A WOMAN whose size P boobs – the “biggest doctors had ever seen” – can finally live a normal life after surgery to remove 21 cup sizes.
Laura Howes’ chest weighed a whopping four stone and rested on the dining room table when she ate.
The 28-year-old endured years of severe back pain, aching joints, sciatica and permanent dents in her shoulders from where she had to squeeze her 36P breasts into the largest bras sold – 38K.
Laura, only 5ft 4in, dealt with cysts, cuts, friction sores and rashes that constantly bled and became infected.
She was tormented by bullies through school from the age of 14 and got "unwanted attention" from men.
Now, after having 21lbs of breast tissue sliced off, Laura is able to stand and sit comfortably, and shower without having to “swing” her boobs out of the way.
The wedding photographer, from South Shields, Tyne and Wear, said: "Having the surgery was a physical and emotional weight off my chest.
"When I was in recovery and sat up I looked down and there was no boob on my lap, that was really nice.
"Before the operation I had sciatica but afterwards it was completely gone, I'm so glad about that.
"The vast majority of the boob tissue where I had cysts has been chopped off.
"Now I can stand up straight and I can sit normally too. I can also now sit a sensible closeness to the dining table.
"My boobs don't rest on the dining table anymore and they don't pull the tablecloth towards me when we're playing board games and I have to reach over to move something.
"When I shower I don't have to swing my boobs out of the way anymore.
"Before the surgery I was so miserable and beat myself up about things I couldn't do and the way I looked all the time.”
Laura, who lives with 23-year-old supermarket worker boyfriend Sean Peacock, claims she was refused a boob reduction on the NHS.
When she first saw her GP two years ago she was told she did not meet the criteria of having a BMI of 27.
Local clinical commissioning groups decide whose breast reduction surgery to fund based on weight, age, psychological distress and inability to exercise among other things, leaving many missing out.
Laura embarked on a two-year health and fitness plan with the help of a PT and dietician.
But she was unable to shift the weight because her huge breasts made exercise too painful, and the closure of gyms during the Covid pandemic only made it harder.
At her wits end, Laura, who weighed 22st, visited a different sympathetic doctor who she claims calculated it would be “physically impossible” for her to reach the BMI goal.
They filed an extenuating circumstances letter, but Laura was crushed when she was rejected a second time and told she’d need to get bariatric surgery.
Determined to live life to the fullest, and not simply “exist” in constant pain, Laura set up a fundraising page to get the operation done privately in the UK.
She crowdfund £8,000 to go under the knife privately on October 21.
Laura said: "I felt really overwhelmed in a really nice way when I reached my fundraising target. People are really nice. I'm so thankful, I wouldn't be here in this position without them."
The surgeon needed a nurse to help him hold Laura’s breasts in place while drawing on pre-op markings in pen.
Laura said: "The surgeon who did my operation said I'd got the biggest boobs he'd ever seen.
“He told me I'm not obese – something I've been told my entire life – but it was just boob.
"I felt validated when he said that as I used to think 'am I exaggerating? Am I being too dramatic?'"
Laura dropped from a P cup to a size E overnight, and said: "I've lost a stone and a half just of boob, it's really weird.
"I've read a lot of information online that says 'patients are satisfied with dropping two or three cup sizes' – I dropped 21 so I deserve some bragging rights.”
Still tender while recovering from the op, Laura said it's “the best decision she ever made” and is now planning her future.
She said: "Having this operation is the best decision I've ever made – it's been life-changing.
"I finally get to start being myself and living a normal, active life and I can't wait to see what the rest of my life will bring."
"I can also go for gentle jogs now and have a dream of completing a Disneyland marathon in fancy dress.
"My boobs should be small enough that I can buy a sports bra that fits and will hold them in place instead of hurting me."
Laura, who used to despise clothes shopping, now can't wait to buy a wardrobe that fits her new slimmer frame.
She said: "I usually hate shopping and would order multiple sizes from online stores and send items back if they didn't fit.
"I just really want to go for a proper bra fitting and get something little, pretty, comfy and that fits.
"Now I've no need to wear a 38K bra that costs £50. Even 'expensive' 36E bras are £30 – but I can also get three for a tenner in Asda."
Laura said she hopes her story serves as inspiration for other women who find themselves in a similar situation she did earlier this year – urging them not to be afraid to ask for help.
Laura said: "My advice to anyone in a similar situation is to just keep going. I would encourage people to keep trying the NHS [route] as they are fantastic.
"Don't be scared to ask for help. It's nothing to be ashamed of, it's not the easy way out and you're not a bad person – people do want to help."
An NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group spokesman said: "We are unable to comment on individual patients, but we can confirm that the CCG bases its criteria for a number of surgical procedures on the best available scientific evidence.
"This enables us to focus our resources on people who are most likely to benefit from an intervention, and to avoid interventions when they are likely to be ineffective, or worse still dangerous.
"We recognise that there are occasionally situations that do not fit the usual criteria, and individual funding requests can be made for such exceptional situations.
"In cases where BMI is an inappropriate way to judge whether an individual has reached optimum lean body weight, alternative validated measurements can be provided to support such requests.
"We advise that anyone in a similar situation should continue to work with their GP."
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