Thursday, 26 March 2015

Breast Uplift and Reduction- My Experience with the NHS

A mum from our playground went into hospital for cosmetic surgery this week. She was unashamed, in fact positively excited, and posted proudly on her Facebook page that she was going in for "new baps."

"Well good for her", I thought. People have wildly varying views on cosmetic surgery but as one who has had a breast reduction and uplift I am generally supportive of anyone, whatever gender, who feels strongly enough about an aspect of their body to put themselves at risk and through pain to change it.

woman in bra after NHS breast reduction and uplift

I say generally. I do wonder about so called celebs who have multiple surgeries to create monster boobs or those people who pay surgeons to create odd facial features - yes, I'm thinking of those weird human Barbies and the strange cat woman.

Let me tell you my story.

As a teen I was completely flat chested. I was teased I was so tiny. I don't actually remember it being a huge issue for me - I think I used to quip "more than a handful is a waste."

And then I started having children and my boobs grew and grew and grew. And drooped and drooped. Bras starting costing as much as a small car and I remember one woman in one shop saying they only dealt in "normal" sizes. Nice.

After years of hearing jokes about "Here she comes -dead heat in a zeppelin race" and trying to reduce breast size through dieting I realised that surgery was probably my only solution to neck ache, migraine, sore, raw shoulders and back ache, and a tendency to drape myself in tent-like tops.

I was 34J. I wore size 20 tops and size 12 jeans. And these were no perky page 3 norks. These were stretch marked potato sacks with a raw red and occasionally not so aromatic eczema lurking underneath. Sunbathing was out as I would end up with half moons on my biceps where my boobs rested.  Running and almost any kind of exercise was painful and oddly they don't make sports bras in those sizes.

My GP suggested my migraines were caused by neck strain caused by my humungous breasts and offered to refer me to an NHS consultant.

A few weeks later the at the hospital appointment the consultant asked about my weight loss efforts, my feelings about my breasts and my physical symptoms then asked me what size I wanted to be. I answered that I didn't care as long as I could avoid blacking both eyes when running for a bus. He chose a C cup but warned future weight gain and age could well increase cup size and shape.

He told me I was eligible for NHS breast reduction (and suggested the uplift too) and after some marker pen action on my boobs - not awkward at all bizarrely-promised to be in touch with a date.

Only a couple of weeks later I had a call saying there was a gap and could I make the following week?  Childcare hastily arranged I went shopping for sports bras in a c-cup (advised for support after surgery) and couldn't resist browsing all the pretty little bras I would soon be able to buy.

The actual surgery is a bit of a blur. I remember being frightened about needles and anaesthetics and being a bit shocked as my breasts looked rather square in the tiny hospital bathroom mirror after my op. Luckily I had been warned it would take time for them to drop into shape! There was a scar round my nipple, one line from nipple to underneath my breasts and then another scar running along where your bra wires rest.

Bound and bra-d I went home after one night I think. I remember feeling a bit under the weather and although pleased to see my close friends who'd popped in to see me I was uncharacteristically glad when they left. I went to bed feeling like I was brewing a cold.

Over the next 24 hours I felt worse and worse and on the morning of the second day I could smell something nasty. Un-peeling my dressings I found a miasma of yuckiness under my breasts which did not smell at all good.

My sister in law popped in to see me and I showed her. She bundled me in the car and headed back to the hospital.

The nurse on duty took a peek and whisked me in to see a doctor who, with the sort of face you normally reserve for funerals, told me I had MRSA.

scars after NHS breast reduction and upliftAt the time I had heard of it but hadn't realised how serious it could be. I was told I needed immediate surgery to remove as much as possible of the infected area. I was put onto IV and oral antibiotics. I got sicker and sicker.

They repeated the surgeries, changed the antibiotics again and again and still I became more and more ill. I was told later that my family were warned I had one antibiotic left which was brutal and could well cause me harm but it was my only option.

That night I remember thinking I was going to die and being resigned to it. Nurses came and went through the night - I was awake but unable to speak or move even when their ministrations hurt.

breast scars after NHS reduction and upliftThe last antibiotic dripped into my veins and by the morning I felt ever so slightly better.

Obviously as I am writing this the treatment worked but I was left severely gluten intolerant and with scarred and wonky breasts and nipples from all the emergency surgeries.

14 years on the scars are faded but still visible and the gluten intolerance caused by the vicious antibiotics is only mild.

D'you know what though? I don't regret a thing. Even my Frankenstein breasts are better than my old ones. They are now a D-cup, fit into normal bras and normal clothes. I felt confident, slimmer, ten years younger.
I still do.

