Friday, 9 April 2010

A difficult post to write: me and my cosmetic surgery

There is something of a knee-jerk reaction evoked when the very idea of cosmetic surgery is bandied about. Is it still that taboo? Is it representative of a disturbing illicit subculture, so desperate are we fair maidens vying for outward perfection?

I don't think so.

The cruel arc of the surgeon's scalpel has chop-chopped its way through my fair bosom, and the surgeon's had her pound of flesh (literally) - it's just that I paid for it to be that way.

So, I broke the taboo. I've had cosmetic surgery, and now I'm talking about it.

First I'll tell you how it came to be.
This is a difficult post for me to write because there's backstory, history, relationships, recriminations. It all starts in a very normal way: a teenage girl gets boobs. And then keeps getting boobs. And then she goes on the pill. And then there was no stopping them.

And the problem wasn't ever the boobs, so much; it was how people reacted to them which dictated how I felt about myself and how I eventually came to react. Without incriminating the driving force behind my unexpected decision last May, this is most likely the best juncture to introduce you to my mother.

Sometimes it feels like a disservice that I'm her daughter; I fumble my way through life being absolutely nothing she had ever expected. In every sense but two, I am my father's daughter; I've got a fairly dry sense of humour with a geeky twist (thanks to my avid Terry Pratchett-reading father), I question to the point of pedantry (I'm working on it...) and I love my food. And those two senses? Well, for one, I'm stunted, undersized, short. And for the second... I've got a very fiery temper.

So when my mother, in all her halting English, begins to label me as 'fat' and 'unattractive', screaming rows were to be had.

Now you understand why I said it's difficult. She never really meant fat; she was only ever referring to my boobs after all: in the most lexically-challenged way possible, what she meant to say was 'Christ, your boobs are huge.' Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I wish I'd understood her when I was younger... But, you know, the fiery temper thing...

And this is how, 4 years after it all started, I ended up in a hospital gown at 7 in the morning with my mother's words of 'I'll pay for it' ringing in my ears.

So let's just pause it here for the chronic skim-readers, just to prevent further mud-flinging and false impressions. For those of you in the coercion camp, let me dispel the notion that my mother's behaviour (and, in fact, my mother) forced my choice. It was actually down to my own lack of self-esteem, the fact that my work blouse would pop open when serving customers, the lack of attractive underwear, the buying of larger-sized clothing to accommodate my large friends, the back pain and my absolute and burning hatred for huge knockers. Anyone who has felt down about any of the above problems that their bundles of too-much-joy can bring could probably empathise: if you're offered a positive change, then you grab that shining chance.

You see, there's always been a thing about my boobs.
When I was 18, I found a huge lump in my right breast. It was about 5cm across and I cried myself to sleep every night, convinced I was going to die of cancer and was never going to live the life I wanted.

The lump, luckily enough, wasn't cancer. It was a disgusting lump of 'gristle', a fibroadenoma, which I promptly had scooped out when told it could grow to the size of a tennis ball if I was particularly unlucky. So, having previously undergone some kind of surgery, another kind in the same area didn't bother me. In fact, I was excited.

The surgeon, a buxom Greek woman clearly making the most of her (huge) assets, approached me with consternation and perhaps a little disappointment. Was I sure? They're still so youthful and pert, she cooed while drawing on me in marker pen.

The whole process was fairly quick, but only because I was privileged enough to have the operation done privately. The risks were explained to me repeatedly in black and white; both prose and doublespeak. In the surgeon's mind, she was sure I was too young, too pert, had nothing that was out of place. In my mind, the changing-room mirror in shops mapped out my body in harsh lighting; I felt ungainly and cruelly prevented from attaining a body I wanted.

