A wedding photographer whose size P breasts were the ‘biggest doctors had ever seen’ has revealed how she was forced to crowdfund £8,000 to go under the knife and drop 21 cup sizes after the NHS rejected her for surgery because her BMI was too high.

Laura Howes, 28, from Seghill, Tyne and Wear,  had a gruelling four hour operation, where the surgeon needed a nurse’s help to hold her four-stone breasts in place while drawing on pre-op markings in pen. 

She claims that she suffered severe back pain from bumping her breasts into objects and was even left with wounds. However, her BMI was a factor in her refusal to have surgery on the NHS.  

Laura Howes, 28, from Seghill, Tyne and Wear, had a gruelling four hour operation, where the surgeon needed a nurse's help to hold her four-stone breasts in place while drawing on pre-op markings in pen. Before surgery

Laura is pictured now

Laura Howes (28), from Seghill in Tyne and Wear had an intense four-hour operation. The surgeon required a nurse to help hold the breasts of her four-stone-tall body in place and draw pre-op marks in pen. Before surgery 

Laura is delighted that she was able to put on a beautiful, lacey bralette.

“I lost half a stone just from drinking boob. It’s amazing. I’ve gone down, including double letters, 21 cup sizes. She explained that I am now a 36E.

According to many online sources, patients can lose two or three sizes. But I have lost 21, so that’s some brag.

“The surgeon who performed my operation told me that I had one of the most massive boobs he has ever seen. He said I was not obese, which is something that has been repeated to me throughout my whole life. However, it was just his opinion.

Laura is thrilled to no longer have to put her 36P breasts in a 38K bra. She’s gone from a P to an E cup.

Laura, still tender from her operation, said that it was a ‘best decision’. She is looking forward to sitting and standing again and starting training for the marathon.

Despite having suffered from severe back pain and wounds from her breasts bumping into things, she claims she was refused surgery on the NHS due to her BMI and even when she lost weight she was still not approved. She is pictured before surgery

Laura is pictured now

Although she had suffered from back pain severe enough to cause her wounds, her breasts kept bumping into other things. She claimed she was turned down for surgery by the NHS for her BMI. This was taken before she had surgery.

“I felt validated that he had said this, as I used think I exaggerated. Are you being dramatic?

“Having this surgery was the best decision that I have ever made. It has been life-changing.

“Before surgery, I was miserable. I used to beat myself up over things that I couldn’t do or the way that I looked every day.

Although recovery can certainly be hard, like any other surgery, even the worst days of my life, I always feel better than with my 36Ps.

Before surgery Laura suffered 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

Laura was suffering from severe back pain before surgery. Her shoulders are permanently impacted by wearing an insufficient bra.

“I feel like I finally have the freedom to live my normal life.

Laura says that after years of suffering severe back pain, sciatica, and constant dents in her shoulders as a result of wearing too-small bras Laura is now free from these problems.

Laura has also treated cysts, cut, friction sores, and skin rashes which were constantly bleeding and infected.

Laura lives now with Sean Peacock (23-year-old supermarket worker) and is able sit and stand comfortably.

Laura stated, “Having the surgery was both a physical as well as an emotional burden off my chest.”

Pre surgery Laura opted for loose fitting clothing - but is sometimes forced to squeeze into clothes if shops don't have her size

Pre surgery Laura opted for loose fitting clothing – but is sometimes forced to squeeze into clothes if shops don’t have her size

“When I was in Recovery and I sat up, there wasn’t a boob on my lap. It was so nice.

I was suffering from sciatica before the operation. However, it has completely disappeared since then. A large portion of my cysts-prone boob tissue has been removed.

“Now, I can both stand straight up and sit comfortably. I also can now comfortably sit close to the dining room table.

My boobs are no longer seated on the dining tables and my thighs don’t push the tablecloth toward me during board games.

“When I shower, my boobs don’t have any more to get in the way.”

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 was initially rejected for surgery. She then visited another doctor, who said it would not be possible for her to achieve the goal. Laura also filed an exemption letter. Here she is holding her 38K bra.

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

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. This is her 38K bra. It’s five sizes too large.

“I also enjoy gentle jogging now, and I dream of running a Disneyland marathon dressed in fancy clothes.

“I talked to my friend but it was too much for me. I didn’t see my boobs as a problem.

