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Debbie needs to offload pain

Debbie Paardekooper, with daughters Emmie (8 months) and Aiya (3), is raising funds for breast reduction surgery via Givealittle. PHOTO/ERIN KAVANAGH-HALL

$10k needed for life-changing operation

Erin Kavanagh-Hall
[email protected]

Debbie Paardekooper needs to get something off her chest – 1.6kg of breast tissue, to be precise.

To help restore her quality of life, the Carterton woman is awaiting bilateral breast reduction surgery – and has turned to crowdfunding to raise the $10,000 needed towards the procedure.

Debbie, 29, wears a 14H bra – the “H”, she jokes, stands for “horribly painful”.

Since her youth, Debbie has lived with chronic, debilitating back and neck pain – with the weight of her chest pulling her body forward, placing strain on her ligaments, muscles and spine.

The tension in her back has also led to severe migraines, which have landed her in hospital with “stroke-like symptoms”.

Doubtful she will be able to have her breast reduction in the public health system, Debbie has enlisted the help of a Waikato-based specialist — and has set up a Givealittle page to help fund her surgery, as well as travel and accommodation costs.

On the page, she addresses the situation with wry humour: “My back is buggered, my shoulders are sore, my neck is knackered, my spine is shoddy, my nipples are nearing my knees, and my boobs are just far too big.”

Behind her witty turns of phrase, Debbie is physically and emotionally exhausted: she struggles with body dysmorphia, even light exercise can bring on “horrific pain”, and she longs to be able to “run around” with her two small daughters.

While fundraising for her surgery, she hopes to raise awareness of the impact large breasts can have on women’s health – in an image-obsessed world where “bigger is better”.

“As a society, we tend to envy women with big boobs – but they’re not all they’re cracked up to be,” she said.

“I’m in pain pretty much every day – and it’s absolutely affected my mental health.

“It’s got to the point where bending down to pick up my kids is difficult. I can’t run around and play with them as much as I’d like.

“They’ll ask me to jump on the trampoline with them, and I’ll only be able to last a couple of seconds. I want to be able to enjoy this time with them before they go to school.

“At the moment, my boobs are a burden – and I just want them gone.”

Debbie at age 18, with parents Kaye and Luke. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Debbie, who grew up in Lower Hutt, said she was an early developer – and, by Year 6, was already wearing a bra when her classmates were first learning about puberty.

As a teenager, she felt uncomfortable in her body – and, on many occasions, received unwanted attention and advances.

“I remember being 14 and being hit on by a 30-year-old at my sister’s wedding.

“Women with larger breasts are often overly sexualised – and when you’re a young person, you’re instantly seen as more mature.

“I was a child – in a woman’s body.”

Despite several fluctuations in her weight over the years, her chest “kept expanding” – even at a slight size 10, she wore an E cup bra.

After having her first baby, she went up to a 14G – and her chest swelled to a H cup after her second daughter was born.

“Even after I stopped breastfeeding, they didn’t shrink.”

To help her back pain, she has tried visiting chiropractors, acupuncturists and osteopaths, doing yoga, lying on shakti mats, and using medicinal marijuana – with little success.

She was prescribed codeine after a car accident in 2010, and tramadol a couple of years later after developing a stomach ulcer, which she found eased the pain momentarily.

“But it got to a point where I needed the drugs to function.

“So now all I can do is avoid anything that exacerbates the pain.

“Even after a short walk around the block, the pain is horrific.”

Debbie said she still receives unwanted attention from strangers, and often wears baggy clothes to conceal her shape.

“I’ll be out shopping, and I’ll have women say ‘oh, you’re so lucky, I wish I had what you had.’

“It’s well-meaning – but very uncomfortable.

“Even if I’m wearing something perfectly normal, like a V-neck top, someone will comment on my cleavage.”

After seeing a Twitter post by radio host Jay-Jay Feeney about pursuing her own breast reduction, Debbie was spurred to contact her GP, who made a referral to Wairarapa Hospital.

She has since been referred to Hutt Hospital (as Wairarapa Hospital does not have the resources available) – but she has been warned it’s unlikely she will be treated under the public system.

“You basically need to have open gaping wounds from your bra before you’ll be accepted by a public hospital.

“If I am accepted, it could be a three to four year wait.”

In July, she has an appointment with Hamilton plastic surgeon Winston McEwan to discuss the possibility of surgery – which will cost around $9000.

It’s estimated she will need about 800g of tissue removed from each breast.

“That’s quite a hefty amount. I’ll be down to about a C or a D cup.”

Debbie said friends and whanau have been very supportive of her journey – though some have been incredulous at her decision.

“Some people have asked me if my partner will be disappointed that my boobs won’t be as big.

“Me taking care of my health and making decisions about my body has nothing to do with him.

“This is not about appearance or vanity – it’s not a cosmetic procedure. People don’t get breast reductions to look good – they do it to feel better.”

  • To support Debbie, go to https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/bye-bye-boobies-ta-ta-tatas-new-knockers-needed.

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