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My Breast Reduction Journey

Part 1 of the Series

By Marlene Roessler

This is the first part of Marlene's account of her breast reduction journey - from the doubts and questions she had to how she felt afterwards.

The Gaudie will publish a second and third part but if you would like to learn more, go check out her blog on Medium @marlenerssler!


Marlene wearing a shirt with lines indicating where her breast size will be reduced. In a second picture next to it Marlene is wearing the same shirt and her reduced breast size is outlined to show the contrast.
Image Courtesy of the author

Almost one and a half years ago I started documenting what I think has been the most dramatic change in my life so far. By the title of this article, you won’t be surprised to hear that this change I’m referring to is actually the change in my cup size! Yay! My operation took place last summer, in mid-June, but what is much more worth talking about than the surgery itself is the journey of getting there. I wrote down my experiences in 5 instalments for readers to be able to understand the workings and emotions that come with pursuing this kind of surgery. This is the first ‘chapter’:

Hello everyone who is reading this!

I’m documenting this special journey of mine mainly for the purpose of remembrance and comparison. Comparison of quality of life more specifically.

But yeah, let’s see. Here are some things about myself:

My name is Marlene, at the point of my first blog entry (22nd Nov 2021) I was 23 years old. Back then, I was (and still am) 5’10” tall, weighed 125 kilograms and had a bust width of 140 cm. That’s a K cup if you’re wondering. I had not worn a real bra in about a year at this point and instead opted for stretchy sports bras with no hooks, zips or other thingamajigs on them. They didn’t offer amazing support but they had soft and very wide straps which means they didn’t cut into my shoulders too much even while carrying my heavy chest. Normal bras didn’t seem to exist in my size, at least not in any of the specialist shops in Aberdeen. They may technically offer bras ‘my size’ but those caused me too much pain, especially in the areas where the straps cut into my shoulders. Or they were insanely expensive.

My breasts started developing very early and even though I had always been a chubby kid and teenager, my breasts were still dis-proportionally large. This had caused me to develop back, neck and shoulder pain that I had been battling since my early teenage years. My shoulders are permanently indented where those horrible bra straps used to sit.

To reduce my back pain, I would do the following sports about 3 times a week: Swimming, weightlifting and specific shoulder/neck yoga plus upper body strengthening workouts at the gym. I still found that if I was on my feet and walking for more than 3 hours I’d get intense back pain, occasionally accompanied by a numb feeling in my fingers/arms and a headache caused by tensing my shoulders to bear the pain. So yeah, that was not a very rosy state to be in.

I personally didn’t mind the way my boobs looked but I got a lot of unwanted attention because of them, even if I was wearing a baggy turtleneck or thick jumper.

The idea of a breast reduction had been on my mind and talked about at home since I was about 15 years old but I never thought I would actually go ahead with this plan.

That was until the summer of 2021. There was no specific trigger so I think I was just fed up with it all. After spending the month of June in Germany with my family, I decided to get in touch with my Scottish GP once I was back there. This turned out to be a very humbling first step.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions my GP practice didn’t offer in-person appointments at the time so I filled out an online form on the nature of my ailment which also functioned as a request for a phone appointment with a doctor. After a few minutes during which the friendly female doctor summed up what I had written in my online form, we arrived at the critical point of my weight. Or more specifically, my BMI. With a BMI of 39.8, I am classed as morbidly obese by UK standards. The doctor I was talking to told me that there was no way I could get referred to a specialist surgeon while having a BMI over 30 and I should aim to lose between 20 and 25 kilos in order to reach that ‘goal’. On top of that, I would have to hold this reduced weight for at least a year to get the help that I needed.

Here, I could go into detail why the BMI is not a reliable source of checking someone’s health because it doesn’t account for many factors like fat mass vs muscle mass, fat distribution and genetic disposition. But I won’t go there because it is too complicated and

infuriating. I was upset but I didn’t blame the nice doctor on the phone for what she said. In fact, she apologised to me with the words:

‘I’m sorry but these are the guidelines and I have to follow them. You don’t qualify to receive further help from the NHS’.

After this phone call I felt hopeless and let down. No one had even taken their time to see me, to look at my body and make an informed judgement on whether or not losing weight might help me with my two huge problems. I realised that it would take me at least a year and would mean huge changes in my (already busy) lifestyle to lose those 25 kilos in a half healthy way. I decided I didn’t want to put myself through that and was also not willing to wait this long to MAYBE get referred to a specialist for a consultation.

My parents, who were and are supporting me closely throughout this process, did a great job comforting me then. They went on to enquire about the conditions German health insurances had in order to get a fully paid for breast reduction. Once again, the outcome was poor. Neither the NHS nor German health insurance would be willing to help me pay for this surgery unless I first lost a huge amount of weight.

At this point, I started looking into the price of getting it done on private financing. A friend of mine who had gone through the surgery process when she was still 17 and living in Germany could give me a rough number. Somewhere between 5000 and 8000 euros, a bit less in pound sterling if I picked a private surgeon in the UK. This excluded costs for consultations and special equipment that I would need after the surgery. That wasn’t good news. I knew that my family, together with my own emergency savings stored in a German account would cover these costs but at this point I found myself considering if this was really worth it. Could I really ask something this big from my family? Those were some really pricey tits after all.

But they really were more than that. And once I got over my feelings of guilt and overcame my pride to ask for this kind of help, I dove in head first. Or really, my mum did. She quickly began researching specialist surgeons near Frankfurt (which is where I’m from) and arranged appointments with two different doctors in my name. These took place during my winter break from university which I spent at home. At the point of writing this first chapter, it was the end of November 2021 and I was neck deep in assignments. Still, I was already looking forward to my appointments in December, hopeful that one of these men would be the one to lift this big burden off my chest (sorry, couldn’t resist this one).

Anyways, I think I’ve done a brilliant job avoiding my Uni work by writing this far. I better get back to it now…


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