A wedding photographer with 38P breasts that weigh 4st is attempting to raise £8,000 for reduction surgery after being refused the treatment on the NHS because she can’t lose weight.
Laura Howes, 27, from South Shields, who is 5st 4 and weighs 22st, suffers from back pain so severe it radiates up to her jaw and she permanently has dents in her shoulders from wearing a too small bra.
Her skin is covered in cysts, cuts, friction sores and rashes that constantly bleed and become infected, in addition to fat necrosis lumps caused by bumping into things, which looks like cancer when scanned.
But to qualify for surgery on the NHS, Laura’s been told she must lose 7st, and she’s struggled to shed the weight quickly enough due to how difficult it is to exercise with her breasts, which weight 4st.
A wedding photographer with size P boobs that weigh a whopping four stone is attempting to raise £8,000 for reduction surgery after being refused the treatment on the NHS for being too heavy
Laura often opts for loose fitting clothing – but is sometimes forced to squeeze into clothes if shops don’t have her size
The photographer has been suffering for nearly two decades, having left primary school aged 11 with DD breasts.
Laura embarked on a two-year health and fitness plan – working with a dietitian and trainer to drop the pounds in 2019 – when she was initially refused NHS funding as her BMI is over 27.
But she was unable to lose the suggested seven stone weight rapidly enough due to her breasts causing her significant pain, and when lockdown began she was unable to go to the gym and her weight loss journey stopped.
Laura said: ‘Everyone says to me ‘I’d kill to have boobs like you’ and I’m like ‘no you wouldn’t’.
‘I’ve got size 36P breasts but wear a 38K bra because I can’t get ones in my size, they don’t exist in most countries.
Laura Howes, 27, from South Shields, suffers from back pain so severe it radiates up to her jaw and she permanently has dents in her shoulders from wearing a too small bra
At 5ft 4, she weighs 22st and is covered in cysts, cuts, friction sores and rashes that constantly bleed and become infected in addition to fat necrosis lumps caused by bumping into things, which looks like cancer when scanned
‘If I wanted one in my size I’d need to get a custom one but they’re £350 each.
‘The absolute worst pain I get from them tends to be the cysts and sores because they can be open wounds, because they rub so much they take forever to heal and they really hurt.
‘With my boobs being as big as they are they can get knocked when I try to squeeze through a small space and this can cause fat necrosis lumps.
‘I’ve jammed my boobs in doors before – even squeezing through a smaller space in supermarket aisles – any kind of knock and bump can result in that.
‘It’s basically injured tissue but it can form quite a hard lump that doesn’t move.
‘It does feel a lot like cancer and it looks like cancer on scans. When I didn’t know what they were that was a real worry.
‘I also suffer from aching bones from my ribs all the way up to my jaw.
‘It’s a constant dull radiating pain, I try not to take painkillers too often because I don’t want to become dependent on them.
The photographer has been suffering for nearly two decades, having left primary school aged 11 with Double D breasts
Laura, pictured, embarked on a two-year health and fitness plan – working with a dietitian and trainer to drop the pounds in 2019 – when she was initially refused NHS funding as he BMI is over 27
CAN YOU GET BREAST REDUCTION SURGERY ON THE NHS?
Breast reduction surgery is done to reduce the size and weight of a woman’s breasts, and involves removing fat, tissue and skin from the chest.
Genes, hormones and body shape and size may determine how large a woman’s breasts are – usually they are in proportion to the rest of the body but some women’s may be exceptionally large.
Whether the NHS will offer the operation may depend on where someone lives and why they want the operation.
The NHS will not usually do a breast reduction for cosmetic reasons.
However, it may be considered if a women is experiencing effects like backache, neck or shoulder pain, rashes or skin infections beneath the breasts, or psychological distress.
The NHS may also consider the size of a woman’s breasts, their weight, their age, whether they smoke, and whether other solutions have been tried.
And local funding availability also plays a role – different NHS boards around the country have different criteria so women living in some areas may be more able to get the surgery than those in others.
Source: NHS Choices
‘I do take them when it gets particularly bad, for example when I’ve had a long day wearing my bra.’
After being rejected for the surgery, Laura then visited a different doctor who claimed it would be ‘physically impossible’ for her to reach the goal and filed an extenuating circumstances letter.
However Laura was crushed to learn she’d been rejected again and says she was told there would only be a ‘small chance’ the board would reconsider if she underwent bariatric surgery.
Determined to live life to the fullest, and not simply ‘exist’ in constant pain, Laura is hoping to be able to get the operation done privately in the UK.
NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group said the CCG bases its criteria for a number of surgical procedures on the ‘best available scientific evidence’, enabling them to focus resources on people who are ‘most likely to benefit from an intervention’.
‘I have dents and blisters on my shoulders from wearing the wrong-size bra for so long and blisters from the underwiring too,’ Laura added.
Laura, who lives with 23-year-old supermarket worker boyfriend Sean Peacock, approached her GP two years ago to see if she could get a reduction on the NHS – but has been suffering with breast-related issues since she hit puberty.
Not only did she have to deal with the physical pain, but also the emotional hurt caused by bullies.
Laura said: ‘I’ve been plagued by a bad back since the age of 14 as my boobs have grown quite rapidly over the years.
‘I went straight into a B cup at the age of nine or ten and then by the time I left primary school at 11 I was already a double-D.
‘I used to get bullied for that quite a lot at school. I would have boys running around yelling ‘jugs’ at me and staring at me and it was really uncomfortable. I was a 34K by the time I left school at 16.
‘I was bullied up until the age of 14 then everyone grew up a little bit and I ended up with unwanted attention from lads, and I didn’t want that either, I would cry on my own.
‘I did have some teachers at school I opened up to a little bit about it. My art teacher gave me a lunch time pass so I could go and get my lunch first and then go up to the art room.
Laura was unable to lose the suggested seven stone weight rapidly enough due to her breasts causing her significant pain, and when lockdown began she was unable to go to the gym and her weight loss journey stopped. Pictured her 38K bra, which is five sizes too small
After initially being rejected for surgery, Laura visited a different doctor who claimed it would be ‘physically impossible’ for her to reach the goal and filed an extenuating circumstances letter. She is pictured holding up her 38K bra
Laura, pictured with author Alice Broadway, generally wears oversized clothes to not draw attention to herself
‘I would spend my breaks there and I didn’t have to be around anyone except in class, eventually my close friends joined me.’
After trying to lose weight and still struggling with the physical and emotional fall-out of having such large breasts, Laura returned to her GP.
A different doctor assessed her and Laura claims she was told that reaching a BMI of 27 would be ‘physically impossible’ unless she were to become seriously underweight.
Laura, who wears loose clothes, is pictured after a cat crawled into her jumper at a friend’s house
Laura said: ‘My boob issues got worse so I went back to see if any exceptions could be made or I could get any extra help.
‘I spoke to a different doctor and he was the one who looked at my height and my weight, he said ‘this isn’t adding up, you won’t be able to get that BMI’.
‘He said it would be physically impossible for me to ever have a BMI of 27 unless I were to become seriously underweight.
Laura is pictured in 2014 aged 20 wearing a fitted top to celebrate her brother’s graduation
‘He put in an extenuating circumstances form for me and I was rejected.
‘It was crushing getting that call saying ‘no’, the second the doctor hung up I just let it all out’.
After being knocked back twice Laura, who is forced to squeeze into size 26 tops or XL men’s T-shirts, has decided to take matters into her own hands and is fundraising to get surgery done privately.
Laura said: ‘A friend mentioned the idea of a GoFundMe page a year ago to fund a custom bra for me.
‘At the time I was like “no, it’ll be fine” but then after that phone call saying “no” I decided to go ahead.
‘I looked at a few local cosmetic hospitals that did breast reductions and they all range between £7,000 and £8,000.
Laura is pictured at school where she attracted unwanted attention from bullies and leering men
Laura, who lives with 23-year-old supermarket worker boyfriend Sean Peacock (pictured togetehr) approached her GP two years ago to see if she could get a reduction on the NHS – but has been suffering with breast-related issues since she hit puberty
‘It’s absolutely ridiculous that so many people have donated. One lady donated and messaged me to say her daughter had big boobs as well, she knows the issues I’m going through and was really sympathetic and supportive.
‘It’s really heartwarming that people are out there willing to donate, it’s really nice.
‘I’m not fussed what size I go down to as long as I can buy a bra in a shop, that’s all I want out of life at the moment.
Laura is pictured with her friend Beth and brother James, she often finds it impossible to go out due to her pain
Laura is pictured in 2016, aged 22, celebrating her graduation in a loose fitting dress
‘Nowadays you can find up to a G cup quite easily and if you go online you can find K cups too.
‘It would be the biggest relief physically, mentally and emotionally.
‘I would just be able to live life rather than just existing like I am now, it would be a life-changing procedure.
‘At the moment I can’t really do much. I don’t like going outside because if I do I get stared at and I have to put a bra on and it hurts so I mostly just stay inside when I can.’
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.
Laura is pictured wearing a tight band T-shirt, although she says she prefers baggy clothing
‘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.’