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Born This Way?

Sep 22

Posted by: ACHA
9/22/2011 11:14 AM  RssIcon

By Christy Sillman

I made a promise to myself when I was lying 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’d been through enough. It didn’t make any sense to ever put myself through surgery if I didn’t have to.

Now I’m contemplating relinquishing that promise.

My B-T shunt scar runs directly under my right breast. 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 is 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 that 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 recently bought myself a fake boob – otherwise known as a chicken cutlet. Instantly I look better, with no pain involved! But it’s not a hazard-free investment – this chicken cutlet doesn’t like to stay put.

Initially I bought it with the intention to only wear it on fancy nights out, but I love the way it makes me look so much that it’s become a daily accessory. Problem is, I’m usually chasing my 19-month-old son around 75% of my day. This includes bending over, picking him up, and generally wrestling my own personal baby gorilla. The chicken cutlet was not made to withstand such activity.

It’s fine when I’m at home and I can easily reach down and put my “boob” back in place, but in public it’s not so easy. I’m constantly on the edge of a major wardrobe malfunction, and nothing says sexy like dropping your fake boob on the sidewalk. I look like I’m doing some sort of new dance move as I try to shimmy the cutlet back into place without using my hands. I’m starting feel like this is more of a temporary solution instead of a long-term endowment.

Maybe one day I will end up sitting in a plastic surgery waiting room, 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 are things that 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 which bother me.

Have any of you had reconstructive surgery for scars or other CHD related disfigurements? Do you feel it was worth it? I would love to hear about your experiences and I will be sure to share mine if in the future I decide to electively go under the knife.

Christy Sillman was born with Tetralogy of Fallot with Pulmonary Atresia and now works as a pediatric ICU nurse. She is passionate about working with both children and adults with congenital heart disease. Christy writes a weekly column on her experiences as a nurse, ACHD'er, and new mother, which you can read at by clicking here.

Location: Blogs Parent Separator ACHA Blog

7 comment(s) so far...


Re: Born This Way?

Boy you are not alone! First off, " Born this Way" helps me get through many a days when I worry about the future! Secondly, I had a similar situation to yours. I have ToF as well and also have a scar under my right breast. I was not born with large breasts-B at best but it was still so frustrating to be "lopsided" all the time. about 5 yrs ago I had breast augmentation to correct that. It was the best decision for me. I now can wear what I want and be who I am. Surgery, as we all know too well, is very scary. I made sure to do a lot of research on the doctors-and I made sure the place I went had an Anesthesiologist that was well versed with heart patients. (I also cleared it with my heart doctor) Best of luck to you and your decision!!!

By Amy Rohloff on   9/22/2011 11:52 AM

Re: Born This Way?

Your story could have been written by me 30+ years ago. My BT-shunt in 1947 also caused my left breast NOT to was an 'A' maybe and the other one was a 'C'. Not pretty, especially for a teen. My Mom bought what we called then 'falsies' made from foam. I always felt like 1/2 a woman and had to watch everything I wore to not reveal too much. When I was 34 I had my first left breast implant. Did I feel special? The implant lasted 22 years before it sprang a leak. At age 56 I had a leaking left implant and a droopy right breast from age. Might as well have them both fixed. Now I really felt special and for the first time in my life I wasn't lopsided. That was 10 yrs ago and the right breast is starting to droop again, bras still don't fit perfect but at least I don't have to push the 'falsie' around and hope it doesn't fall out. I would do it again in a minute.

By Marilyn Petrosie on   9/22/2011 1:47 PM

Re: Born This Way?

I thought I was the only person on earth with a deformed left would have thought those docs would realize they were doing surgery on a female and think twice huh !? I guess 51 years ago maybe they didn't think people like us would live to puberty !! :) I NEVER wore tube tops or anything that required me to be bra-less.
All I can say is thankyou Victoria's Secret for you * Body by Victoria " push up. What's left of my " girl on the left " looks pretty decent. Being on blood thinners amkes surgery a risk for me and husband, God bless him...says I am unique. :)

By Michelle on   9/22/2011 4:19 PM

Re: Born This Way?

Sorry, ladies.
At least you have a great sense of humor about it, which no doubt helps you get through your days. And an understanding husband goes a long way.

By Connie on   9/22/2011 6:28 PM

Re: Born This Way?

I had it done and I'm very happy. I had a very thick constricting scar under my left breast and it didn't develop at all. Even better, my insurance paid for most of it. My parents were very supportive of me and understood. Plus, I wasn't wanting to go all Dolly Parton either. :P Regardless of what revisions we have, they are just that an improvement. But, we will always have scars and CHD. If a visit to a plastic surgeon will help you feel better, I say go for it. As long as you are realistic, it can be a positive experience! :)

By Lena on   9/22/2011 6:43 PM

Re: Born This Way?

OK, maybe I'm slow, but I also have one boob smaller than the other (used to be not a big difference but after baby definitely more noticeable to me) and it never once occurred to me that it could be because of my heart surgeries. DUH! Always just thought that some women have different sized boobs and i was one of them.
Regardless, I have a thing about elective surgery and after going through so many surgeries (luckily I was too young to remember most except my appendix and my c-section), I have ZERO desire to do any elective surgery. We actually were talking about this yesterday at work, in regards to doing Lasik on our eyes, and even that I can't consider. I personally can't imagine doing surgery electively.
That said, if you are OK with it then that's great for you.... I say whatever you are comfortable with & makes you happy!

By Alissa on   9/23/2011 6:48 PM

Re: Born This Way?

Love the comments Christy's column generates.

By David Lacy on   9/26/2011 5:52 PM

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