By Christy Sillman
22 Sep

Born This Way?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

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.


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