Will the Real Me Please Stand Up!
My word for 2015 was “Authentic” and I’m amazed by how it showed up in so many ways in the year that ensued. One of the biggest ways it demonstrated itself, I have kept to myself, but I think it’s time to share.
You see, back in 1983, a nurse co-worker came to work all excited. Before we gave the afternoon patient report, she actually lifted her blouse and said “look at my new boobies.” She had her bra on, but was super proud of her new breast implants and to be honest, we were too. She had gone from an A to a C cup and the surgeon had done a nice job.
Back then, I was near 129 pounds and at six feet tall, I was bearing a B cup. I dreamed of being a C cup. Had even bought the exerciser thing in the 70’s that was supposed to make that happen, but no luck. So I proceeded to consult her surgeon and have my own breast implants put in. They were silicone and at 220 cc’s they did take me from a B to a C cup. I was not like my nurse co-worker who lifted her shirt. I actually lied and said I had to go to California to help my parents who were preparing to divorce, versus I was going to Denver for “new boobies.” As a single parent with a modest inheritance from my grandparents, I used two grand to fund this voluntary surgery.
I was pleased with the results and have always felt they were so worth the money. I recall going naked at Esalen in their public hot tubs along the ocean’s cliffs and feeling good about my new body. I liked how things fit. It wasn’t a huge change, and I secretly hoped that no one noticed that my boobs were fake.
Fast forward about a decade to where I worked with Dr. Vincent Felitti who ran the Department of Preventive Medicine at Kaiser Permanente. He had done research in the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study and mentioned that women who are sexually abused are much more likely to have breast implants. I later find out someone very close to me had it done too…and we both share a history of sexual abuse. So my implants scars began to feel much deeper in subtle ways as I recall past pains and take heed of this statistic.
Fast forward again to me in my mid-fifties, I’m still six feet tall, but 70 pounds heavier than my skinny 27 year old self. I am now at a DD cup and things are not fitting so nicely. While at a Vegan Tech workshop in Seattle in 2012, I look in a shop window and see some cute lingerie. It’s adorable and I’d love to try it on, but it wouldn’t look so good in a DD. I pass by and begin to wonder if I ever could have my implants taken out. See my journal post below.
“Boobies – feel too big, want to loose weight to see how they look. May want my implants removed -> hard to be truthful about this and don’t have insurance. Don’t know if insurance would cover it anyways? Will see how weight loss goes. Saw pretty lingerie in American Outfitters which triggered these thoughts.”
So, last year, on January 14th, I did just that! I had my breast implants removed. I found a wonderful plastic surgeon, Dr. Jennifer Murphy, at Kaiser Permanente. I obtained health insurance and found out they cover this, as implants were not really meant to be in the body that long. We discuss options – of new implants, a tuck, or to just remove them – and I opt to just remove them. Let’s get that silicone and plastic out. Let’s use my word “authentic” and see what mother nature looks like again!
At the pre-op, I came with a list of questions, and Dr. Murphy answered them all. I likely would get good results with just a removal. I’ll be going down one cup size. Recovery should be easier than the insert was thirty years prior, and my recovery would take about two weeks, and no lifting over 10 pounds for four weeks. I asked her if there was any way I could see the implants. It’s hard to explain, but when something has been a part of you that long, I had a desire to see it. My doctor agrees to take photos. (I did not include this as part of my trash project for anyone who is wondering. They don’t let you take surgical parts home, they do pathology tests and dispose of them for you.)
Dr. Murphy then tells me that she will see me on my surgery day. She said some doctors don’t greet you in the pre-op area, but she always does. She feels that I am putting my trust in her and that she will be seeing parts of me, even I haven’t seen and that it’s sacred. (Yes, she actually used the word “sacred.) I almost start crying, knowing she gets me and what I want to accomplish here. I leave feeling very excited!
Surgery day comes and my friend Jane takes me to the surgery center. I go to pre-op area alone and get ready. They ask me if I need something for anxiety, but I am so damn happy and ready, I don’t have any anxiety. Just before I go under anesthesia Dr. Murphy asks if I need anything. I reply “No doc, I trust you and your team.” Then in what feels like one second, I am waking up and within thirty minutes I am ready to go home.
I’m going to include my journal entries, as they share the experience even more candidly as it was happening.
“Next day I shower, but it is awkward trying to hold the tubes and drains while shampooing one’s hair. The warm water feels good. I get to see myself for the first time. I like what I see. I look more natural. There is still a lot of swelling, so this isn’t the final look…but I can tell I’m going to like the final look. A brief twinge of “did I do the right thing” still flashes through my mind as I realize this is a permanent decision…like that tattoo on my left forearm.
One week later, I have my first post-op visit with Tracey, the RN. Everything looks good and my drains come out. I starting saying “Free at last, thank God I am Free at Last!” I advance to compression sports bra during the day and the 12 foot ace wrap at night. That night I sleep extra good as my side now hurts far less without those drains.
Feelings of connecting with my true self. Hard to put into words, but like myself I knew in high school.
Feeling less “Huge” in my general body. Imagining I might naturally lose weight related to this change.
Excited to see how clothes will fit in a month or two. Excited to go shop for that lingerie I saw in the window in Seattle when this thought first began.
At ten day post-op, I feel good. It’s a Saturday, and I decide to walk two miles to Sweetpea Bakery, then catch a bus to PSU Farmers Market. I shower with less tenderness, but leaning over is tricky and tender. I put on a size C sports bra that makes me feel like a size B. I walk and feel strong and connected to my body. I feel something familiar with my body in high school…it’s hard to put my finger on it. As I roam around the crowded bakery, I don’t feel as big in my general body as I have the last 15 years. As I get near the Farmers Market, I put my three pound Cannon Camera around my neck to take photos…for the first time, my camera is bouncing off my belly versus my boobs…before I couldn’t do this for more than a few minutes as it would bug me and feel constricting, but today it feels easy and natural. I have a big smile on my face. Wow, who’d of thought this would be such a big change.
Another three days later, I bring coffee to Patti Moak at Rehab and we have a good talk. I share about my surgery and she says “Well Kathy, I’m proud of you. It just makes sense, you are so natural and all.”
Two-weeks post-op I realized recovery is merging with everyday life. Yesterday it wasn’t until near 5 pm that I remembered my recent surgery. Good stuff!
A few days later I felt recovered enough to go on a blind date.”
I share my story to let others know I felt good about my decision to put the implants in and that I felt just as good about my decision to take them out. I share this in case you are someone planning to have implants put in or taken out. I share it to come clean and be my own authentic self…implants, abuse and all. My hope is that we all can learn to love and honor our own bodies…no matter what we’ve been through.
I am so happy I had the implants removed! I can now sleep on my stomach again without feeling like I’m laying on something. I can hug someone and not worry that they might notice my implants. I like how my clothes fit again and I LOVE being silicone and plastic-free!