So, let's talk about the risk-factor.
  • Permanent scarring: It fades, but it's not attractive.
  • Loss of nipple sensitivity: Your whole nipple is taken out and moved, and cutting out of the breast tissue could damage its connection to the milk ducts. Meaning...
  • Possible inability to breast feed: If you want to breast feed any future progeny, this could scupper your desires.
  • Thrombosis: It's rare, but it can happen.
  • Bruising, swelling, infection: See above.
This is not something you can passively enter into and it's not a fait-accompli. Your body is your body, just like the other patient's body is her body. What applies to a does not necessarily apply to b.

If you're wondering about Kiwi's opinion throughout all this... He was the epitome of calm. He actively encouraged me while quietly reminding me in the midst of the maelstrom, that if I wanted surgery then that was fine and he'd love me whatever. However, once I'd set the snowball rolling (mixing metaphors is probably as bad as mixing one's drinks), I was single-minded and resolute. Whaddyaknow, he's still here and he doesn't cringe in horror when he catches sight of my scars.

Enough preamble.
Most people aren't silly-minded enough to think surgery is a walk in a lovely park dotted with flowers on a sunny afternoon which is neither too hot or too cold. Cosmetic surgery is painful and exhausting. You're essentially signing a disclosure for someone to dive right in and either insert or remove things from your body which are not necessary. So yes, surgery is painful, and perhaps the fact that it's unnecessary is the factor which amps up the pain stakes.

How's it done?
For most women, the procedure consists of two incisions, plus one around the areola. It's called the 'anchor scar', because it circles the areola and proceeds vertically down the middle of the breast, where it curves around underneath. After that, the fat and excess tissue is removed, the nipple and areola are shifted up (and in some cases made smaller) and you're sewn up and in the recovery room. The whole experience takes around 2.5 hours and is more dangerous than having silicone implants put in.

My experience.
My experience was far from perfect; my surgeon was determined to be cautious and from the moment I was wheeled out of surgery after the first operation, to bursting into tears 10 days later while the dressings were removed, I think I knew there was something not quite right. After the first operation, I'd gone from a 32GG to a 32E. As the nurse tried to reassure me and gave me an awkward hug (I don't mind hugs but when I can tell someone isn't the friendly type, I'd rather not have one thankyouverymuch), I agreed to see my surgeon and cried all the way home on the bus. Thankfully Kiwi held my hand the whole way.

You see, I'd asked for a 32C. There was no medical reason why she hadn't gone the 'full whack', so to speak, so I was absolutely gutted beyond belief.

As for that meeting with my surgeon: I brought my dad. He told her in no uncertain terms that I was unsatisfied. She scheduled the surgery for the next week; there happened to be an opening. At that point, I didn't even care that I had exams the week after my surgery, or that my dissertation was due. I just wanted everything done.

The second round of surgery was the worst; I knew what to expect and it was worse than that.

So less talk of sizes and more talk of the hospital stay.

The anaesthetic was the worst; my body hates it. After 2.5 hours in surgery, I'll be blunt, I was desperate to go to the bathroom. The nurses didn't want me to get up, but I felt fine, I insisted and stood up. I should have listened. Instant nausea and dizziness made me stagger but I took deep breaths and swallowed a lot and I championed through.

After that, I remembered to stay in my 'bed-goes-up-bed-goes-down' à la Homer Simpson. The very worst thing about the whole experience was not, in fact, the hospital menu, which Kiwi ate most of; it was the blood drains. These, which Kiwi referred to as my 'blood bottles', were connected to my body through a small tube in each armpit. Every time I went to the bathroom, I had to pick them up and trot in. The amount of times I dropped them and froze, terrified that they would smash and I'd be covered in my own personal biohazard, was unimaginable.

So, when I sat on one of those tubes and accidentally disconnected one from its hermetic little structure, causing blood to leak all over myself, I completely freaked out, believing myself to be bleeding, dying OH MY GOD THERE'S SOMETHING WRONG.

Clutching my precious drains the day after surgery #1. Saucy hospital gown with an open back? Check.

The nurse just laughed and cleaned me up.

