Born this way?
by Christy Sillman
I made a promise to myself when I was laying in the Pediatric ICU as a 17 year old recovering from open heart surgery: I would never endure an optional surgery such as plastic surgery. I’ve been through enough. It didn’t make any sense to ever put myself through surgery if I didn’t have to.
I relinquished that promise months before my wedding day when I felt frustrated by one of the old scars on my back. This scar was from one of my heart procedures where they go in through the back to put a bypass, or shunt, in my heart.
It runs along my shoulder blade and because it was done when I was 10 months old, it stretched, pitted and twisted as I grew. Also, because of the way the muscle was cut, I have a giant bulge of muscle above the scar and very little muscle below it. This one-sided surgery-induced back “fat” bulge was not going to work with the design of my wedding dress. So, I sought the advice of a plastic surgeon.
We devised a plan where they would liposuction any fat off of the top of the muscle bulge to hopefully reduce its bulk, and re-do the scar running up my back to get rid of the pits and twists in it. Unfortunately, that heart of mine makes doctors nervous, so we decided to do this procedure without anesthesia and very little sedation. A local anesthetic would be used instead.
The problem with using local anesthetic with a surgical procedure like liposuction is that you can only numb so much and you don’t really know whether an area is numb or not until the liposuction wand is being jammed under your skin and along your back. I levitated off the table from a combination of pain and the shear force from the aggressiveness of the procedure. It was brutal and I highly recommend being asleep for something as medieval as liposuction.
After a month’s worth of healing my back looked SLIGHTLY better. The scar is definitely improved, but the muscle bulge still lives on. Was it worth it? Not really.
Now I’m contemplating how to approach another scar of mine.
This old scar of mine runs directly under my right breast. Just like the scar on my back, everything below my scar is completely atrophied (or flat). Unfortunately, when they did this incision, they had no idea what cup size I would one day become, and so they cheated that poor breast out of an entire cup size and a half.
Now, I’m grateful that they installed built-in underwire, but in comparison to her sister, she’s much perkier and smaller. My chest looks like one of those half-and-half outfits, where on one side you have the voluminous lady who is rightfully in her 30s and the other half displays an 18 year old breast who hasn’t quite finished puberty and still stands tall. Breastfeeding only exacerbated the problem. Now my shirts and bras don’t fit right, and my husband graciously has to help me get ready by telling me which shirts make it less obvious — a strange twist on the “does this make me look fat?” trap men sometimes endure.
I’ve had enough of feeling awkward in my clothes, but I’m not quite ready to get surgery. I’m contemplating buying a fake boob — otherwise known as a chicken cutlet. But I have to ask myself —what’s worse? Having your breasts that are obviously uneven or accidently dropping your boob on the floor? This purchase may cause more strife than help.
Just be warned from now on — if you pick a fight with me you may end up with a fake boob slapped across your face.
Maybe one day I’ll end up sitting in the plastic surgery waiting room once again, but I can’t help to think of that 17 year old girl who begged herself to remember the promise. I think of Lady Gaga’s song, “Born this way,” and realize that I wasn’t born this way. These things were done to me and I’m just trying to get back to what I was intended to look like. But I was born with congenital heart disease, and so I guess I was born to endure scars that disfigure. Is plastic surgery worth the risk to my health? Will it ultimately make me feel happier and more confident?
For now, I’ll just be happy I have a husband who loves me just the way I am, but will support me if I decide to endure surgical reconstruction for the things that bother me. I’m going to buy that prosthetic boob, not only for the chance to feel better about the way I look without surgery, but for the sheer comic relief it may give my husband and I. Seriously ladies, how cool would it be to just hand your husband your boob, some lotion and a box of tissues when you’re not in the mood?