From Costs to Scars And The Ol’ Identity Crisis, Here’s My Experience with Breast Reduction Surgery

BY ROSE THEXTON

“Going into this, I really questioned who I would be if I wasn’t ‘the girl with big boobs’ - they really were a part of my identity.”

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29 OCT - 2021

“I had NO idea I could feel this good, and my only regret is not doing it 10 years ago.”

Note from the Editor:

Big boobs have never been a personal concern of mine. Owning two lightweight handfuls, I dropped the daily bra a few years back. Maybe it’s my slight claustrophobia but the bra has always been a symbol of suffocation. The no-bra life is immensely freeing but despite the nipple silhouettes that are reigning Instagram, it’s not a luxury that can be enjoyed by all women.

We’ve always been conditioned to box women (and men) into categories - some classy examples off the top of my head are ‘tits and tan,’ ‘blonde bimbo,’ and my favourite, ‘tits McGee’!! Obviously, I have no experience being called any of these names. I’m used to being called ‘Ching’ or ‘Chong’ or the very elaborate and original ‘Ching chong’ - and sometimes, the odd moron will ask me if I speak English while I’m having drinks at a table of Caucasians. ‘I wonder if the probability of them speaking an Asian language would be higher than my ability to converse in English in New Zealand. We JUST DON’T KNOW.’

Anyway - my point is, I’m no expert in the bust arena but my dear childhood friend, Rose, is. We met when we were 11 years old and learned how to play the clarinet together. Isn’t that so cute? We continued to play in our high school orchestra and also travelled Europe together with the choir we were in (it may not seem so, but I’m totally bragging about our singing capabilities).

We grew up together and Rose has never, not been, ‘the girl with the big boobs.’ Ever since her chesticles grew into a womanly shape, Rose has always loved them as a major asset. They were a part of her identity.

But with big assets, comes big responsibilities. As in, dealing with crazy debilitating back pain and terrible posture, having to strap on ginormous (a single cup was bigger than my head) unsexy $200 bras that are purely functional in its ability to lift and support, never being able to buy cute trendy clothes online, never being able to buy those 2 for $35 bikinis from Glassons, having boobs so big they rip during sex…

No - not anymore! Rose underwent breast reduction surgery this year and she’s here to talk about it. It was something that she wanted to do for years but there were a lot of mental hurdles to overcome. If you’re a gal who’s been thinking about getting your G cups into a more manageable C or D cup, we’re going to get fully into it from A to Z.

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What was your relationship like with your body before surgery?

I’ve worked really hard on being body positive over the years (aids a healthy sex life), and I actively loved my curves after high school. I think a great deal of my identity came from being ‘the girl with big boobs,’ so I kinda had to learn to love it - and how to dress appropriately.

Honestly, I would look either like a stuffy matron or a whore, there was no inbetween. I could definitely appreciate that I had a hot bod, as I had the exact hourglass dimensions and kept pretty fit despite the big titties, and every so often, I would walk the very thin line of ‘sexy goddess.’ You would think I looked like Kimmy K all the time but let’s be real, no regular woman dresses like that on a daily basis, especially if you work in a professional office setting.

I definitely used to resent unsolicited attention - most days, there would be something or someone that made me feel like I was some sort of sideshow attraction - women would just touch my chest without asking to marvel at my boobs or people would catcall because of them.

Men had pretty lecherous stares, ESPECIALLY if I wore something that fit the rest of me (being an 8/10 in tops now vs a 12/14/16 previously). Everyone thinks big tits get you drinks, but the (very rare) free drinks are not worth the other 99% of your time just trying to mind your own business.

Even the little things like wearing a seatbelt was super uncomfortable - it pulls your whole upper body down with your boobs. And things that people would never consider to be a problem, like cross body bags, running (even briefly), wearing straightjackets for sports bras instead of the cute ones everyone else gets to wear... I NEVER had a cute bra growing up - they were totally beige or white nana style contraptions. Basically, I guess you could say, I made a concerted effort to have a positive relationship with my body in order to survive.

And now? How do you feel about your body image?