The blood drains are essential for removing fluid build-up and blood which occurs during surgery. For the most part, apart from having to carry them around (though I did stick them in my handbag) the worst part of having these drains was the removal, for which I had to have a half hour break while I recovered from the rising waves of nausea. Admittedly, the nausea had been so bad the second time that the on-call night doctor injected me with anti-emetics (which later formed a sizable clot in my puny wrist). All the same, the sensation of having stitches in a place I can't quite see pulled at with a blade-handy nurse, and then the added sensation of having what felt like a metre of plastic tubing (in reality a couple of centimetres or less) being pulled slowly out of you... And the whistling and making 'phut' sounds as the air rushes into it...

Well, I really came over all queasy, and I'm not squeamish.

Recovery.
  • Pain: As you'd expect, there is some. Don't roll on your front in the middle of the night, or accidentally knee yourself in the boob (not explaining that one). Your body will ache, and for the first 4 or so days, you may need help doing basic things like sitting up. You need to sleep propped up so you don't get stuck on your back like a sad tortoise in the mornings. I was provided with both paracetamol and codeine before I left the hospital, in addition to precautionary antibiotics. Pain is of course a wonderfully subjective thing, but in all honesty all I needed was some good old paracetamol. My pain threshold is fairly low (and I'm a whiny bitch when in pain), but paracetamol was more than strong enough.
  • Things with buttons: It goes without saying, but loose, comfortable clothing with zips or buttons (or both, if you're recovering extra snazzily) will be your closest friends. Doing simple things like looking down to fasten your jeans become difficult (thankfully the mystique in mine and Kiwi's relationship expired like a damp squib a long time ago).
  • Other difficulties: Showering was a big one; and Kiwi lovingly washed my hair over the side of the bath everyday. You can't get your dressings wet because it may hinder healing, so feeling clean is harder than it should be. You can't lift anything heavy and don't try and reach for things in high cabinets if you're only 5'1". It is inadvisable, trust me.
Dressings and undressings.
The dressing will vary as per your surgeon's personal preference (ha!), but I ended up with a fairly serious and awful bandage of hugeness stretched right across my chest. In addition to this attractive medical deliciousness, you're strapped (forced and manhandled protestingly) into a sports bra while you're only semi-conscious and dozing in and out from anaesthetic. This sports bra will become your home for the next 6-8 weeks. Learn to love it or it will consume you.

The other dressings include large gauze nipple dressings with hilarious nipple holes cut out, disturbingly reminiscent of a low-grade peephole bra. And you'll expect some steri-strips, to hold your wounded knockers together while they do their thing.

After a week, a nasty kind of chemical reaction begins to take place between the adhesive in the dressings and your unwashed skin. This was the number one RIGHT UP THERE WITH THAT TIME I DOT DOT DOT on the scale of pain. The operation? No sweat. Having dressings ripped off your tender skin, and then alcohol wipes to help remove the excess adhesive? I THOUGHT SHE WAS GOING TO TEAR MY NIPPLES OFF.

The pain was excruciating.

See that white thing? That's the dressing. Now tell me it won't hurt when they rip it off.

The result.
After the dressing was first removed and I considered my new body for the second time, the sight is not pretty. The scars are puckered and there are still bits to heal and settle. Over time (and after applying copious amounts of Bio-Oil), the scars heal and begin to fade. As long as you follow the marching orders of your drill sergeant, there shouldn't be any real problems. And, as a plus, I lost over a kilo, and I had to stop and think that all of that weight had been taken out of my breasts! I was fairly impressed.

Conclusion.
I ended up at a bigger-than-I-wanted 32DD, and yes, I was disappointed. However, having compared before and after shots (just like they do in weight-loss adverts), I noticed how much less hump there was in my lady-lumps (I'm so sorry for any affiliation to the Black Eyed Peas). I looked, for the first time, flatter, more in proportion and my buttons on my clothes fastened without my usual prerequisite hidden safety pin. It was kind of a miracle moment for me.

