Even from a young age, Samantha felt like her large breasts prevented her from fully enjoying life.
"I was wearing a size C cup bra in the eighth grade. I didn't look like my friends and felt out of place. I looked so much older than everyone else and was bullied. At that age, I was uncomfortable doing anything that would have brought attention to my body," says Samantha. "I avoided trying out for sports teams and was terrified participating in gym class. I looked like a fully developed teenager when I was 13."
By the time she was 25 years old, Samantha's breasts were sagging and pulling the top half of her body.
"I felt like I had two weights hanging off my chest every single day," says Samantha, now 27. "My whole body looked out of proportion, and my posture was deteriorating. Every morning I was shoving my breasts into the ugliest bra you could imagine and then peeling it off my body every night. The indentations around my body replicated an entire bra and were sometimes half an inch deep. Many times, the straps would cause my skin to be rubbed raw to the point of bleeding."
Samantha says that when the pain and discomfort were at their worse, she isolated herself because she shouldn't physically stand to wear a bra.
"I didn't have the option to go bra-less, and the thought having to put my bra back onto the sore indentations after already taking it off wasn't an option," she says. "My back was constantly screaming in pain, and I would stand with my hips pushed out to support the weight of my breasts. My shoulders were so tight and sore every day. I felt hopeless."
Feeling Uncomfortable In Her Own Skin
The effects of Samantha's large breasts were more than just physical. She began to feel like her mental health and self-confidence were also suffering. Her complicated feelings about her breasts even began to affect her dating life and relationships with family and friends.
"Dating was nerve-wrecking – if I wasn't comfortable looking at myself in a mirror without clothes on, why would I expect someone else to find joy looking at my body without clothes on?" she says. "When my family and friends complimented how I looked, they would laugh when I told them I hated my breasts and that they made me feel depressed. Little did they know that I was wearing the tightest bra I could find and had a sports bra over top of that, and I could feel every single wire and strap. The beauty they saw was causing me incredible pain."
"My self-expression was also limited, because the only clothing that would fit me was boring and colorless," she continues. "When you have breasts that large, you can't wear things that are strappy, backless, strapless or cut too low. My clothes were either skintight or a tent on me. Not to mention, the clothes I could find were typically neutral colors. I'm a bubbly and happy person. Wearing black, grey, brown and white didn't allow me to express my more outgoing side."
Samantha needed new bras every three months because her breasts would quickly stretch them out, but finding bras that fit her body was a difficult and expensive process. She had no choice but to order bras online, which she still had to have altered.
Time for a Change
Samantha knew she wanted to make a change, so she began researching breast reduction surgery.
Her research led her to Penn Medicine – a hospital she was already familiar with – and plastic and reconstructive surgeon Paris Butler, MD.
"Dr. Butler was the reason I chose Penn. He is approachable, respectful and understanding," says Samantha. "Before the consultation, I filled out questionnaires about how I felt about my body, and he went over this with me. He listened to what I hated about my breasts and what I wanted to achieve. During the examination, I felt safe. I did not feel like a subject or just a patient. I felt like I was in a room with someone who understood my pain and wanted to help me. I left that room that day knowing he was my doctor and that my life was going to change. Plus, Dr. Butler's staff was exceptional. They were very patient, kind and, most importantly, available and reliable."
Samantha also felt comfortable discussing her concerns with Dr. Butler, including her worries that her breasts would be too small following surgery.
"One of my biggest fears was that I would wake up and still hate my body because my breasts would be too small. How ironic would that be? I wanted breasts that were more manageable and smaller, but not nonexistent," she explains. "Dr. Butler helped me re-frame this fear by counseling me until I had a realistic expectation of what I should expect post-operatively."
Embracing Life After Surgery
Dr. Butler and his team performed Samantha's breast reduction surgery as an outpatient procedure, so she was able to go home later that day. Within a few hours, she had both of her breasts reduced from a 30II to a 30DDD.
Samantha found that the recovery process had a few challenges, but she was back in action sooner than she expected.
"The first three days, the pain was intense. It was difficult to sit up, walk or do anything really. Everything felt tight. Once my drains were removed, my recovery moved pretty quickly," she explains.
"I was completely independent much quicker than I thought would be. The second most difficult part was learning how to sleep on my back. I never quite got the hang of that."
Samantha was happy to discover that her surgery had a positive impact on her physical abilities, along with her mental health and confidence.
"Before the surgery, anything that required running or jumping, I would avoid at all costs," she says. "There were never enough sports bras to hold down and restrict my breasts from bouncing and moving. Now, I don't feel restricted from activities because of my breasts. Something as simple as jumping jacks can now be incorporated into a workout."
"I also stayed in a lot more so I could relax without a bra, which crippled my social life. Now I'm happy to go out, even if I have already taken my bra off and have to put one back on. I feel good about the person I am. I stand tall and proud. My quality of life is so much better. I feel much more confident than I used to with my body. I feel like I'm in the body I was supposed to have."
Samantha's surgery also gave her the freedom to finally have fun with her wardrobe.
"I love that I'm now able to more accurately express myself with clothing. Being able to wear clothing that is colorful and unique without being limited by enormous breasts brings me so much joy," she says. "I've been able to go braless for the first time, and I've worn strapless dresses and things that are backless. I can go to the mall and buy bras and swimsuits at a regular store. I can find bras that match underwear. I can't properly put into words how free and sexy I feel with my new breasts. It has truly been such a liberating journey for me."
Samantha encourages women who are suffering because of their large breasts to explore breast reduction surgery at Penn.
"You don't need to live in persistent discomfort for the rest of your life. You don't have to keep missing out on activities, and you don't have to peel your bra off your body at night. There is an answer," she says. "Breast reduction surgery is a great, life-changing decision. You will not regret it."