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Why I Finally Had Breast Reduction Surgery at Age 60

And why I wish I had done this many years ago.

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Shana Novak (Prop Styling: Michelle Longo)
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My 13-year-old pup, Ella, didn’t seem to mind 85 degrees and 99 percent humidity as we walked jauntily along in July 2023. As she paused to sniff something in the deep grass, I plunged my hand down my shirt to gently pat the sore, itchy spot in my cleavage, rubbed raw by a heat rash. Then I used my shirt to sop up the pooling sweat under my breasts. Just another summer day of itchy, sweaty boobs.

As far back as I can remember, I've had huge breasts. The boys took keen notice, as did friends’ fathers and a few teachers, too. As difficult as it is to carry around large breasts at a young age, the stigma that comes with it can be even worse. I never thought about reducing them, but I did hide them by buying large shirts and sweaters in the men’s department.

In my late teens, I wore minimizer underwire bras, size 36DDD (also known as an F or G). During the pandemic, when wearing a bra seemed like a moot point, I discovered pull-over bras with no poking underwire as well as comfortable bras for sleep.

I couldn’t go braless, as that meant sweating under my breasts, getting rashes and looking like I was carrying around two pendulous sacks, inching almost to my waist. I didn’t feel sexy, and I felt older than my years.

My husband never minded and always made me feel good about myself. But that day with the dog, amid the heat, sweat and heaviness of it all, I decided enough was enough. It hit me that I could have breast reduction surgery! I was 60 years old and I refused to feel this way anymore.

I put a post on social media looking for friends who had breast reduction surgery over the age of 60. Within an hour I had eight responses. As I spoke with each one, the same sentiments came up. They wish they had done it sooner and it was one of the best decisions they ever made. No one expressed regret or remorse.

One woman was delighted that she could cup her breast in one hand. After all the scooping and stuffing I have done over the years to get them to fit into a bra or a bathing suit, only to have them pop out, made a one-handed breast sound like nirvana to me. SIGN ME UP!

Statistically, breast reduction surgery is nearly universally ranked as one of the most satisfying procedures in elective surgery. In a recent National Institutes of Health study, 95 percent of the patients surveyed were satisfied and would do it again. The study concluded that there was substantial improvement in the patient's quality of life as well as reduced shoulder and back pain, regardless of the amount of breast tissue removed.

As an all-natural girl, elective surgery was not something I ever thought I would contemplate. But reading the stats and speaking to these women convinced me, and soon I was on my way to meet the reconstructive surgeon who would change my life.

There are many reasons why a woman might want breast reduction surgery. Perhaps they feel their breasts are out of proportion with their bodies or they have aches or arthritis caused by pressure on the joints, muscles and tissues from carrying a frontal heavy load. In my case, I was diagnosed with clavicular and shoulder arthritis in 2017 and had months of physical therapy for shoulder and neck pain. Not one person, doctor or therapist ever suggested these problems stemmed from my large breasts.

The women I spoke with said that the back, neck and shoulder pain were gone once their breasts had been reduced. I learned that with the smaller cup size and even band size (fat that bulges out of the bra bands under the arms can be removed), the breasts will be lifted and reshaped, with the nipples placed in the new center.

My pre-op appointment included having photos taken to show the insurance company the indentation grooves caused by bra straps over the years, as well as the doctor explaining how much tissue might be removed (in my case it was a bit over five pounds total). My surgeon was kind and clear in detailing the procedure. A compression bra was ordered to bring along on the day of the surgery, and I would wear that for several weeks while the swelling went down and I healed. I was 60 and a half and ready to face the (hopefully) next several decades of my life with better posture, no pain, itching or rashes. I was ready for shirts that fit without popping buttons as well as bikini tops.

I was operated on at an outpatient surgery center under general anesthesia. The procedure lasted about two hours and I was in recovery for another few hours. I was sent home with pain meds and instructions not to lift anything over 20 pounds for a few weeks, and to change the dressing in 24 hours. I could shower in two days. The pain was never severe enough for the hard-core painkillers. I used acetaminophen and rested on my back or my side, propped up by a pillow.

Removing the bandages was a bit of a shock as it is anytime someone sees their skin cut, with stitches and glue holding the area together. Since my nipples had been lifted along with the breasts, there was a circular scar around each one, as well as a line of sutures up from the bottom of my breasts and along the entire lower area, all the way under my arms where the fat was removed. (I did not lose sensation in my nipples.) The sutures would dissolve in a few weeks. Daily massages with breast-care balm and vitamin E helped the scars heal.

Now when I stand in front of my mirror, I marvel at my new breasts. They are beautiful and perky. The scars are thin and fading just two months after surgery. My husband says I stand an inch taller now that I don’t have those extra pounds weighing me down. I'm now wearing a 36C bra and I don’t even need to wear a bra if I don’t want to!

No more need for anti-itch creams or powders for a sweaty cleavage or rash. No more crossing my arms over my chest to hide huge breasts. I feel stronger, more confident and excited about the next stage of life, standing tall with no aches or men’s camouflage gear weighing me down.

 
Have any of you ever contemplated breast reduction surgery? Let us know in the comments below.

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