I remain philosophical, however. I didn't get what I wanted - maybe that was for a reason. Right where I'm standing right now is a fairly good place to be. However, I can't rule out the possibility that I won't get it done again, some time in the future when I'm hoping my maternal instinct kicks in and I end up with some gene-pool tadpoles (even though I hate kids).

As regards the whole cosmetic surgery thing - well, I don't plan on ever getting anything else done; I'm just not that kind of girl. But for the meanwhile, I am enjoying what I (have no longer) got, and thankful I've been so incredibly fortunate to have been allowed this opportunity.

If you have any questions, then let me know! :)

22 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing your story, it made a very interesting read. I know what you mean about undressing the dressings, I was in a couple of surgeries as a kid and teenager and know the pain...

    It's funny how we're never satisfied with what we have. I'm your dream size, 32C or 30DD/E, and I had so many insecurities about my breast size as a teenager. I was flat as a board until 16, and suffered a lot of humiliating moments when some of my guy friends joked my breast size was 0. Eventually, as in your case, they grew a bit because of the pill, and I'm quite happy with them now - and I have to say a good size bra makes a huge difference.

    I think feeling good with yourself is the most important thing (and saying it the most trivial ;) x

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  2. Hey, wow what a post. You've been through so much and us lot didn't have a clue. You're a brave girl hunni, that's bad about her not taking out enough tissue the first time. She sounds really unprofessional actually. Personally I'm all for cosmetic surgery, I've had an enlargement myself. Mother Nature doesnt always get it right does she? lol. Yes it can go wrong but thats rare and it usually changes people for the better.
    You wrote this post really well hunni. You're intelligent and amazing as far as I'm concerned.
    Much love
    Marcia
    xxxxx

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  3. Hello :)

    Thank you so much for writing this as reduction surgery is something that has been playing on mind for a good couple of years, I'm a 36H and I can honestly relate to so many of the things you have written about. I too am ridiculously self conscious and don't get me started about trying to find clothes - i've given up on trying to find my dream fitted coat :(

    I defintely am going to keep all of your thoughts in mind as I ponder over surgery

    Thank you!!
    xxx

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  4. Amazing post as always - you have as others have pointed out, been through so much! I'm a fellow big boob sufferer, and I would love to have this done after I have kids (just in case I am one of those uber lucky women who'se boobs actually shrink when they breed - I'm told this does happen... I'd also like to be able to breastfeed if possible). So true that they make you look a lot bigger than you are as well, unless willing to wera skintight tops... Which just emphasises them even more!

    xxx

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  5. Wow Cami, this was an amazing read, and so inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing.
    That must have taken alot of courage, and apologies for the language but fair fucks to you!
    Youre very lucky you had a loving boyfriend by your side to support you through it all, it mustn't have been easy.
    Youve been through a hell of a lot, but really, thank you for sharing your experience.

    :) x

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  6. wow, i always read your blogposts with intrigue but didnt expect that cami.
    it must have been hard for you, but knowing it has made your life happier makes it all so worth while!
    people always seem to have a sterotype of plastic surgery, but its so much more than that!

    xx

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  7. Thank you for sharing your story, Cami. I've never heard a first-hand account of anyone who has had a breast reduction surgery and it sounds much more terrifying than any enhancement story I ever came across. I think you've given a lot of people courage to think about and carefully consider a procedure that could be very beneficial for them, their health, and their self-esteem. And as everyone else has already said, Kiwi has the heart of a prince so don't go trading him for any frogs, okay? Haha. Thank you again for being so candid and open about your experiences.

