Rounding the Curve

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As it is with so many women, Sandy Wyeth’s (not her real name) “aha” moment was really an accumulation of moments: glancing at her silhouette in a store window, trying on a clingy T-shirt, swimsuit shopping. In fact, she’d been thinking about breast augmentation for nearly a decade, ever since a combination of pregnancy and breastfeeding left her with, as she herself admits, “droopy breasts and excess skin.”

Then one day, not long after her forty-second birthday, all the moments coalesced. “I said to myself, ‘I’m single, and I’m not getting any younger. I don’t want to wait anymore.’” During the consultation with her doctor, she explained that she didn’t want to be a lot larger; she just wanted to fill the skin she already had. Doable, he told her.

Wyeth went ahead with great expectations. What she wasn’t expecting was the post-op pain — “worse than childbirth,” she remembers. For three days, she couldn’t get out of bed. Looking back, she wonders if things might have been easier if she’d given up smoking or taken the full course of painkillers her doctor prescribed.

Now, nine months later, she’s happy to be feeling like herself again (a process that took about six weeks) and is pleased with her new look. The 5’ 8” mom is now “a comfortable D.” “When I wear a dress, I have cleavage,” she says, “and T-shirts and bathing suits look much cuter.” Remembering her post-op pain, though, she’s not convinced she would do it again. “I think it might have been a lot easier,” she says, “if I’d been younger.”

Many surgeries come with their own surprises: more ?(or less) pain than anticipated, a longer recovery, a reaction to anesthesia. On occasion, though, the surprise is a whole lot more unexpected. Like Wyeth, Marilyn Griffith* had breasts that had lost shape and fullness. (She’s even more blunt: “After breastfeeding six kids, I had grandma boobs — nothing but muscle holding up skin.”) So at 35, she decided to go for an augmentation. The surgery itself went well, but immediately afterward, she noticed what felt like an air pocket near her left nipple. Her doctor assured her it would correct itself, but a year later it was still there. On top of that, her breasts didn’t look right: After the saline implants, she says, “my breasts were bigger, but they were still sagging.”

She was leery of a second surgery, but with her husband’s encouragement, she consulted Dr. Evan Sorokin, a Marlton-based surgeon, and was instantly reassured. “He suggested a lift and silicone implants,” she says. “He explained everything to me and then gave me options — something my first surgeon didn’t do.” In retrospect, Griffith realizes that she’d never felt comfortable with her initial doctor, who seemed put off whenever she asked for additional information. Today, though, she couldn’t be happier. “I feel sexy,” she says, “and I love to hear people say, ‘You have six boys and you look so good!’”

The decision to augment what nature has taken away (or never supplied in the first place) isn’t easy for most women; the decision to remove what you’ve always had can be even tougher. For her entire adult life, Hoboken resident Deborah Valenti had felt out of proportion. At 5’ 2,” she was overwhelmed by her size E breasts; she could never find clothes that fit, and she was always self-conscious — a detriment for an investment specialist who spent much of the working day one-on-one with clients. In addition, the weight on her chest caused her to snore, wreaking havoc with her sleep. Then, at 49, she found a lump in her breast; it turned out to be benign, but, she says, “it changed the way I looked at everything.” She decided to surgically address the problem that had bothered her for so long.

She woke up from the surgery feeling great, and slipped on her iPod to wait for the doctor. The only jolt she got was when he revealed her new breasts. “He said, ‘Don’t they look great?’” she remembers, but she found it hard to look past the scars. “I didn’t realize they’d be so pronounced,” she says.

Three months later, the scars have started to fade, and so have Valenti’s concerns about a body that never felt “right.” “My asthma’s better, I’ve stopped snoring, and hey — I can button my shirt!” she says.

We aren’t defined by our breasts, but no