I hate my big breasts

This is what my first bra looked like.

This is what it looks like now. Notice the wide shoulder strap to prevent divots?

When I was on the verge of puberty, like most girls my age, I wished for big breasts. I did the whole, ‘I must, I must, I must increase my bust’ chant. I longed for the day I could buy my first bra. Back then, having big breasts seemed glamorous and sexy. Boy, was I wrong!

What nobody tells you is that your breasts keep growing. In my late teens through my early thirties I had a B cup and things were great. Clothes fit me nicely, I could participate in any physical activity I wanted and I got just the right amount of attention. In my mid thirties to my early forties, I had a C cup. Now my breasts were a little heavier and a bit more in the way when I ran, danced or jumped around. The gaze I was used to getting from men was migrating south by about a foot and my lower back started to give me a bit of pain. When I hit 42 (the magic number that Douglas Adams gives as the answer to life, the universe and everything), my breasts were now filling up a D cup. My lower back pain was more of a chronic worry. I had to choose my physical activities more carefully. Men now exclusively stared at my chest before looking at my face. In hot weather I began to develop a heat rash underneath my breasts. Now, at 47 my breasts are a DD cup and I am sick and tired of the damned things!

Doctors say that every one pound of weight on your front equals TEN pounds of weight your back must carry. My breasts weigh about three pounds each, which means my back is carrying 60 pounds of unnecessary weight. Is it any wonder I have chronic lower back pain? I will never understand women who voluntarily enlarge their breasts with surgery past the point of a C cup.

Back pain is not the only issue my breasts have bestowed upon me over the years. I have been blessed with fibrocystic breast disorder. I get large fluid filled cysts (multiple) in my breasts that must be drained with a large, scary needle a couple of times a year. Not only do these cysts make my breasts misshapen and tender, they add weight. I have also had breast cancer. In my case I was lucky because the small tumour I had, grew almost entirely inside one of the aforementioned cysts and was therefore relatively easy for my surgeon to remove, though I still had to undergo chemotherapy because of a tiny cluster of cells that grew unnoticed on the outside of the cyst.

This is an ultrasound image of two large fluid filled breast cysts. At the moment, my right breast has four of them.

I can’t get a mammogram (which costs nothing) because of the fibrocystic breast disease, so, instead I must get an ultrasound, which is not covered by my province’s medical insurance plan and costs me $165 at least twice a year. I am seriously considering breast reduction surgery (which would be covered by my insurance), but I prefer not to go under the knife unless I absolutely have to, so I am weighing that option very carefully. There have even been days when I have thought that it would be great if I got another cancerous tumour because then, I could just get a double mastectomy and be done with them. (I know, be careful what you wish for)

Oh yes, big breasts would be so glamorous and sexy. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how my breasts are in the way of the life I want to be living. I’m beginning to feel like my breasts are taking over control of my whole body.

I quit

It was exactly one year ago today that I had my last cigarette. That makes it official, I am a quitter. I never thought I would be. I smoked one pack a day for 33 years. I started smoking for the very same reason most kids start, it was cool and I was not, but wanted to be. I was a 13 year old nerd when I first started smoking and it never got me any cool points in Junior High, or High School, but by that time, I was already a smoker.

Over the years I had many people preach to me about the dangers of smoking and I had my little pat lines to deflect the conversation. I used to say things like, “Sure smoking takes years off your life, but it’s the years at the end… and who wants those anyway?” , “I might die early, but I will die happy with a big yellow grin on my face”, “My parents never raised any quitters” or the clever “Piss off and mind your own damned business”.

I was a defiant smoker. It was part of my identity. So how did I quit?

There were two major factors that lead to my decision to quit. The first, it got to the point where I just couldn’t afford it anymore. A carton of cigarettes where I live goes for just over $80, which works out to $360 per month. The second and most important factor was, I was ready. It got to the point where I didn’t like the taste anymore. The smell of cigarettes in my drapes and my clothes became nauseating. It just stopped being satisfying, so I quit on September 6th 2011 and never looked back.

Since quitting I have noticed all of the things that every quitter raves on and on about. Food tastes better, my sense of smell is heightened (which is both good and bad), no more yellow stains on my fingers or my teeth and all of that is great. Unfortunately, the fear that kept me smoking for 33 years came true… the dreaded weight gain. Yes, food tastes better, but that’s not necessarily a good thing if you want to keep your weight in check. I never had much of a sweet tooth before quitting, but after quitting, I couldn’t get enough ice cream and cake.