Going into this, I really questioned who I would be if I wasn’t ‘the girl with big boobs’ - they really were a part of my identity. I’m thrilled to report that even this has been a positive change. I’m still me, I now look like the me I knew, that was hidden underneath the two mountains I had as chesticles.

Everyone has unanimously mentioned that I look like I’ve lost two clothing sizes. I TOLD YOU IT WAS JUST MY BOOBS! I feel confident and empowered - I CAN GO WITHOUT WEARING A BRA! BACKLESS TOPS AND DRESSES GALORE FOR ME NOW! BUYING MY ACTUAL CLOTHING SIZE!

Before surgery I laughed at the memes about how uncomfortable bras are … try having them as counterweights that sway around when you walk, or flop onto your belly when you sit. GROSS. Now I feel like the hot shit people always told me I was, and I’m comfortable all the time.

It is unreal. Girls, if you are part of the itty bitty titty club, trust me as a recent recruit that this is the better end of the stick!! Fuck me… I woke up from surgery and I could actually breathe for the first time since I was a child (big boobs since intermediate heyo).

Go get 1.2KGs and strap it - tightly- to your chest and try breathing. Try doing exercise like that. No thanks. I digress - I’m trying to say that I’ll never look back - I had NO idea I could feel this good, and my only regret is not doing it 10 years ago (I would’ve saved myself thousands yearly on physio, doctors, etc and a LOT of pain). I’m the SMALLEST in my family, so had this niggly thought, ‘well, if my mum and aunt and grandma can cope, I’m weak if I can’t.’ Turns out mum went from a D to a HH when she had kids and never went back, so she wasn’t busty like me until she was 40. I know - HH is very large. It runs in the family.

“The cool thing about NZ is that there is government funding for breast reductions. The not-so-cool thing is that it is seriously underfunded for the demand.”

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How has your day to day life changed post-surgery?

I can actually move my arms now haha - you’d be surprised at the resistance that comes from your side boob. So, basically, everything has changed - brushing my teeth, making food, driving... All those little things that most people don’t think twice about. I no longer have to hunch my back in order to get my boobs out of the way - which obviously strengthened my back in all the wrong ways. In fact, I have way better posture without even trying to sit up straight.
I can RUN and do YOGA without wanting to murder everyone around me, I can workout without conditioning my bad muscle habits.

As I mentioned before, going braless and loving it is a polar opposite to my daily life before. I’m still wearing seamless (non-wired) bras, but I have about 10 and they take up the same amount of space as ONE of my old bras. I’m excited to pack for a trip and not need to take the biggest bag ever haha. Honestly life is just the best. I’m bloody ready for lockdown to end so I can conquer the world.

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How has the sex changed?

Haha I knew this question was coming from you! Mum and dad please skip this haha. I’ll preface this by saying I’m still recovering so there’s still lots of change happening. I haven’t regained full sensitivity in my nips yet, but that is definitely improving. And if I don’t get it back fully, that’s okay too - the pros far outweigh it, and I can always get them pierced instead. I have to say being on top is way better now - I’m much less wobbly. Definitely still learning about the new bod and what feels good, but I can tell you it’s going to be a fun learning journey.

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What gave you the courage to do it after all this time?

It was a combo of things for sure. A friend of a friend got one and was over the moon with the results - seeing her completely transform really got me thinking and talking about it. Who would I be without my boobs though?! The severe back issues completely terrified me, like, I had no confidence in being able to live my life or actually have hobbies - being inactive hurt, and being active hurt more.

As soon as you start talking about these things, you learn that everyone knows someone who has had a reduction, and it’s the best thing they’ve ever done. Their only regret was not doing it sooner. That’s why I’m really excited to be able to share my story as it has seriously impacted my life for the better! I had so many people reach out to me after my instagram post saying ‘thank you for talking about it,’ and firing through questions for their own potential journeys. If this helps inspire anyone to put themselves first, I would be so happy.

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8 days post-surgery

How did you do your research for your surgeon?

I called and emailed about two dozen places in Auckland and had actually booked for surgery with one that was MID RANGE at $22-25k. My lovely friend put me in touch with his friend who had just had hers done in Hamilton at ⅓ that price. I was sold - I got the first available appointment and underwent surgery 3 months later. I checked in with some people I knew from working in post-mastectomy breast care and they said his work was really good, and the scars were always small and healthy.

