Building My Collection of Scars (also various spots of TMI)

July 15, 2010

Back in my previous life – when I was married to the Ex, and the girls were wee – I lost a good bit of weight.  I brought myself from a size 12/14 to a size 8, and was pretty happy with the results.  (Soon afterward, when my life went to hell in a handbasket, I lost even more weight, and found myself at a size 4 -6.  I liked that, too, but it turns out I have a hard time maintaining that weight when I’m not depressed and/or going crazy, like I was back then.)

Mostly happy with the results.

Even though I was well within my ideal weight range, I had these strange lumps under my arm that protruded and made me look a lot heavier than I was when I had on a tank top or bathing suit.  When they refused to go away, even with the later less healthy weight loss, I brought them up at a doctor’s appointment.   The doctor was super helpful and kind:

That’s just fat.

I was very embarrassed, and didn’t bring them up for a while.

Then, while in law school, I detected a  lump in one of my breasts.  I was thrilled to have to use a student’s health plan/services for something like exploring a lump in my breast, let me tell you.  They probably weren’t that thrilled, either, to be dealing with someone over the age of 35 complaining of a sore lump in her breast.  They were used to 19 year olds hobbling in after turning their ankles on the basketball court.  Or some other college-age type injury. Because they promptly sent me to a breast clinic (and being in the Boston area with world-class hospitals, it wasn’t a shabby one).

The breast clinic was concerned about the spot on my breast, and sent me for a mammogram.

The mammogram results caused more concern, so they sent me for an ultrasound.

Through all of that, I mentioned the lumps in my armpits.  I said, “this is odd, it never goes away, and it gets sore with my period.”  They told me it was obviously breast tissue, that it happens to some people, especially after pregnancy and nursing.  I asked if I could get it removed.

“Oh, that’s plastic surgery.  Insurance doesn’t cover it.  You’ll have to pay out of pocket.”

So I let it go (because I was a law student).

And the breast-thing ended up being nothing (phew).

But then the lumps under my arms continued to grow.  I’d already moved from wearing only certain sleeveless shirts to never wearing sleeveless shirts, and then even some short sleeve and cap sleeve shirts stopped working for me, because of these lumpy masses under my arms.

I really hate it.  It makes me feel like crap about myself, kept me from wearing certain things, and truly is uncomfortable all of the time, but especially during my period and when I wear certain bras.  Once I started my job, I had fantasies (plans?) about using any bonuses I may get to pay for this surgery out of pocket.

But then in the year after I started my job with its fancy lawyer-insurance, I went for an annual check up.  I again brought up the under-arm lumps/breast tissue, complaining.  The doctor was pretty dismissive and said “well, it’s really fine.”  I said “but they get sore when I have my period!”  Hoping to find a way for it to be “medically necessary” for having them removed.  She rolled her eyes at me.

And then any bonuses I got were used for the girls’ summer camps and other bills that we tend to collect during the year.  And my weight wasn’t where I wanted it, and so it felt futile to do something like surgery to improve my appearance when I would still hate my appearance.

And then I needed foot surgery, because of bone spurs and bone fragments floating around, and so, I wasn’t thinking about this other thing.

Early this year, I went to a new gynecologist to get my IUD replaced.  I pointed it out to her – still holding out hope that someone would find this deformation as miserable as I did, and make the insurance pay to have them removed.  She said, “you should ahve these removed.  A mammogram cannot scan that, and it must be uncomfortable.  Your insurance will pay for that.  Here’s a referral.”


So in late March of this year, I went to a plastic surgeon, and he agreed that they should be removed, and was confident that my insurance would pay.  I was very relieved, and scheduled the surgery for July, when the girls would be in the Middle of the Country, and work should be calm.

And this was part of the reason for my weight loss push.  The smaller I am, the smaller the scars under my arms will be.  When I was at the doctor (25 pounds heavier than I am now), he anticipated 4 inch scars running along my underarm (horizontal).  Not tiny.

Sometime in late May, my surgeon’s assistant called me to say that she submitted the information to my insurance for pre-approval.  They responded saying “pre-approval is not required for this procedure.”  But did not say that they would cover it.  She wanted me to sign a waiver promising to pay if the insurance company refused after the surgery.  (Uh, no!)

I called my insurance company about a week later to try and figure out what it meant.  They said they needed the procedure code, and I should have my doctor call.  The (very cooperative and helpful) doctor’s office re-submitted everything, and then the doctor called.

On the first Friday of my two weeks off, the doctor’s office called me to say that the insurance company responded that my surgery would NOT be covered.

I spent a lot of time during my second week of vacation on the phone with the doctor and the insurance company.  I was trying to figure out what was needed for a reconsideration.  I mean, seriously.  I am not supposed to have a boob under my arm.  It’s supposed to be on MY BOOB.  (I do not have the confidence to post pictures of my own self to show what I am talking about, but here is a photo that I found on the internets that pretty accurately shows what I’m talking about.)

The problem was that the insurance categorized it as a breast reduction surgery.  My insurance covers breast reduction surgery, but only if you meet certain medical criteria.  And I do not.  Because my boobs aren’t 50% of my body, and whatever else is required (bent spine?) to justify having your breasts (not your underarms) reduced.  (The real term is either “ancillary” or “accessory breast tissue in the axilla.”)  My breasts are FINE.  They’re a good size, if not a little saggy (thanks a lot, kids).

Both the doctor’s office and I kept calling the insurance company saying, “this is not a breast reduction surgery!”   The insurance people that I spoke with were very nice, and very “let’s find the solution!” oriented.  They were not throwing up brick walls, they were not inflexible.  They gave us the phone number of the physician on staff who denied coverage, for my doctor to call and talk through the situation.  But still.  At this point, it had been two weeks, and the surgery was just over a week away.  I assumed that I was going to end up having to pursue this for much longer than the time I had left.  I kept calling my doctor’s office to see if they made the call yet, but I kept being told that the doctor didn’t have time between patients and before the insurance company’s day was over.  (My doctor’s office had called me with updates on more than one occasion at 7:15 p.m., so I wasn’t feeling pissy about the “lack of time” during insurance business hours.)

But yesterday, while trying to figure out whether I should return my True Blood (Season 2) DVDs to Netflix, because I was too scared sleeping alone in the house to watch them while WD is away, I thought “if I were having my surgery, I could watch them post-op!” And it occurred to me that I still hadn’t gotten an update.

“Oh!  I was just going to call you!  I have good news!”

The doctor managed to convince the insurance company that it should be covered.

One week from today, I am on the road to being able to wear the cute shirts (like this, or this) and dresses (like this, or this) that I have looked at longingly for the past …. 14 years.  And bathing suits!  I can wear bathing suits!

I am told that post-op should be easy enough.  It will be easier than it was when I had my feet operated on.  (Because I do not walk on my underarms.)  I was stuck in the house for most of 2 weeks when I had my foot surgery, because I couldn’t wear normal shoes.  But this time, I will be almost back to normal after 3 days.  I was told it would be about 2 weeks before I can start doing upper body exercise and weight lifting, but that I should be able to at least walk/jog well before that.

I think I am excited.  I hope there are no complications.



  1. Good luck! I’m glad you pushed and the insurance is covering it. If it makes you feel any better, I have breast tissue under my arms, too–but definitely not to the extent shown in the picture you linked.

  2. […] had a doctor’s appointment on Friday morning.  The results of this procedure weren’t perfect, and I’d been putting off the repair.  It wasn’t supposed to be […]

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