September 18, 2006

The shoulders are the first thing you notice when you wake up after a breast reduction.

No. Wait. That's not true.  

The first thing you notice when you wake up is the fact that you're strapped to a rolling bed, with a bazillion tubes running in and out of various parts of your anatomy and a platoon of surgical nurses milling around your bedside, encouraging you to "take deeper breaths, Sweetie."  

But the second thing you notice are your shoulders.  

I had roughly 3.82 pounds removed during the breast reduction: 700 grams on the right, a whopping 1,035 on the left. (I was almost comically lopsided before the surgery: a fact I was only vaguely aware of, mainly because I've avoided looking at myself topless as much as humanly possible for the past three and a half decades.) On paper that probably doesn't sound like much, but try typing "3.82 pounds" into a Web browser and see what you come up with. Basically I had the equivalent of an Epson Powerlite 755C Wireless Projector removed from my chest. (Or the equivalent of one Calloway Ultra-Light Golf Bag  ... or the equivalent of an HP Omnibook 600 ...  or the equivalent of $161.35 worth of Bitto della Valtellina.)  As soon as I could sit up -- which, in my case, was roughly 45 minutes after swimming back to consciousness, following three and a half hours of surgery -- I could feel the difference.  

"My shoulders feel so light!" I remember marvelling to the head surgical nurse. She smiled (They all say that) and patted my hand. Then she plugged another dose of Dilaudid into my IV and went off to find me a bed pan.

Six weeks later, I am still marvelling over how unencumbered my shoulders feel.  

The funny thing is that I never had much in the way of shoulder pain before the surgery ... at least, none that I ever noticed. Once in a while I would experience a *twinge* in the area between my shoulder blades, especially if I'd been schlepping the laptop bag around. And occasionally I would develop a bit of redness where my bra stap rubbed against my skin: "shoulder grooves" they call it, in breast reduction lingo. But shoulder pain, on the whole, was never my problem. Neither was back pain, or neck pain, or nerve damage, or posture irregularities, or any of the 43,897,621 mostly legitimate physical conditions women cite when seeking a breast reduction.

My *pain* was almost entirely psychological.

Still, now that those 3.82 pounds are history, I feel their absence more than I ever noticed their presence. (Sort of like "Star Trek: Enterprise.") There is a new spring in my step ... an ease of movement that I can't recall feeling since I was a kid. I walk down the street these days, shoulders back, chest out, head held high, and I feel like I could simply lift myself off the ground and fly away. Free of the burden of those 3.82 pounds, I can turn my thoughts now to the things that really matter -- my marriage, my family, resurrecting my creative ambition, finally figuring out what I want to be when I grow up -- instead of constantly obsessing over my stoopid excessive lopsided boobage.

And that is the REAL load off my shoulders.

Secra on Shell Ridge, 9-3-06

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