My Breast Reduction Gave Me My Life Back

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As told to Shannon Shelton Miller

When I was about 11 or 12, I started developing breasts like many girls my age. Unlike them, though, mine just kept growing.

One could say I was “blessed” with large breasts pretty early on. My family and I were all surprised by this — no one in our family was built that way, and we weren’t sure why my breasts were growing so large. Part of me was excited that I looked “womanly,” but my new shape also caused me confusion and frustration. I started getting negative attention from men that made me uncomfortable, and I felt I looked older than I actually was.

I also had been a very active child, and my growing breasts made it harder to do the activities I enjoyed, like dance and soccer. My breasts were a hindrance and I felt too “out there” in a way I didn’t want to be.

They kept growing through my sophomore year of college, and I wore a 32GG bra at my largest. That year, I studied abroad in Australia, and there couldn’t have been a starker contrast between me, a woman of color, and the mostly white population I encountered. They and all of the women from my college studying there with me were small, teeny-tiny and very fit. I felt more self-conscious about how I looked than ever.

That experience in 2014 spurred me to consider breast reduction surgery. I scheduled a consultation with a surgeon when I returned home to State College, Pennsylvania, but I didn’t get a warm and fuzzy feeling from the doctor I visited. Plus, I was just 20 years old, and I didn’t want to waste my Christmas break in a small town recovering from surgery. I put a pin in the idea to pursue in the future.

I went on to earn my bachelor’s degree and moved to Chicago for graduate school, but my physical quality of life continued to worsen because of my breast size. I suffered from continual back pain and struggled to be active in the way I enjoyed.

I decided to revisit the idea of a breast reduction. The timing was much better now — I had more options in Chicago, and I was still under my parents’ health insurance, although I was almost 26 and would soon age out. Because I was experiencing back pain, I was able to have the procedure covered for health reasons, and I only had a $1,000 co-pay under my parents’ insurance.

In early 2019, I began interviewing surgeons at three different hospitals. My favorite was a woman who was no-nonsense in her approach and took time to answer all the questions I asked. Among my biggest concerns were retaining sensation and being able to breastfeed if I chose to have kids. They assured me they would take all possible steps to ensure these things, although they couldn’t guarantee them. Her assistant was also great and had a calming, nurturing demeanor that rounded out the surgeon’s personality. I felt I would be in great hands.

Although I was more than ready for the procedure to take place on the day my surgery was scheduled, I was petrified at the prospect of being put to sleep. My first blood pressure reading was so high, probably as a result of me being so nervous, I was told I might not be able to have the procedure done that day. A second reading turned out normal, thankfully, and I was started on an IV line. We were ready to go.

Everything turned out fine. Because it was an outpatient procedure, I was able to go home two hours after my surgery with my mom, who came to Chicago to help take care of me as I recovered. My surgeon told me that although this wasn’t a surgery that would hurt, there would be discomfort, and I would experience some tightness in my chest for a while. That’s the first thing I remember feeling when I woke up — everything felt tight.

When I was finally able to take my first shower, I cried so much when I looked at my boobs. I had mixed emotions — I loved that they were smaller, but they looked drastically different right after surgery. But as time passed, I became thrilled with the results. The keyhole method used left the scars so thin, they were almost indiscernible. I didn’t know what my exact breast size was, but I had asked for a D or DD before the surgery, and I could see how much smaller I was. I could look down and actually see my waist.

I was cleared for light walking and exercise about six weeks later. Because I was able to move more after my surgery, I became more conscientious about my diet and exercise regimen. I lost 40 pounds, and my boobs got even smaller. I guess I’m a C cup now, because I’m able to fit smaller-sized bralettes — an item I was never able to wear before. Actions many take for granted, like being able to walk into a store and buy a bathing suit, I could finally do.

My boobs were so pendulous before, and it always felt like there was too much of me in my body. Breast reduction has changed my life. My confidence has increased, I feel more comfortable in my own skin, I’m more active and I feel less self-conscious about intimacy with a partner. My breast reduction helped me become a healthier person overall.

I know people have different experiences, but for those considering a breast reduction, I suggest you consider how you feel in your body, how you want to see yourself and how to live the lifestyle you want. The only regret I have about my surgery is that I waited so long to do it.