I’ve wanted a breast augmentation since I was 14 years old, when I started to worry about how underdeveloped I was compared with my friends. Two years later I was so upset that I went to see the local GP with my mum. I explained to him how worried I was, and I asked him why I was different. He just told me to wait until I was 18, and then he’d see what he could do.
My father died eight months before my 18th birthday, and I had too much on my mind to be able to pursue it until the following year. But by that time things had only got worse: I simply didn’t feel like a real woman; all of my friends had breasts and I was ashamed of my body. I hated the way I looked undressed, and it made me incredibly depressed.
It’s not easy to qualify. From the initial GP appointment, it took a year for the NHS to agree to the surgery. During that time I had numerous meetings with doctors and psychiatrists to determine whether I would benefit from an augmentation. I found the whole process very upsetting. Explaining to the psychiatrist exactly why I wanted it done forced me to relive all the bullying that I had suffered, and the more I told her about my crippling lack of confidence and how “manly” I felt, the more I realised that this was something that I simply needed to have in order to feel normal.
Getting the surgery done privately just wasn’t an option. I was in a badly paid job, my dad had just died, and I couldn’t dream of getting the money together. It’s hard to express just how grateful I am to the NHS, because the surgery changed my life: I was put to sleep miserable, and woke up with proper, natural-looking breasts and the chance to be happy. It’s overwhelming – I’m still amazed by it today, years later.
So I am extremely concerned that Jeremy Hunt is calling for cosmetic breast augmentation to be banned on the NHS. My friends and family couldn’t believe the difference surgery made to my personality and confidence – I was finally happy in my own skin.
There are people who flaunt their vast NHS-funded breasts in the press, who make a mockery of the many people who have a very real need for these procedures, like I did. A few years after my own augmentation, my sister also wanted the procedure. She was turned down, and I hate seeing the way that this has affected her life.
Banning cosmetic surgery on the NHS will hurt more than it helps.