I plan to make this post in two parts: pre-op and post-op. This is obviously the first part of my post and so I will fill you all in on what has occured leading up to this point.
My breasts first appeared when I was about 13 years old. I remember this because I recall first trying to hide them at a school function (the details of which I will not get into) when I was in 8th grade. I used tape, but soon realized that tape is not really a practical solution for this problem.
My parents (being the wise people that they are) kept books in the house regarding bodily development during puberty. I was never encouraged to read them, but they were there if I wanted them, and boy, was I ever a curious child. I read and read, and soon found out about a condition which is clinically termed "breast-knots." However, according to the description, what I had was not breast knots. As far as I know, I never had this condition. My brother did, though.
Sorry, I'm getting off topic. Needless to say, the older I got, the larger my breasts got. They have never grown to the proportions that I have seen in some extreme cases (mostly from photographs posted to this website), but they are quite a bit larger than just a case of "puffy nipples."
I proceeded through my high-school years attempting to hide my condition by wearing baggy clothing, tight-fitting undershirts (I still wear undershirts, it's the best way to hide it, in my opinion), and occasionally a meter or two of duct-tape. All in all, though, it's true that the more I tried to hide it, the more people noticed. "Titty-boy" was a common insult from peers as well as from my brother during an argument (he always did know how to hit where it hurts). Other experiences included the occasional comment about cup size and a "titty-twister" or two.
My father was in the Air Force, and finally, when I was eighteen, I resolved to have something done about the problem. I visited our family-care physician (in the military, everything has a technical term). A family-care physician is basically the doc who is assigned to your family. Each one of them has several families assigned to them. This assures that you will always see the same doctor. It also helps the military to organize appointments more efficiently.
Anyhow, this visit to my doctor was the first time I heard the term "gynecomastia." The doctor, whose name I cannot remember, was very kind and told me that he would send my name to be put on a waiting list at the nearby Army hospital, which had a surgical staff (the Air Force base I was at had no surgery department). He warned me, however, that because the procedure was considered elective and not medically necessary, that I would not only be put on a very long waiting list, but there was a chance I would be turned down for the surgery completely. And wouldn't you know it, 3 months later, I got a letter from the Army Hospital that said "NO."
Fast forward 3 years. At 21 years old, I joined the Air Force. The physician who evaluated me for military service noted "mild gynecomastia" on my medical screening sheet. I saw him write it. That was the second doctor to agree that I did indeed have gynecomastia. Basic Training wasn't too bad. I got a few comments about the breasts. Nothing truly evil, but hurtful nonetheless.
Another year goes by, I'm 22, and now I'm at my first assignment. Wouldn't you know it, I work in a hospital. And guess what? There's a surgical department here.
The thought occured to me that I might just have a legitimate reason for having the surgery done. Aside from the emotional trauma that this has caused me over the years, this condition can actually cause a man physical pain. How many of you have ever suffered from nipple-burn after a good run? The bouncing of the breasts during running causes your nipples to rub against the shirt; this eventually rubs away a small amount of skin at the tip of the nipple. Add a little sweat to the process, and you've got nipple-burn. Now we know the REAL reason why women wear sports-bras. I'll be darned if I'll ever wear a bra, though.
Medically, the nipple-burn is not a serious problem... just slightly painful. However, you've got to understand that in the military, that's what's called a medical reason for surgery. Another good reason, perhaps an even better one, is prevention: yes, men CAN get breast cancer. Anyone who tells you otherwise is misinformed.
Needless to say (and I won't bore you with details, since I've already turned this post into a novel), after two meetings with my doctor (who was just as supportive as the first doc, if not more so), several lab tests (my hormone levels were normal), and a meeting with the head surgeon at the hospital, I'm finally getting my breasts removed. This is going to happen on Monday, the 31st. Today is Friday, the 28th. I'm nervous, but ready. I've been ready for years, and hopefully this will be the one and only surgery I will ever have to endure. I've been told the recovery will be painful. They cannot know how insignificant the physical pain will seem to me after the years of emotional pain I have endured.
I suppose I should wrap this up now. But let me say one more thing. For those of you who are still reading this, don't give up hope. There is always a way. The military is one way. Another is to become a citizen of a country that has a socialist system of health-care (i.e. free medical). Obviously these are both radical solutions to what many would call a mild problem.
Whatever way you decide, just don't give up. There were times when it seemed hopeless to me. I've never had the money to throw toward surgery, and I probably never will. I have read much of what many of you have to say about your experiences with gynecomastia... and now you have read mine. You're not the only person out there who tapes your chest, or wears baggy clothing, or fantasizes about scooping out the breast tissue with a spoon (yes, I know how depressing it can be). Just remember, things are never so bad that they can't get better (yes, that's how I say it... I like optimism).
I'll see you all on the flip-side. Within one month, I'll post again, with a wonderfully descriptive explanation of my surgery results. Well, not too descriptive, anyway.