I figured I would indulge those cravings to “get over the hump” and then deal with losing the weight when I felt like I had successfully quit smoking. About 6 months in, I realized that I had gone from a size 6 to a size 10 (that’s an American size 4 to an American size 8). I had never worn a double digit size in my entire life. I’m 5’7″ and am small boned, so every pound shows. I refuse to buy a scale, so I am not sure exactly how many pounds I gained, but a two size gain is not acceptable. I have never seen rolls on my back before, but they are there now. My upper arms are starting to look like they are full of tapioca pudding. It’s not a pretty picture. At the 8 month mark, I went on the Atkins diet, a diet that has worked well for me in the past and I am walking a lot more. While it is helping, I am not shedding the weight as quickly and easily as I had before. Leave it to me to quit smoking during menopause, a time that goes hand in hand with weight gain.

I guess the point of all of this is a warning to all of you female smokers out there. If you think you may want to quit in the future, but are scared to quit because of the potential weight gain, don’t wait until mother nature slows your metabolism during menopause. because it’s just that much harder. And hot flashes when you are heavier are no joke.

Dream a little dream

The Dream by Salvador Dali

Ever since I entered menopause, I have been having the weirdest dreams. Vivid, colourful and disturbing dreams. Apparently this is a normal symptom of menopause along with insomnia, hot flashes, memory loss, loss of sex drive, night sweats, vaginal dryness, irregular periods, memory loss, mood swings, depression, irritability, fatigue, hair loss, growing of facial hair, incontinence, bloating, memory loss, brittle nails, breast pain, joint pain, headaches, itchy skin, tingling extremities and memory loss among others. Oh yes, menopause is a wondrous time of life. I am going through this next phase of life naturally, as generations of women before me have. Going with the lack of flow, as it were. I’m one of the lucky ones, my most disturbing symptoms are the weird dreams, insomnia (which has finally passed after two years), the occasional hot flash (which also seems to have passed) and memory loss. The memory loss is the most frustrating if only because I have always prided myself on my great memory and tremendous vocabulary, and now I continually find myself grasping for words that would once come trippingly off my tongue. It is for this reason that I have been calling this stage of my life MENTAL PAUSE.

Getting back to the weird dreams. Last night I had a doozy. I dreamed that I had fallen asleep and woke up to find that my face had been tattooed. Not just a small, cute tattoo either. A large rectangular tattoo the size of a tarot card starting at my left cheekbone and ending just below my jawline. The image was of skin being pulled off my face, to reveal a beating red heart (the organ, not the Valentine’s Day shape). Yes the heart was animated and beating. I was in a warehouse and I wandered around looking for someone, anyone who could explain what had happened. There was no one around, but there were mirrors everywhere I looked, so I couldn’t help but look at this thing on my face. It was then that I woke up and tried to shake the image from my mind to no avail.

If anyone knows anything about dream analysis, I would be very interested on your input. If you are also a menopausal woman who has weird dreams and want to share one of yours, please feel free to do so. For now I’m chalking it up to hormones and will try to go on about my day as usual.

Fashion to die for

A few of years ago I stopped wearing a bra. I have a history of fibrocystic breast disease (I get large fluid filled cysts that must be drained with a big needle) and I had undergone a lumpectomy to remove a cancerous tumor. While fervently searching the internet for any bit of a hint as to what I might be doing to cause these conditions, I came across a very interesting study regarding a link between wearing a bra and breast cysts/cancer. http://www.breastnotes.com/bc/bc-causes-singer-bracancer.htm As a massage therapist, I am very familiar with human anatomy and this made a lot of sense to me. I was one of those women who wore my bra all day, then slept in it as well, never allowing my lymphatic system to do its job.

Before you think it was easy for me to just stop wearing a bra, let me tell you that I have quite large breasts and sagging was a concern, admittedly a vain one, but a concern nonetheless. I was also worried about worsening the back pain I had suffered from by having to bear the weight of my breasts without help from a bra. These concerns, it turns out, were entirely unfounded. Yes, I now sag a tad more than I used to, but not nearly as much as I had feared and likely not more than I would have just by aging. My back pain has lessened. All those little muscles that were being “helped along” by my bra, were now forced to work and became stronger. Even my posture is better.

Since I have been braless, I have had exactly two cysts drained (once each), as opposed to 3 to 5 cysts twice a year and no recurrence of breast cancer. I never changed my diet or my exercise regimen. I did quit smoking, but that was the only other change I made to my lifestyle. I will wear a bra occasionally, but never for more than a few hours at a time and never an underwire bra. After a week or so of feeling oddly naked without a bra, undershirts, or soft cotton tank tops have become far more comfortable than I ever imagined and I don’t have those horrible divots, caused by bra straps, in my shoulders anymore.

It seems those feminists of the 1960’s knew what they were doing when they burned their bras, even though they may not have known it was the healthy thing to do. Breast binding with a bra is no more healthy for your breasts than foot binding is for your feet.

I encourage you to try going without a bra for a month and see how it changes your life. If you are a man, I hope that you pass this on to the women in your life.

There is no need for women to be a slave to a fashion item that can kill them.