(Left) Amber on a night out before surgery (Right) Amber after the reduction (Pictures: PA Real Life/Alex Fobbester)
A law student who crowdfunded a private operation to reduce her 34J breasts to a 32D – after being turned down by the NHS – says she was warned she might need a wheelchair without surgery.
Amber Roach, who is a petite 5ft 3in, had 1.6kg of breast tissue removed in a two-and-a-half hour procedure in November. But the 21-year-old has been on a long journey to get to this point.
‘I look at myself side-on in the mirror now and my boobs actually fit in the reflection, not 10 metres across the room. It is so different,’ says Amber, who is from Bushey, Hertfordshire,
‘I got a sports bra from my sister, Robyn, for Christmas and went for a short run. Not getting a black eye was amazing.
‘One of the things I really want to do in 2021, if the pandemic is over, is to go backpacking – I 100% wouldn’t have been able to do that before. It was already like carrying a backpack on my front.’
Before surgery, Amber would be accused of dressing ‘inappropriately’ (Picture: PA Real Life)
Amber decided to crowdfund with a £5,000 target to pay for a breast reduction operation, instead of asking for presents for the money.
She hit her jackpot within a fortnight, largely thanks to receiving £2,500 from a single donor, who wishes to stay anonymous.
Top cosmetic surgeon Dr Reza Alamouti heard of Amber’s plight and waived his usual fee, so the £5,000 she raised was enough to pay for her to have the procedure at The London Welbeck Hospital in Marylebone, central London.
The procedure would normally have cost her £10,000, as she needed a breast reduction, a breast lift and liposuction.
‘At the time, I thought – it’s my 21st, I don’t want any presents, all I want is money for this reduction. That’s the best present I could have.’
For years, Amber’s disproportionately large breasts had hampered her life.
They became too heavy and cumbersome for her to continue playing sport, go on one-mile runs or even work out in the gym.
Even simple household chores, like loading the dishwasher, became back-breaking labour.
Constantly aware of her breasts attracting unwelcome attention and making her clumsy, they started affecting her confidence and self-worth.
Amber (right) before surgery on a night out (Picture: PA Real Life)
Now a size eight on the top half, she said: ‘I used to be really angry and blame my boobs for not being able to do certain things. They were like the central force behind all my other issues.
‘I wallowed in finding myself unattractive and now my boobs have gone, it is such a weight off my shoulders – physically and mentally.’
Amber was just 14 when she first noticed her then DD boobs setting her apart from her classmates at Queens’ School in Bushey.
They attracted attention from the boys, which led to other girls labelling her a ‘flirt,’ which she found very upsetting.
A netball fan, she even recalled having her chest bandaged down before a match, after her sports bra failed to take the strain.
‘I used to get the most ridiculous questions from classmates like, “Do you stuff tissue down your bra?” or “are they real?” and “have you had them done?”
‘What parent would let their 14-year-old get a boob job? As if I would have had surgery at that age.’
With her boobs an even bigger 34G by the time she joined the sixth form, Amber became incredibly self-conscious.
‘I just remember them looking ridiculous – cartoonish, like Jessica Rabbit,’ she says.
‘Teachers would tell me off for dressing inappropriately, when all I’d have on was a turtleneck, but it would be tight.
‘Other girls would wear the same thing and not get told off. I just felt like anything I wore was more sexualised than other students.’
Amber, who has received physiotherapy since she was 14 because of back pain from her breasts, said it became so bad that she asked her GP for a reduction on the NHS.
But she was told to wait until she was 18, when she was again refused, despite her boobs being a J cup by that point.
‘I opened the NHS letter saying no and just burst out crying,’ she said.
When she moved to study law at the University of Leeds, Amber said she felt judged by her large breasts, rather than by her brains or personality.
‘It was like having big boobs was an invitation for both sexes to touch me, too,’ she says.
‘That’s why I always saw them so negatively, because they brought the wrong attention.
‘I used to put my phone in my bra and would always get people saying, “watch out you don’t lose it down there!” I’d laugh along with them, but it was really not funny.’
As well as unwanted attention from men on nights out, Amber also had to deal with mean comments from women.
‘Women would stare and say, “Jesus Christ, look at those boobs.” They were clearly almost freakish.’
When six months ago, Amber could not get out of bed for a month, because of back pain caused by the weight of her breasts – forcing her to take prescribed painkillers like codeine – and her third NHS referral for a reduction was postponed due to Covid-19, she finally took matters into her own hands.
Amber is now a 32D after the surgery (Picture: PA RealLife/Alex Fobbester)
‘I had been told by my physiotherapist that if I didn’t carry on doing the Pilates exercises she had taught me, I might end up in a wheelchair or have severe issues in middle age because my spine could crumble,’ she says.
So, in September, she launched her GoFundMe page.
A trickle of donations from family and friends became a flood when Amber’s story was spotted by the media and she hit her £5,000 target in two weeks – with £2,500 coming from a single donor.
‘He told me he had a similar issue, where he needed surgery. It was the mental health aspect of my GoFundMe that appealed to him. He didn’t want mine to get as bad as his did,’ she says.
And when Harley Street plastic surgeon Dr Alamouti, director of New You, offered his services for free, she finally saw a light at the end of the tunnel.
During the two-and-a-half hour operation, he removed 1.6kg of breast tissue and moved Amber’s nipples 15cm, leaving anchor shaped scars on her chest that will fade over the next 18 months – but will not disappear.
Pleased with the resulting symmetry of her breasts and the fact both her nipples had survived the op, with close to full sensation, he deemed the procedure a success.
‘When I went to the toilet for the first time, I looked in the mirror and thought, “oh my gosh, where have they gone?”
‘Straight out of surgery, my breasts were tight and looked smaller than they are now.’
Amber was required to wear a surgical bra for six weeks, and she could not do any heavy-lifting for a month after the operation.
But Amber is now looking forward to buying affordable, pretty underwear and bikinis in Primark, rather than shopping at more expensive, specialist websites.
Amber – who deferred the first term of her second year of university to have the surgery – now feels more confident about achieving her goal to become a lawyer, without her breasts holding her back.
‘I really had reached the end of the road. My breasts were making me unhappy and they were impacting on my physical health,’ says Amber.
‘I am incredibly grateful to the people who made my surgery possible, but I’ve said to many girls on social media not to feel under pressure to have a boob reduction. Unless it is affecting their health, they should just learn to love them.’
Dr Alamouti said he had seen a rise in the number of teenagers and younger women having breast reduction procedures.
But he advises young women to first speak to their GP to see if they qualify for a reduction on the NHS, to see a physiotherapist to make sure they have a properly fitted bra and to research surgeons properly before deciding to go private.
‘I know how difficult and debilitating very large breasts can be,’ he says.
‘The issue isn’t just the physical problems, but the psychological distress. Having this operation can change lives for people like Amber.’
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