terrifying (for me at least) and life-changing experience with you – maybe even blog through the experience here, if there is interest. But none of that is coming back while I am basically homebound and miserable.**
I am many things. I am a musician, a performer, a friend, a daughter, a hedonist, and adventurer… And a curvy, busty woman. It’s no less a part of me than anything else. It’s shaped the way the world has perceived and treated me since I was a child. It’s been an evolving part of my identity. It’s intrinsically tied to my feelings about myself, my gender, my sexuality, of who I am. I mean, even you, my dearest Gentle Readers, who only were with me for a few short years, saw so many ways in which I used my body to express myself. The following is a little stroll down memory lane, but it leaves out the 20ish years of living with a large bust that came before.
I know I am not just my breasts. I know I would be worthy of love with small breasts, or with no breasts, and I truly believe that all shaped and sizes, scarred or not, freckled, reshaped or largely removed from mastectomies, surgically enhanced/augments can be beautiful. But my breasts? The ones that feel like they belong on my body and in my life as it has been and will be? They are big. It’s something about which I feel strongly, and while many people haven’t understood why I was reluctant to get the surgery or why going down to a significantly smaller size just doesn’t feel like something I can do, I am hoping that those of you who have been with me through this journey – and especially those of you who share my shape and have always loved it or have grown to love it through these years – will understand why it’s so important to me to not just be pain-free but to come out of it recognizing myself and feeling like the same Miss Shapen you have always known.
Looking through before and after pictures on the internet (trust me, that is not a rabbit hole you want to fall down. So. Many. Pictures.) and reading up on how the surgeries are performed and other such things, a few things became clear to me:
- There is a very, very wide variety in what post-op breasts look like, but within that, the most common look overall was sort of wide on the bottom and without much fullness on top. Some lovely boobs! But if you want round, full breasts, it’s not the best choice.
- There are multiple types of reduction surgeries (who knew? Maybe you, but not me) – not just the types of incisions, but the types of reductions and lifts themselves, and within those, subtypes pioneered by various surgeons. Fascinating! But intimidating. Lordy.
- Not all surgeons know all the techniques, and since they tend to create different results (with obvious exceptions), if you know what you are looking for, finding a surgeon who not only knows the techniques you are interested in but has practiced them regularly and is experienced and comfortable is important.
- There are three different certifications plastic surgeons can get, and it’s generally considered best to find one who has all three, as far as I can tell. The big one that has stood out to me is that – surprise surprise – doctors who are certified by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (emphasis mine) tend to produce results that I find, well, aesthetically pleasing.
- Very, very few people want reductions that leave them busty. It is much more common to see people asking how small they can go than it is how little can be removed to be effective. This makes it hard for people like me (the latter) to find good before and after pictures to show surgeons, or even to find comparable experiences to read about. Discouraging, but I soldier on. Heh.
Okay, so after all of that, I had figured out the types of incisions and procedures that seemed to most reliably produce the shapes that appealed to me, looked back through the blog archives to pinpoint a time where I was both happy with how my breasts looked and still a few sizes away from being in pain (to help choose a goal for the post-op size), and painstakingly narrowed down the surgeons in Seattle who seemed most likely to be a good fit. My top two choices did not take insurance. Womp womp. So I made the list of the other surgeons who seemed like they might work out, called my insurance company, found out which ones were covered, and set up consultations with all of them. So far, so mostly good. But then I got a call from the office of one of the surgeons I had made an appointment with saying my insurance was not covering him after all. You’re kidding, right? No, no they weren’t. Blorgh.
At least somewhat undeterred, I called my insurance to see what the issue was, and it turned out that the first person I’d spoken to was in error, and that my network was MUCH more limited, to the point that only two of the surgeons on my original list of 12 or so were covered, and they weren’t on the top of said (already second-tier) list in the first place.
Womp. Fucking. Womp.
After having a mild freakout, I decided to go to the consultations anyway to try to learn more about things, while simultaneously looking at out of network surgeons here and in areas I had family. The first consultation (one of the ones my insurance covered) was awful – the surgeon was condescending and dismissive, didn’t do any of the procedures I wanted, and wasn’t content to just let me know that she thought that the size I was asking for wasn’t something she was comfortable with – she had to do everything in her power to make me feel like an idiot. Discouraging and enraging and all kinds of bad. The second (not covered by insurance) was much more enlightening, but the before and after pictures were not taking me where I needed to be. It was at that consultation that the idea of working with my insurance was dealt the final blow: the minimum amount of tissue they required to be taken out to deem it medically necessary was the same for each breast, and on my smaller side was almost twice as much as the doctor and I were discussing. NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE.
Nevertheless, I persisted. I’m getting this damn surgery, and I’m going to pay out of pocket to get it done right. Since I have to pay for it regardless, I expanded my search to other cities where I have friends and family, and I’ve found a seemingly amazing surgeon – before and after pictures to die for and credentials that are almost absurd in their excellence. He’s written textbook chapters on scar minimization techniques, was one of only two people in the country to receive a fellowship in aesthetic plastic surgery from Harvard Medical School (and now occasionally lectures there), has been named one of the top 100 plastic surgeons in the country for the past few years without exception, custom built his facility with architects, engineers, and other people to implement extra safety features to minimize the risk of infections and complications… The list goes on. I mean, really, it’s almost overkill. Leave some awards and stuff for the other surgeons, why don’t ya.
Okay, so. Here comes the part that – in this beginning stage at least – is the most difficult to write about.
Because the results of this surgery are a relatively permanent alteration to a part of my body that is immensely important to me, and given everything I have talked about above, I made the choice to go with the surgeon I feel will really give me both what I want and what I need, and not to leave the outcome to chance. Unfortunately, that does mean paying out of pocket, and my insurance will not even partially reimburse anything out of network. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Aucun. Kein. Wala. Niente. I could go on. That is not even a fraction of the amount of words I would like to say about that policy. But I digress.
What this all amounts to is that I, your loving but eternally starving-artist-y Miss Shapen, am getting a medically necessary surgery, and since I don’t have savings or insurance that is reasonable, I have to raise the money for the surgery myself. I am looking to sell my laptop, as well as potentially some bras and such, but ultimately with a $9,000 surgery in another city that will stop me from being able to do most of my work (as a cellist and cello teacher) for about six weeks… Well, I need some help. I have made a crowdfunding page to try to raise the money – there is a link below, as well as a donation link in the sidebar on the right – and I have sent it out to friends and family, but I also want to share it here for anyone who might want to give. If you can do so happily, it will make a huge difference in my life. If you can’t but want to support with kind words or by sharing the link, that would also be appreciated immensely. And if not…? As always, Gentle Readers, I will be glad to have you along for the ride.
With love and trepidation, yours always,
My boobs, my back, and my future self send much gratitude.
*Well, it was a day or so ago when I started this post. Apparently this whole blogging thing is more complicated than I remembered. Oops.
**Turns out losing all the momentum you were building in life along with basic healthy habits, being stuck at home in a city where you haven’t had time to make many friends, and being in nearly constant back, neck, and head pain can bring on some FIERCE depression. It is a beast, let me tell you. I struggle with depression and mental health issues as it is, but hoo boy, has this been a doozy.
P.S. I am considering blogging my way through this process, intimidating as that feels. I imagine at least some of you may at some point want to do the same, and if sharing what I go through would help, I want to do that. Please feel free to leave thoughts in the comments, as well as anything else you have to say, as always, my dears.