After years of large, heavy breasts making her life difficult, Mary Ann Anderson decided to have breast reduction surgery. Picture: Courtesy of Mary Ann Anderson

Washington – As far back as I can remember, I have always had big breasts.

Even as a child, I never had a so-called training bra, as I jumped straight from wearing a little girl’s T-shirt to a C-cup when I was 13 or 14 years old. I didn’t merely bud but bloomed out entirely over the years, until my cups runneth and spilleth over into a 42-DDD.

I’ve always been self-conscious and embarrassed about my breasts, especially after the jokes from silly, immature boys started in high school. I’ve had back, shoulder and neck issues from early on and later developed grooves in my shoulders from bra straps plowing into my skin.

My mother wasn’t overly large, and both of my sisters were almost flapjack-flat. I envied them and the way their clothes fit and the fact that they never bounced around all over creation like I did.

Mona, my younger sister – who died years ago in a car accident when an underage drunk driver hit her – was 6 feet tall, model-thin, alway tan – and a perfect, to my mind, A-cup.

My older sister, who passed away from an accidental drug overdose four years later, was a pleasing B-cup.

Once I hit double-D’s, in my 20s, I began sleeping in a sports bra every night, even though I wasn’t athletic. Running – or really any sport – was out of the question: Even with a good sports bra, it was awkward and painful.

I’ve caught both men and women staring at my chest, snickering such classy things as: “Wouldja look at that rack!” or “Woo-eee, girl, where’d you get them thangs?”

I’ve always been self-conscious about my “rack,” and it’s embarrassing to buy bras that big. I love pretty lingerie and cute, lacy bras, but in the world of big boobs, there are no such things. When I went for my last fitting and discovered that the triple-D bras were getting too small for me, I decided it was time to take action.

Ever since I grew from a D to a DD and then to DDD, I’ve wanted a breast reduction, down to a more respectful B or even an A.

To get the process under way, last year I contacted my health insurer, which required that I be referred to a specialist by my gynecologist.

The first appointment with plastic surgeon Sonya Merriman went well, even though I was embarrassed to have someone hold up my breasts to weigh them. Because of their heaviness, Merriman pronounced that I was an excellent candidate for the surgery, but she couldn’t give me exactly what I wanted, which were breasts small enough to fit an A-cup. I just wanted to be able to see my toes again.

“I can make you a large B or small C,” she explained, noting my height of 5 feet, 9 inches and large frame. “You really don’t want to go any smaller than that.”

I was then - as now - overweight by about 40 to 50 pounds (about 18 to 22kg) and I could see her point. No matter the size of the rest of me, though - and I’ve been both skinny and, as one cousin called me, hefty - my breasts have always been disproportionately huge.

When I asked her how long I would be in the hospital, I was surprised to discover that such a major undertaking – being under anesthesia and deeply cut – is outpatient surgery. Hmmm. It seemed that I could go in one morning with pendulous knockers that have often been compared to those of a milk cow and walk out the same afternoon with breasts as perky as they were when I was a teenager. I liked that.

Merriman does both breast augmentations and reductions, so I asked her which group was happier, the new haves or the new have-nots.

“The breast reductions are across-the-board happy,” she said. “They look better and feel better and are some of the happiest patients plastic surgeons have.”

Over the past three decades, I’ve had countless mammograms and subsequent biopsies because of suspicious masses in my breasts but, thank the Lord, I’ve never been diagnosed with cancer. I told Merriman as much, asking her if the reduction would lessen any chances of getting cancer.

“There have been a couple of studies that show a lower risk of breast cancer after breast reduction, but it is not typically recommended as a way to reduce breast cancer risk,” she said. Then she added, “It does make self-exam and mammograms easier because there is less breast tissue to examine.”

She said that her youngest breast-reduction patient was 15 and she had had a few in their 70s, with the typical patient in her 30s to 40s. That age group is composed heavily of mothers who had lost elasticity because of having children or simply because medical or aesthetic conditions have worsened with age.

At my age of 55, I fell into the group who had simply had enough of gigantic bras, nonstop shoulder and neck pain, and the deepening grooves in their shoulders. Because of the medical issues, my insurer was willing to cover the surgery. (If breast reduction is done solely for cosmetic reasons, insurance companies usually won’t cover it.)

I set the date for the surgery and happily anticipated the change. My husband, Roy, was 100 percent supportive of my decision.

Maybe three or four nights before the procedure, though, I shot straight up out of a sound sleep in a state of panic. Was I making the right decision? Would it hurt? What if something went wrong and I had to lose my breasts entirely?

I turned on the light and looked down at my matronly bosom. No matter what, I was going through with the surgery. I just didn’t want to look like that any longer.

On the morning of the surgery, I wasn’t scared, just anxious. At the hospital, a nurse gave me what she termed “a double dose of crazy medicine” and within moments the anxiety was replaced by lightheadedness and giddiness. As I was wheeled into the operating room, I lifted the top of my gown, looked down and said aloud to my chest, “Goodbye, girls. We’ve had some grand adventures, but now it’s time for you to go.”

A few hours later, I awoke in recovery and was soon wheeled back into my room. The first thing I saw was a beautiful, wonderful sight, despite the incisions, bruises and many stitches: I had small breasts for the first time since I was a teenager.

I had made the right decision. Immediately - and I really mean immediately - I felt younger and prettier, even though my breasts were swollen and bruised, the entirety of the left one almost the exact color of an eggplant.

There were scars, of course. But I did not have much pain, only discomfort. For the first few days, my breasts were wrapped tightly with a compression-type binding, so tightly that I looked nearly flat-chested; after that, they were wrapped in gauze.

My breasts were hard, but Merriman assured me they would soften over time.

Two weeks later, most of the stitches were removed, though some internal ones would dissolve on their own over time.

Five months have passed since the surgery, and all the swelling and bandages are gone. At my first bra fitting, I was overjoyed when the fitter pronounced that my size was a nice C-cup. I picked out a truly feminine bra, all fuchsia and black and trimmed in plenty of lace. I nearly cried with joy.

As the scars continue to fade and the sensation begins to return to normal, I’ve been inspired to work on losing weight and toning my figure in proportion to my breasts.

Best of all, I’m more comfortable with myself, especially around other people. And in public no one stares at my chest anymore. That is almost worth the surgery itself.

* Anderson is a travel and nature writer.