When I was 22 years old I was a size 6 with a 32F bra size. You might wonder why I would complain about that; so many women today would think that that sounds like an ideal figure. Here is the reality: having breasts that large hurt. My shoulders hurt, my back hurt, my neck hurt and my bra straps dug into my shoulders, leaving rough marks. I had to wear 2 sports bras when running and cross my arms over my chest when driving over speed bumps. I was set to get married in two years and after trying on many wedding dresses I couldn’t find many that fit; or that could be taken in everywhere and then let out in the bust. Buying clothes in general was difficult. I was forever popping buttons on button-down work shirts. I felt like it was hard to look professional; and that the shirts that did fit my chest were too big in other places leaving me looking frumpy. I also had trouble sleeping at night because if I rolled onto my side the weight of my breasts would cause my arm to fall asleep and I would wake up in the middle of the night with my whole arm and hand having gone to sleep.
One day at work an e-mail came through saying that there had been changes to our medical plan and that some new procedures would now be covered. I saw that my insurance would now cover breast reduction surgery for medical necessity. This email started an 8 month long process that culminated in me finally getting my reduction.
The surgery needed to be approved by my insurance before I could even set foot in a plastic surgeon’s office. My general practitioner submitted the initial paperwork requesting that the surgery be approved and it was denied almost immediately. I filed an appeal that took 3 months to be denied again. At this point I was calling the appeal office every single day asking for a status and what more I could do. They gave a vague answer for why they denied me both times without giving any direction as to how to get it approved. I continued to call every single day until the claims person who was assigned my case finally got tired of me. She told me word for word what the letter from my doctor needed to say, and told me to file anther appeal. 2 months later my surgery was approved. You may think that it sounds ridiculous, but the day I got that letter was one of the happiest in my life. It has nothing to do with vanity. I was in almost constant pain at this point, and add to that the fact that my name is Destiny. Men and women both made judgments about me and my chosen profession (paralegal). They assumed that both my name and my boobs were fake and that I moonlighted as an exotic dancer. The funny thing is that I have almost no rhythm. I would be more likely to fall off that stage than perform an alluring routine.
There were only two plastic surgeons who were considered “in-network” for my plan so I just chose the one that was nearest to my house. During the initial consultation the doctor had me disrobe from the waist up and examined my breasts. He asked me what size I was looking for and informed me that my insurance company had an additional caveat to the surgery being covered. He had to remove a certain number of ounces at the very least to have them pay for it; so if I was hoping for a D it was a no go. I in fact was looking for a small C. He got out his trusty marker and drew on my chest the two types of incisions that he could make; both giving a different final look to the shape of the breast. One was what he called the “anchor”, and the other the “lollipop”. The anchor goes around the areola, then straight down curving out to shape the bottom of the anchor going half way up each side. It looks just like an anchor with a circle up top. The lollipop is just a circle around the areola with a line straight down to the bottom of the breast. He said that the lollipop would make my breasts look more conical afterwards and that they could appear larger than they were, so I went with the anchor. Before the surgery I was required to get a mammogram as a baseline for the surgery. Ouch, that hurt. I don’t think that breasts are made to squish like that, but the technicians were so very nice.
I had the surgery in a surgery center and I stayed overnight. I had much more muscle tissue than the doctor initially thought and he had to take out some of my muscle and then all of the fat in order to achieve the small C that I was looking for. When I got out of surgery I had a large B. I was worried about this, but the doctor explained to me that fat tissue would naturally grow back a little bit to replace what was lost and that in a year I would be at my requested size and that it should stay there barring any major weight fluctuations. I wasn’t able to lift my arms above shoulder height for 6 months or lift anything more than 10 lbs for fear of ripping my inner and outer sutures. I was out of work on medical leave for 3 weeks. That first week was incredibly rough and I couldn’t even wash my own hair. I have since had two c-sections and I would say that the recovery from my reduction was much more painful than either of those. It isn’t something that you can recover from without help and you certainly would not be able to be home alone taking care of small children.
Many people are afraid that they wouldn’t be able to breast feed following a reduction. In truth a surgeon can never guarantee it 100% either way as there are always risks of disrupting that tissue during surgery; but I didn’t have that problem at all. I chose not to breast feed either of my 3 boys, based on the fact that because so much of the skin had been removed with my reduction my breasts did not have the elasticity that is required for the constant expansion and contraction that come with breast feeding, but plenty of women still breast feed.
Reductions without insurance typically cost between US $6,000-$12,000. Unfortunately it is considered a cosmetic procedure so you are not able to use for Flexible Spending Account money towards it. Where there is a will, there is a way. If you want your insurance to pay for it, doggedly pursue the claims center and don’t take no for an answer. There is always a loophole for every policy; you just need to figure out what it is and how that applies to you. A reduction can do amazing things for your self-confidence, your sleep, and your overall physical well-being. It can be a positive and life changing experience and you shouldn’t let anyone make you feel otherwise. Do what is best for you.
Destiny Effertz is a stay at home mom to 3 boys under 4. Prior to having children she worked as a paralegal in a large civil litigation firm. Now she uses those research and organizational skills formulating new pie recipes and planning family vacations.