Thursday, November 10, 2011
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.
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!