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  8. Hi Cami,
    I think it's admirable that you opened up about this and wrote about it in such detail. Seriously, apart from being personal it's also pretty educational! This also touched me because I've had cosmetic surgery too. I went to my doctor as a teenager and said I reckoned I'd done something to my nose because it didn't look straight. I wasn't sure if I had knocked it or it had just grown wonky or what! After 7 years and the week before starting university I got an operation to straighten my deviated septum. 2 weeks later and my nose looked wonkier than before, and I had a skin rash from the bandage glue and black eyes for freshers' week! I was devastated that my nose wasn't what I had expected and insisted that the operation be redone. The second time the operation left me with a straight septum, but a piece of cartilage displaced itself in the Czech Republic a week later and left me with a random bump near the tip. To get to the point, I had one more operation to remove the bump and was left with a straight nose. But it wasn't the nose I wanted, I suppose they straightened my pretty prominent nose, when what I wanted was something different. I don't know if I'll ever be happy with it. I think about getting surgery (I live in Brazil at the moment and it's pretty afffordable and good here) but I haven't made up my mind. I wanted to tell you all this because I saw such parallels in your story, you're not the only one :)

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  9. Hi Cami,thank you for sharing your story with us,what an ordeal!You were very brave to go through it,and not once but twice,I really wanted to smack that surgeon for you for not doing her job right.
    I love reading your blog and watching your vids,you are a breath of fresh air darling girl!xx

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  10. @Rocaille Funny thing was, I was flat until about 17 and then suddenly, there they were. Unavoidably. I feel good in myself now and I think, as you said, it's the most important thing. Even if it's trite and twee and sounds like the happy ending to a fairy tale :)

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  11. @legseleven7 I always hate when people say to love what you've got - because if it's causing you problems to the point of physical pain, why should I love the way I am? Fair play to you for going through an augmentation - what ultimately pushed you? How long ago was it? xxx

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  12. @Carrsky I can empathise with you - taking the plunge is the most difficult part of considering surgery. To help you out, most private companies offer a free consultation, so you can go along and find out what to expect - with completely no obligation. It is a very personal operation, but I've found it so rewarding that the little bit of pain that I had was worth it :) xx

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  13. @mizzworthy I think you've got the balance right :) Having kids and then having the op is what they suggest, but I was so desperate to have it done, and so adamant that I didn't mind about the breastfeeding thing (I'm still not - not keen on kids!), that I just went for it because it felt right :) xxx

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  14. @Aoife Thank you lovely. Kiwi is an awesome boyfriend (until he forgets to wash up/hang up the towels/hoover/put washing on/clean bathroom/unplugs my charger when my laptop's low on battery...) I'm lucky to have a supportive thing like him around :) xxx

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  15. @Posey Thank you lovely :) Kiwi's got a little frog in him, I reckon. He ALWAYS leaves the toilet seat up. And he has such long eyelashes it makes me sick!

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  16. @lindsay My god - you've had it so much worse than me! It must have been awful to return to surgery so many times - and then to be unhappy with the result. I hope you figure out what you want soon and are happy with whatever you choose :)

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  17. @Lilbabybeetroot Thank you lovely lady :) It's really lovely to get a comment like this, you made my day. xx

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  18. @Kerry! Yep! That's the thing, isn't it - it's the toss-up between being really happy and being concerned with other people's opinions. At the end of the day - I'm fairly happy, and I feel so much better. Screw what all the other people think :) I walk taller and feel prettier with smaller boobs :) xxx

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  19. ciao bella, just finished reading your post, and I understood why I started watching your videos and then looked for your blog.
    We all do love our daily dose of sparkle and lipsticks (or should I say Daniel Sandler's watercolor blush?!), but it is nice to know there's something else there.
    so, thank you, and a virtual hug!
    baci! x

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  20. i've had a breast reduction. about 3 years ago (i'm 21 now) and the only thing i remember vividly about the whole thing is the feeling of the tubes being pulled out from under my armpits. absolutely sickening feeling! i'm sure you look even lovelier now :)

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  21. @Ruth There truly is no way to describe that kind of horrid feeling without feeling it yourself, is there?! It was truly the one of the most horribly sickening feelings I've ever felt, ugggh.

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  22. Love your blog! I have been researching into cosmetic surgery, including finding a nose specialist doctor and this has really helped. Thank you!

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