The pain relief was immediate. I woke up from surgery, and even though my nipples were on fire, I couldn’t sense the nerve where my shoulder connects to my neck. I’ve known that joint by heart for years now. I had reached the point where I thought it didn’t hurt when I simply knew where the junction was, as opposed to feeling pain radiate outward from it. Even the chest fire was mild by comparison, the sort of pain I used to associate with nursing, intense cold, and drastic hormone shifts.

But, as with any surgery, breast reduction came with a few unexpected complications, the largest of these involving physical sensations. The doctor correctly assured me the fire would be gone within hours, because breast tissue has few nerve endings. But my chest gurgled and glurped for days as air pockets shifted and liquid drained. It didn’t hurt, but I could sure feel it happening. I didn’t lose any actual feeling, after all.

And then there was the other thing. The doc migrated my nipples north without ever disconnecting them, so they were the same as ever, but in a new position. Before, they hung to my belly button. Cramming them into a bra used to mean relocating the lowest bits by a good six inches. Not any longer. No cramming for me. But my breasts are having a bit of an adjustment to their new home.

You know how people who have lost had a limb or digit still sometimes get sensation in it? Well, I didn’t lose much tissue or many nerve endings, but I’ve still got that problem. Phantom boob syndrome, I suppose you’d call it.

There was a particular feeling that I only experienced when I wore nursing bras. When the supporting bra structure pushed too firmly against the underside of my breast, while my nipple chafed against fabric at exactly the wrong height, it meant one thing. My breast had crept up in stealth mode and disengaged the cup security hook to flop free and dangle loose in my shirt, usually leaking milk everywhere.

It’s been years since I’ve nursed, but I’ll never forget what that felt like.

I’m used to having my breasts curl under in my bra, so the most sensitive bits are a little sheltered from fabric contact.  But my new boobs chafe. Plus, the nipples are far higher on my chest.  Add to that the fact that I have to wear a bra twenty four hours a day for the first six weeks, and I’m a walking recipe for sensory chaos.

Every once in awhile, I’ll notice my chafed nipples rubbing against my bra from their new vantage, six inches higher than the old one, while I feel pressure along the band line. And I’ll have a moment of panic that I can only curb by sticking my head in my shirt to ensure that neither prisoner has escaped into the wider world.

I’m always shocked when both of them are resting happily where I put them in the first place, directly inside the bra, nipples forward, sagging not. They, I presume, are sniggering to each other because they can still taunt me, even if they can’t make my back hurt.

About jesterqueen:
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.


Phantoms — 15 Comments

  1. You do look great Jessie! This was actually very educational for me. My daughter had a breast reduction, two summers ago and I took care of her. She was very private about the whole thing and I wondered what she was going through. I no longer have to wonder…

  2. Ooh, how exciting! I have considered having the same surgery, but it makes me so nervous when I hear about the sensory loss or the possibility of looking mangled. I’m so glad it went well for you! Good luck on the phantom boob syndrome, ha ha 🙂

    • Those are totally legit fears, and I found my surgeon by asking friends who had the surgery who they used. Two gave the same name, and then I found out he’s the best here in town AND he takes my insurance. THEN I angsted before making the consultation appointment. Things happened FAST once I decided to move forward, though!

      At the consultation, He showed me before and after shots before he ever even sat down to talk to me. He sent in this photo album with his nurse so I could see what I was walking into from seeing it rather than guessing about it. I mean, it’s one thing to ask a friend who they used and quite another to say, “uh, would you mind showing me your boobs”? These were all anonymous shots that answered a lot of my questions simply by existing.

      The before shots ranged in size from smaller than me to gigantanormous and struggling to walk with those things. And the “after” shots weren’t all the “beautiful me” photos. He had progressions. One month post op. Three months. A year. So you could see that your boobs will look different immediately after surgery than in a year. He emphasized the fact that this is a surgery that leaves permanent scarring, but assured me that few people noticed the scars after the first few months. (I can already feel mine fading – you have to massage them two or three times a day to keep the scar tissue from forming all thick and stuff). The sensory loss varies from person to person, and he talked about that too. One issuewas whether they’ll migrate your nipples or have to disconnect them to pull them up. (I was easily in the migrate category, even with a K cup.) (He told me that the vast majority of surgeries these days allow for the nipples to remain in good shape. )

      Anyway, finding out who in your area is respected and making a consultation appointment might help you figure out if this is the way you want to go. For me, it’s been a godsend, and people who have had the surgery keep popping out of the woodwork around me. None of them has regretted it, which I find really cool and remarkable.

  3. it’s like anything, give it time and you’ll get used to the new you. i hope your recovery is easy. i have to say, new northern nips sounds pretty good to me. 🙂