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What was the hardest part of recovery? Was it quite painful post-surgery? What was your recovery journey like?

Mine specifically was probably an infection that I got at about 3 weeks; I learned I’m allergic to sutures (second surgery I’ve had with inflammation and infection from them) so I had a pretty rough recovery as far as they go. Even in saying that - recovery was honestly a thousand times better than I was picturing for myself.

There was a bit of pain post surgery, but nothing bad - they give you really good drugs, and you only need them for about a week. I was on panadol only after about 8 days. I think I quit painkillers altogether in week 2? You have about 2 weeks of sedentary rest but they encourage you to get up and waddle about so that your blood pumps nicely and your immune system gets a bit of a boost.

After that, it’s building up your walking until week 6 when you’re back into light exercise. I’m at the 4 month mark now and I’m happily running already. God, running is easy without tits haha. The mental aspect of the prolonged rest got quite taxing, but taking it day by day was key. You’re pretty normal by about 3 weeks, it’s just exercise that has to wait. I still wear a little crop top to bed, but that’s a mental thing more than anything at this point.

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Scarring - was this a major consideration for you? Are they prominent or hidden? And are they something that you feel insecure about post-surgery?

This was possibly the thing I worried about the most (outside of the identity crisis). I should mention that I worked in post mastectomy breast care for 3 years, so I had seen all the scars you could possibly imagine. They do almost an anchor shape - they remove excess skin as well as fatty breast tissue (yes, I got a boob lift with the reduction haha they don’t leave you with saggy small boobs, don’t worry). There’s a semicircle underneath your boob that is hidden apart from the outer edges, and a line up to your nipple, and around your nipple.

The scars are evident as they’re still healing so they’re pink at the moment, but if you use rosehip oil, they heal SO fast. I’ve seen my friend's scars from years prior and they’re pretty faint - you have to know they’re there to see them at first glance. So yeah, about half your scars are visible, but they aren’t bad. I don’t feel insecure about them because they gave me freedom to be a normal human, and also gave me perkier boobs than I’ve ever had in my whole life haha.

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8 weeks post-surgery

How many times have you had to seek medical treatment for injuries or health problems that correlated to having big breasts? Were these treatments ever subsidised?

Honestly, in hindsight, it is way more than I thought it was because I now understand that the issues were all related. My whole back was pretty messed up from years of keeping my boobs out of the way (even with good posture in general) just to function in my daily life.

There’s so much I dealt with that I’ve not had to think about since, but some specific major issues were steroid injections in my lower back at 22, and at 28 twice (6months apart). I collapsed from pain (I googled whether I was dying from Toxic Shock Syndrome while laying on the floor unable to move or make a noise) and went to A&E - that turned out to be my lumbar muscles spasming so hard they straightened out the curve in my lumbar spine - those xrays are whack, man.

So yup, some pretty rough things to deal with, alongside shoulder issues (they get pulled forward from the weight), a constantly sore neck and headaches most days - I just realised right now that I haven’t had a headache in the 4 months since surgery.

Thankfully, the majority of my treatments came under ACC as they were incidents that happened, but the day to day pains I sought treatment for weren’t. I think a safe estimate would be about $2k a year, so you can see why surgery was a really good option for me haha.

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Let’s talk about cost - how much was the surgery and what other expenses were involved? Did the government help with these costs? If not, do you think that it should be?

So, the cool thing about NZ is that there is government funding for breast reductions. The not-so-cool thing is that it is seriously underfunded for the demand. I know people who have gone public and others who have gone private and both are super happy.

If you’re lucky enough to get one, it’s completely free! Your doctor refers you and the DHBs decide who has it the worst out of the lot of applications - there’s no waitlist. I got rejected twice for public funding, and couldn’t keep waiting and hoping - my back pain and quality of life was too bad at that point.

It would be so great to see this being funded more, as our average breast size is not small! There’s a lot of busty gals out there that don’t need to be suffering! It’s not some aesthetic choice, you know? It’s a physical and mental health choice for a better life. If you want a breast reduction, you should be able to get one with no obstacles.

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