I wrote this post in response to a writing prompt from the Post40Bloggers website.  If you are over 40 you are welcome to submit articles to #post40bloggers. Head over and see what we are looking for.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Memories on Funeral Day

It's my Granny's funeral day today. Because of the crematorium's busy schedule it has take three weeks from her passing to this day which has been both a blessing and a curse.

It's been nice to have lots of time to make careful arrangements. I am leading the funeral with support from my Reverend friend. I feel we have done our best to make this the send off which Granny would have wanted but it's been hard to wait so long to say our final  goodbyes.

I have spent a lot of time communicating with our large family - something we don't do often - and it has brought back so many childhood memories previously relegated to the dark dusty corners of my mind.

I remember Granny scrubbing behind my ears with a nail brush muttering about potatoes and the day I finally couldn't resist the urge to touch her "hairy" cacti even though she had told me not to. The tiny spines irritated my fingers for hours.

We often took the train into Birmingham to go shopping. Me, Mum and Granny. Even back then food was a highlight of the day and after talking about it for hours we would inevitably end up at the same Chinese restaurant up a side street.

It was great when Granny came shopping as she would act as my ally when mum was not keen on coughing up for my latest "must have" purchase. And Granny often chipped in a bit to so I could have the shoes to go with my monochrome zig zag dress or whatever monstrosity I had fallen in love with at Tammy Girl.

After my Grandad died and she was getting less able to travel independently I took her with my sister to DisneyLand Paris.  She did love Disney! It was as good as taking a small child and she did not let her wheelchair get in the way of her fun - we went on every ride possible.

Granny with Mickey Mouse at DisneyLand Paris

I spoke to her frequently via Facebook or phone and we shared a fairly toilet-based sense of humour and a love of biscuits. I always rang her if the children got an award or did something else I thought might interest her (or I was bursting to have a proud mummy moment) and only the other day I wanted to call her to tall her about something.....and remembered I can't talk to her using my iPad or phone any more. I'll just have to talk to her in my head. I'm sure she's listening.

Sharp yet soft, sensible yet silly, my Granny was a complex woman and lost none of her mind right until the end.  I am glad she is free from pain and fear now but I shall miss her so very, very much.

This might seem like an odd magic moment but remembering her and writing about her has been magical for me. Click the bunny to read more great blogs over at Oliver's Madhouse.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Remembering my teens in the 1980's.

I have spent a fair bit of time in the West Midlands recently and it has sent me on a journey of reminiscence which generally culminates in me marvelling how many years it has been since I was a teenager.

I love those "do you remember these" posts on Facebook. You know, harking back to when a Snickers bar was called a Marathon and Cif was still Jif. Yes  - I was a teen in the 80's.

I can remember Wispa bars being introduced. I loved them (well, I still do!) but haven't found anyone else who remembers a promotional campaign where if you collected certain number of wrappers you got a free bar of chocolate.

I'm slightly embarrassed to admit this but I spent many happy hours wandering the perimeter of the Secondary School field behind my Grandparent's house picking up the cleanest Wispa wrappers to boost my own collection.

I remember the fashion for jelly shoes the first time round and the revolting nicknamed "johnny jackets" which were made of a transparent pastel coloured plastic. I can't find any photographs of me wearing mine, or any images on the internet so either I imagined them or they have quite rightly been hidden away in Room 101.

I can remember being sent to buy sausages from the local butcher and treating myself to a packet of space dust and marvelling at the first mobile phones. Little did I know that fast forwarding to 2015 I would be running my business through a smartphone.  I had no trouble imaging floating cars and food in capsules but didn't even dream of anything like email, text and VoIP.

I remember listening to the chart on a Sunday evening with my finger hovering over the buttons on my "ghetto blaster" to record on a tape. And the joy when a boy made you a mix-tape! Except they weren't boys back then - Jackie magazine always called them hunks!

I wish we could go back to the days when an outfit for the school disco cost very little from Etam as I approach yet another Prom with pity for my bank balance. Luckily my children are very sensible and don't insist on the full Prom treatment and actually contribute themselves to the cost.

Back then it was Slade wishing us "Happy Christmas" as we gathered in groups round the edge of the school hall hoping we would not still be lurking in the shadows when the last dance - probably sung by Wham or Spandau Ballet- came around. In my school the last dance generally came complete with a full on snog which you could talk about for months!

I remember travelling miles to eat my first McDonalds and not being impressed. I remember at 17 going with my boyfriend to the first Drive-Thru in our area and feeling vey cool in his car pulling up to the window then eating our supper in the car park. Oh the sophistication of it!

It sounds idyllic. My teenage years actually weren't all great for a number of reasons but the point is I survived and look back with a general sense of contentment and sentimentality.