Thursday, November 10, 2011

My Story

As a pre-teen/teenager I began to notice my right breast was larger and shaped differently from my left breast.  I did my best to hide it in my clothing, but the problem continued to get worse.  I told my mother about it, who immediately contacted my doctor, and thus began the events that would make me who I am today.  

In school I was taunted for having uneven breasts, and I was horribly insecure about myself.  I was chubby, short, and lopsided.  I did what I could to hide the issue by wearing baggy clothes, wearing hoodies, and praying gym class would end early.  None of these things, however, worked to end my shame over the problem.  When my mother would take me shopping for new clothes, it was a trip we both dreaded.  Trying on clothes was a heart-wrenching experience that ended in tears every time.  No matter how many tops I tried on, I could still see my uneven breasts.  There were times that my mother would say, "Danielle, nobody can see it but you. That shirt hides it!" I never believed her; I could see the difference plain as day in the mirror.  Bathing suit season was a dreaded time of year for me, because I had to find something to hide a glaringly obvious malformation, while still feeling attractive in my bathing suit.  Everything had to be padded to help hide how uneven I was, and I preferred something that I could tie or adjust tighter on one side than the other.  Bra shopping was the same sort of headache.  By this point I'd started shrugging one shoulder up higher than the other to make my breasts look even, and I'd thrown out the alignment of my spine.  My doctor, my parents, and myself agreed that it was time to take action.  The best breast surgeon in the area was contacted, and his credentials and accomplishments seemed to be a mile long.  We decided that surgery was the way to go, and I'd never been more excited in my life. 

When I was 14 years old, I underwent a unilateral breast reduction on my right side.  I had one breast that was a B cup, while the other was nearly a D cup.  This reduction was supposed to fix the problem, but for me it did not.  After I'd woken up from surgery, I was in pain, but I was excited to feel "normal," but little did I know that feeling would be short-lived.  The doctor came in to remove my bandages and drain tube, and there was a look on his face that, in hindsight, foreshadowed the events that would follow.  He looked at my nipple that he had reattached, and seemed concerned, but dismissed our questions and reassured us that everything was fine.  While recovering at home, I'd started to get through the horrendous pain of a reduction, and started to resume life as normal.  He had reduced my right breast so that it was actually smaller than my left breast, because he felt my right breast would continue to grow.  Because the asymmetry was somewhat gone, I was the most excited girl in the world!  However, about two weeks after surgery, my nipple was black, and I was taken back to the surgeon for some terrible news.  The blood vessels had not reconnected, and my nipple was dying, so it would need to be removed before gangrene became an issue.  I was back in surgery within two days, and my nipple was removed.  I was released from the hospital with a large, open wound where a nipple had been, and a nurse would come to the house every day to do internal packing.  I was shattered and scared, but somehow in good spirits that everything would turn out okay.  I can actually remember joking with my nurses and talking to them about the Backstreet Boys (my most favorite musical group at the time lol).  One week after my nipple was removed, the doctor took a skin graft from my right thigh to recreate a nipple for me.  He took the chunk of grafted skin and, more or less, just slapped it on and called it a day.  My breast was completely flat on the front, and while I was still uncomfortable with how I looked, I was still excited that the asymmetry was less noticeable.  

As my body healed more, my scars became extremely pronounced.  I had developed keloids throughout most of my scarred area.  In some areas, the keloids were nearly a half inch thick.  On my thigh, where the skin graft was taken, my scar is still about a quarter of an inch thick.  My breasts had started to grow again, but now the right breast wasn't growing much at all.  I felt devastated.  

At the age of 18, I'd found a new plastic surgeon who would be able to help me get a small implant and do reconstructive surgery on my breast to make it look more normal.  My parents, however, couldn't afford the surgery, and my insurance didn't view it as medically necessary.  Through good fortune and consistent nagging of the insurance company, a doctor had donated a breast implant to me, and the insurance agreed to pay for the rest.  So, at the ripe old age of 18, I had many of my keloids removed from my chest, got an implant put in under the muscle, and had my "nipple" reconstructed to look more like a nipple.  Though the nipple reconstruction didn't take as well as they'd hoped, I'm pleased with the fact that I'm more even than I ever was before (but I'm still not all that even).  I make jokes about having one nipple, I always say I have the best of both worlds with one implant and one natural breast, and I'm not ashamed to wear a bikini in the summer that doesn't cover my scars.  

When people ask me about what happened, I usually just try to sum up my cause of asymmetry by saying, "I had a muscle tear."  My muscle had separated, or so the doctor had told me, but I'm not sure if that's what caused this problem.  If I had it to do all over again, I'd make the same decisions that were made at the time.  Though it was a struggle and full of heartache, it's made me who I am today, and I'm proud of that.  My mother was asked if, shortly after surgery, I'd be willing to speak to girls who had breast asymmetry, and my mother thought it was too soon for me to do something like that.  She was correct.  It took MANY years for me to be able to make jokes and be comfortable with who I am.  The woman who contacted my mom said I was one of 5 girls who were suffering from breast asymmetry that she had known of, and I was the youngest.  Later we found out that 3 of the girls had committed suicide.  I felt so bad for those girls, because this is nothing to take your life over.  It's hard, to say the least, but it's not worth letting go of your life for.  This is something that is manageable with the right kind of shopping, dressing, and thinking.  No woman, ever, should have to feel that there is no hope because of breast asymmetry.  I know the struggles, and I want to help women everywhere learn how to live with their breast asymmetry, and love who they are! 

2 comments:

  1. Umm....So I've been reading Breast, Asymmetrically blog and you're just a heaven sent...really...I'm 16 with asymmetric breast and I'm using your tips to buy better bras and my first swim suit I plan on wearing without a t-shirt over top so I guess in fewer words I want to say thank you :) I still want to get surgery to correct it but you've given me strength to deal with this until I get a consultation

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  2. If there is ever anything in this world I can do for you, please let me know. Your reply here has brought me to tears each and every time I've read it. Women like you, women who have struggled and found an answer or hope through MY struggle, you have made every single tear I've ever shed worthwhile. You've made me incredibly happy. I've got thousands more tips and tricks up my sleeve. I'm currently dealing with asymmetry all over again since my new implant isn't sitting right. If you ever need any tips (Homecoming dresses, school clothes, bras, etc.), please don't hesitate to contact me. My email is Pierce.258@gmail.com.

    I can give you lots of insight about surgery, as well. There are a lot of pros and a lot of cons. :)

    I'm so glad I could help you.

    Danielle

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