By Jamie Schafer – White Hall, MD
I’ve been talking about getting “fake boobs” since middle school. I joked with my friends about being the leader of the “itty-bitty titty committee.” What others didn’t see were the tears every time I had to put a bathing suit on, or the all-encompassing fear at the thought of someone seeing me without a shirt on – right up until the day I went under the knife.
I was a 32 A Cup – the smallest of the smalls. I was a 5-foot-8-inch, 20-something who could still wear a training bra. It wasn’t just that I had small boobs, what I never let anyone else see were my nipples. Mine looked like two fluffy marshmallows sticking off of my chest. I knew this was the body I was given and I tried my hardest to own it, but I always felt something was wrong. I never knew what until my senior year of college.
I was curled up on the couch of my apartment waiting for my roommates to get back from class, casually flipping through the pages of Cosmo – when my heart stopped. I turned to an article (which can be found here) and honestly thought someone had taken photos of me without my knowledge and published them. The article discussed a girl’s journey about living with tuberous breast deformity (TBD), a congenital abnormality where breasts don’t develop normally. Everything clicked.
I had talked to my primary care doctor and my gynecologist about my new discovery. Both reassured me, “Everyone’s bodies are different, it’s possible you have TBD, but you can live with it.” But I was done crying when I looked at my body in the mirror and done being mortified of being naked – that’s no way to live. So my next step was to find a plastic surgeon who knew of TBD and would help me. His name is Dr. Michael Cohen.
That first consultation was TERRIFYING. I was mortified of taking my shirt off before – now I had to do that in front of an older man who was going to analyze me. There I am, standing half-naked in front of this attractive older man who is sitting eye-level with my breast and is going to touch them. I could feel my face getting redder and I remember wishing for the world to swallow me whole.
Dr. Cohen was gentle, professional and addressed every concern I had. He talked to me more about TBD, reassured me I had a very slight case and that he had performed surgery to correct many similar cases. He addressed my asymmetrical breasts and the lift necessary to realign them. We discussed in-depth silicone versus saline implants, viewed before and after pictures of patients just like me, discussed different entry points for the implants, recovery, sizing – you name it we talked about it. I left the appointment with my surgery date and a little bit of self-confidence I’d never had before.
That appointment was in August 2014, my surgery was set for December 23 at the break of dawn. I started telling my family, who took the news with overwhelming support. In December, I started taking multivitamins daily to prepare my body for the shock of having a foreign object implanted under my breast muscle. I opted for silicone implants and stressed to Dr. Cohen that I wanted people to have no idea I had fake boobs- I wanted nothing more than to look natural.
I went to the pharmacy and got my prescriptions filled, and waited for December 23. On the day of surgery, I woke up at 4 a.m., and showered with surgical preparation wash, which left my body squeaky clean – I literally squeaked.
I hopped in the car and zoomed down the highway as I silently prayed for a safe surgery. Dressed in my zip-up sweatshirt and pajama pants, I checked into the surgical suite with sweaty palms, eager to see the final result.
Dr. Cohen drew “landmarks” and incision marks on my chest and told me he would play with a few different sized implants while I was under to see which looked the most flattering on my body. The next few minutes were a blur. I walked myself into the operating room and was strapped into a padded table; I could not stop shaking. My anesthesiologist brought a warm blanket and started these massagers on my legs to keep the blood flowing. He was constantly talking to me and the last thing I remember was him telling me, “Honey, think about laying on a warm beach.”
When I woke up, BAM – there I was fully-clothed, staring down at two huge boobs. I did it! And then I saw my nurse and blood. Instantly I panicked that somehow I had busted one already, but she reassured me I was fine and some bleeding was to be expected. I remember trying to walk myself to the car and the nurses running to get me a wheelchair. On the ride home I apparently just kept repeating, “I have boobs,” and was terrified the seatbelt was going to hurt them.
The next few nights were painful – I have a very high tolerance for pain, but the shock my body was going through was something I hadn’t experienced before. To put it into perspective, I couldn’t get out of the recliner on my own without someone’s help. Out of the 30 pills prescribed to me, I only took a Vicodin the second and third night to make myself fall asleep, and slept in the recliner with my mom on the couch next to me. It took five days for me to finally feel human again!
Recovery went well, I was still on vitamins and had exercises and massages to do. Over the next few weeks the implants would “fall” into place and settle into the pocket under my muscle. Everything looked great at my one week check-up and at my next appointment, two weeks following, they took the sutures off and I went in for pictures.
I could already notice a change in my personality, I felt more confident in myself. The moment the nurse removed my bandages and left me to look at my breasts full-on for the first time I cried. For the first time in 23 years I cried happy tears looking at myself in the mirror. There was nothing to hold me back – no more insecurities, no more self-loathing, no more fear and no more comparing myself. This was truly the body I was always meant to have.
Today I am 10 months post-surgery and happier than ever. Those who meet me for the first time have no idea what I went through, but that doesn’t stop me from sharing my story. I’m proud of these things! For me it’s not something sexual, for the last year I have been poked, prodded, had pictures taken and many different eyes on them. Surgery mended my breasts, but as cheesy as it sounds, surgery also mended my self-esteem. I am Jamie, my boobs are fake and I’m damn proud of it.