Note: I’ve decided to write this as truthfully as I could, because there is precious little information on the Internet about what I’m doing and I’m so grateful for what I’ve found. I just want to add to what’s out there. So, warning: there will be graphic talk of boobies. Let’s all stay adult, please.
When we left our brave heroine, she was devastated after realizing she was facing a future of near daily visits to have her breasts poked, prodded, smashed and scanned in all ways imaginable; breasts that she’s never wanted her entire life anyway.
Something just broke inside me. I felt trapped, cornered, condemned. Perhaps I was being a wee dramatic for someone who was at least cancer free, and I don’t mean to seem ungrateful. But in my head I had a solution, get them removed like you would an ugly wart, but I didn’t think that was an option.
My childhood friend had tested genetic positive, so had a prophylactic mastectomy (before Angelina Jolie made it cool). I was insanely jealous thinking about her totally flat chest. That was what I wanted exactly. But my scans stubbornly returned negative.
I went down the Google rabbit hole chasing after “cosmetic mastectomy,” which eventually brought me to realself.com, a site devoted to all things plastic surgery — forums, resources, even surgeon Q&A’s.
Plastic surgery. The words evoke nose jobs, boob jobs, tummy tucks, Botox injections. The world of rich bored housewives with too much time and money. I’ve since reevaluated that impression.
The consensus seemed to be that mastectomy without medical necessity wasn’t possible, so I reluctantly turned to reduction. This topic was fraught with women dissatisfied with their results, either not getting small enough, or waiting months for swelling to go down and looking bigger than they were before, or horror stories about wound complications. This made me even more nervous. I couldn’t afford to spend thousands with only a negligible difference (because I had no doubt that I would have no help from insurance; as much as I hate my boobs, they at least don’t cause me the aches and pains some women suffer. I was astonished to learn there’s such a thing as a J-cup and higher, in normal women with no affiliation to the porn industry).
I began reading reviews of surgeons, seduced by the calls, “Dr. So-and-So changed my life!” One, Dr. Slenkovich, had many, many happy clients, great credentials, and wasn’t far away. It wasn’t until I actually scheduled a consult that I realized my heart had committed itself, ignoring my head.
They got me in the very next Monday, amazingly quick. They charged me $100 for the appointment, which would be applied to the surgery if I went through with it. I figure I’ve blown that on much more frivolous things.
I chose my outfit very carefully. I wanted to avoid looking at all feminine, not a huge challenge. I wore my favorite Firefly t-shirt that still doesn’t fit properly thanks to my boobs, to illustrate my tale of woe.
I was nervous as hell so arrived very early. The waiting room was very swank and spoke of a successful practice, with deep armchairs that swallowed you up, and a 60 inch TV screen (that might have been fake as it wasn’t turned on). And light fixtures on the ceiling that bore an unfortunate resemblance to used breast implants.
The reception staff looked like a team of runway models (I don’t know the appropriate nomenclature. A glamour of runway models?), but were very nice. I must have been offered water at least five times. I was the only one waiting.
About 30 minutes after my scheduled time, I started feeling a bit hungry and asked if I had time to retrieve a granola bar from my car. They assured me I did. Without fail, as soon as I had eaten it and had melted chocolate all over my lips, they called me in. Perfect.
They wasted no time. I was given a bathrobe to change into before the doctor came (rendering my t-shirt choice moot). I’m used to the robes at the imaging center, which seemed nice enough. This robe was a luxurious, 2000 thread count spa model. It was like being wrapped in a very flexible mattress. I joked with the assistant if I got to keep it because of my $100 fee (answer: no, but everyone asks).
Then I stood in front of a big T-shaped camera that photographed the ladies from every possible unflattering angle with one push of the button. If MRIs were this painless I might not have ended up here.
She then asked me what I had in mind. I was totally honest about my boob hatred, pushing right from the outset to have them gone completely, while expressing my skepticism about my options. “Anything is possible,” she assured me.
Dr. Slenkovich arrived. I liked him right away. He had a thoughtful, kind face, like a young Sean Penn.
I repeated what I said to the assistant. He took my history and said I was very low risk and therefore not indicated for a mastectomy. It mystified me why the same history put me in the high-risk category elsewhere, but I didn’t argue. I tried valiantly to keep the crushing disappointment from my face as he launched into reduction options.
He had me move into the exam chair and open the robe so he could maul the left side (the assistant was in the room the whole time, nodding sagely to everything he said). He told me he could take “a significant amount,” but that the existing tissue had a footprint that was the real decider of what I’d end up with. I was honest and said I didn’t care about scars, I didn’t even care about nipples (truthfully, mine have had no sensation for years, making my chest even more of a useless bag of fat). He said that opened up more options, and that surgery might even restore some sensation.
He started to put up some before and after shots to give me an idea, then suddenly stopped and looked at me consideringly. “I have a feeling nothing I take will be enough for you, will it?” I shook my head rather sheepishly. “How about chest masculinization?”
Chest masculinization, or “top surgery.” Basically what female-to-male transgenders get, which is exactly what I want, except I have no desire whatsoever to be male (I don’t want any dangly bits anywhere). I’d never heard of it being a possibility for a woman who wanted to stay a woman.
He showed me a different set of photos and my heart started beating very, very fast. I may have even forgotten to breathe, I was so excited.
He took one look at me and said the nine words that would change my life: “I feel certain this is the procedure for you.”
He talked a little about what the procedure entailed, recovery time, etc. I barely heard a word. And just like that, the exam was over. They left me to change while they wrote up an estimate.
I’ve hated my boobs my entire life, but I’d sublimated my extreme unhappiness believing I had no choice. Hearing I was wrong, hearing what I’ve always wanted was just an operation away (with no talk of seeing a shrink first, another big fear. Also no mention about losing weight, though obviously a more optimum BMI means less chance of complications) — it was like realizing not only could you get a pony for your birthday, but you could have PEGASUS. That comes close to what I was (and am) feeling.
The final price was $11,575, which doesn’t include preop labs. That seems hefty, but I saw a range for mastectomy online of $15,000-$25,000, so this didn’t faze me so much. There’s financing available and I’m no stranger to payment plans. Anyway, if you read the bit about how excited I am and how important this is to me, you can see there’s no way I can continue my life and ignore this chance to live the way I’ve always wanted. I’m not getting any younger and these things aren’t getting any perkier. It would be like saying “Pegasus is nice, but I guess I’ll be happy with a goldfish. No, really.”
Coming soon: I talk even more about my breasts