Corrie Tyrie, 49, lives in Kent with her husband, and has two children aged 16 and 24. After struggling with acute back and neck pain, she decided to have breast reduction surgery last year and says having smaller breasts has transformed her self-confidence.
Words: Fiona Cowood
I was recently looking back through some old photos and I couldn’t help noticing two things: firstly, how rarely I’ve let myself be photographed over the years, and secondly, how I would always stand on the edge of a group, leaning in, trying to make myself as small as possible.
It’s a habit I’ve had ever since I hit puberty. I was a late developer but from the age of 15, I was acutely aware of my 30E bust. It may sound like an exaggeration but having big boobs has affected almost every area of my life – from relationships through to my self-esteem.
Lewd comments from strangers
I’d always enjoyed hockey and running at school but as soon as I matured, that kind of physical exercise no longer felt possible. I have quite a narrow frame so I quickly learnt how to hide my bust with baggy, size 14 jumpers but even then, I was often teased on account of my ‘size’.
They were inane comments from teenage boys but when you’re going through puberty and feeling vulnerable, it’s easy for them to get under your skin. As I got older, I’d get comments from random men on the street or in pubs – it was no doubt all harmless banter to them but when that becomes a constant backdrop to your daily life, you absorb it.
I found myself questioning whether men genuinely liked me for 'me' or were just interested in my 'assets'
In my 20s I went into nursing and if anything, that only confirmed the stereotype – now I was the ‘busty blonde nurse’, firmly in the ‘Carry On’ mould. One year, I fell ill with pneumonia and had to have a chest X-ray at the hospital where I worked as an A&E nurse. The registrar and junior doctor were looking at my X-ray and I heard the doctor say, “Blimey, she hides them well”.
He was mortified when he realised I was standing right behind him but it was typical of the kind of comments that often get slung around when you have large breasts. Whenever men were interested in me romantically, I found myself questioning whether they genuinely liked me for ‘me’ – or if they were just interested in my ‘assets’.
Back and neck pain
Happily, I met my husband in 2006, and we went on to get married in 2012. Having had two children, I found I was carrying a little bit more weight and as I hit my 40s and the menopause, my boobs reached a GG cup. By then I was a pro at shopping for my shape – everything had to have a V-neck and I avoided dresses, which never seemed to sit right.
The thought of having a breast reduction would occasionally pop into my mind but with surgery costing between £5,000 and £10,000, I never gave it serious consideration. Any spare money we had went towards family holidays and, busy with work and raising our family, the years just seemed to slip by.
But then, a couple of years ago, I started suffering badly with neck pain. Back pain was something I’d learned to live with – like many nurses, it had developed from too many years spent lifting patients. But the neck pain was new and it was getting hard to ignore. I was taking painkillers most days, and by the end of a shift, I often felt wrecked.
By then I was working in private nursing and I’d often look after patients having breast augmentations and reductions on a daily basis. I got to see what the procedure involved and how patients recovered, and the idea of having it done myself began to lodge more firmly in my mind.
During a chest X-ray, I overhead the doctor say, 'Blimey!' – he was mortified when he realised I was standing right behind him
I raised it with my husband, and he was supportive – he always knew that I didn’t enjoy being top-heavy. So when I got a tax rebate and a bit of money from my dad, I decided to pool it and put it towards the operation.
I’ve always been quite frugal and I’ve always put my family first but for the first time, I thought ‘Sod it – I’m doing something for me’. I didn’t have any guarantee that the surgery would alleviate my neck pain but I thought it was worth a shot – and I couldn’t wait to have a bust that was more in line with my natural body shape.
Removing 1kg of weight from bust
I went ahead with the operation in June last year, following two consultations in which the surgeon and I discussed the procedure and how small I wanted to go. My job meant that I knew what was involved and as the day approached, I didn’t feel nervous – more excited that the thing I’d thought about for years was finally about to happen.
My surgery was carried out by Marc Pacifico, President of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS). I had the operation under general anaesthetic and was discharged the same day to recover at home, where I was able to tend to the dressings myself.
I felt nauseous from the anaesthetic and sore from the operation but immediately I was struck by how much lighter I felt – the surgeon had removed almost 1kg of weight and the neck pain had completely disappeared.
After surgery, I was immediately struck by how much lighter I felt
After a couple of weeks, I had my stitches removed and returned to work, and at six weeks, I felt back to normal – so much so that I decided to hit Bluewater and finally go shopping for a long-awaited, new underwear collection. (With hindsight, six weeks was probably a bit too soon – try and wait another month for things to settle if you can.)
I was left with a horizontal scar underneath my breasts and two ‘lollipop’ scars that travel up each breast to the nipple. The surgery reduced me to a DD cup – slightly larger than I’d have liked – but my surgeon advised that it would have been risky for him to remove any more tissue.
The surgery has been life-changing. On a basic level, it’s a joy to be able to go into any shop and buy a bra or a swimsuit off the peg – for years I’ve had to pay out for expensive underwear. So many new avenues for fashion and clothing have opened up to me – it’s a revelation to suddenly be able to shop for tight-fitting clothes, roll-neck tops and spaghetti-strap dresses.
When people talk to me now, their eyes don't immediately flick to my chest
But on a deeper level, I feel so much more comfortable in my own skin. I’ve been told that my posture’s changed – that I carry myself differently, more openly. When people talk to me, their eyes don’t flick to my chest. All anyone wants is to be treated equally and fairly, and I finally feel like people don’t have a reason to make assumptions about me. I feel more seen.
I’m going to be 50 soon and we’re going on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday to Jamaica with two of my best friends and all our families. Usually, I spend holidays wearing a large T-shirt over my swimsuit but for the first time in my life, I’m actually looking forward to going bikini shopping.
Part of me wishes that I had taken the plunge and had the reduction earlier but perhaps I wouldn’t have appreciated the results as much as I do now. There’s something about my new body and reaching this milestone birthday that makes me feel liberated – I no longer feel judged.
With my new body... I feel liberated and I no longer feel judged
Now, when someone pulls out their phone to take a picture, I don’t automatically retreat to the background and cross my arms. Old habits are hard to break but I’m learning to take up space in the world again and I’m loving it more than I ever imagined.
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