“I honestly didn’t believe I would be able run without the pain being too intense to really enjoy it.

It would have taken me a lot of money to find a nice costume that could fit my big boobs. I had to order one from the manufacturer.

“But, now, I’m just average plus-sized, slightly pear-shaped girl, who should be able, theoretically, to find cute clothes to wear.

Laura is pictured in 2014 aged 20 wearing a fitted top to celebrate her brother's graduation

Laura, aged 20, is seen wearing a tailored top in celebration of her brother’s graduation.

Laura is pictured at school where she attracted unwanted attention from bullies and leering men

Laura was pictured in school, where she received unwanted attention from leering men and bullies.

“My boobs need to be small so that I can purchase a bra that will fit and hold them in place, rather than hurting my thighs.”

Laura chose to undergo the procedure privately, after being refused funding by the NHS because she did not meet the 27 BMI requirements.

BMI – or Body Mass Index -is  calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in metres, and dividing the answer by your height again. Typically 25 or over is ‘overweight’ and 30 or more is categorised as ‘obese’. In recent years, however, it has come to be widely criticized as an obsolete and inefficient way to assess health.

Laura began a 2-year fitness and health plan with a trainer and dietician to shed the excess weight. Unfortunately, she couldn’t lose seven stone as fast as her BMI suggested.

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

Laura (pictured below) lives with Sean, a 23 year-old supermarket worker boyfriend. She approached her GP 2 years ago in order to get a reduced NHS rate. But she’s been struggling with breast problems since puberty.

She was experiencing significant pain in her breasts when she tried to do a workout.

Covid-19 made it impossible for her to exercise and her weight loss efforts came to an abrupt halt.

Laura (5ft 4in) and 22st weighed in at her lowest point.

Laura claims she was devastated to hear she had been denied again. She says the board told her there was a small chance they would reconsider, if she did bariatric surgery.

Laura is pictured in 2016, aged 22, celebrating her graduation in a loose fitting dress

Laura (22 years old) celebrates her graduation with a loose fitting gown

Laura was determined to enjoy life and not just ‘exist in pain’. She set up a crowdfunding page in order to fund the private operation in the UK.

NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group stated that the CCG base its criteria for surgical procedures on the “best available scientific evidence”, allowing them to concentrate resources on those who are most likely to benefit.

Laura stated that she felt overwhelmed when reaching her fundraising goal. It is common to read online that people are nasty but not all of them.

What is the NHS for breast reduction? Before any surgery is performed, the following factors will be taken into consideration: size, weight, age, and whether the woman smokes.

The goal of breast reduction surgery is to decrease the size and weight a woman’s breasts. It involves the removal fat, tissue, and skin from her 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.

The availability of the NHS may vary depending on the reasons for the operation and where the person lives.

For cosmetic reasons, the NHS won’t usually perform a breast-reduction. 

If a woman experiences backache or pain in the neck, shoulders, or feet, then it might be worth considering. 

A woman’s size, weight and age may all be considered by the NHS.

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 

Even those without the means to pay sent messages saying that they couldn’t give them anything, but wanted to send good wishes.

People are so nice. They are so kind and I couldn’t have made it to this point without them.

Laura used to hate clothes shopping but now she can’t wait for her friends to take her to the shops and buy pretty bras and tops that fit her slimmer frame.

Laura stated, “I hate shopping. I would buy multiple sizes online and return items if they weren’t right.” I have never liked to use changing rooms.

“Many of my friends offer to take me shopping for bras – that’s a major deal.

“I want to have a bra fit and be comfortable in a little bit.

‘Now I’ve no need to wear a 38K bra that costs £50. Even “expensive” 36E bras are £30 – but I can also get three for a tenner in Asda.’

Laura shared that her hope is to inspire women to get help if they find themselves in the same situation as Laura.

Laura stated, “My advice for anyone who is in the same situation as me is to keep trying. People should keep trying to access the NHS. [route]They are simply amazing.

Don’t be ashamed to seek help. There’s no shame in asking for help. It is not an easy path out.

Spokesman for NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group stated that although they cannot comment on patients individually, they can confirm the CCG’s criteria for selecting surgical procedures based upon the best scientific evidence.

“This allows us to concentrate our resources on those who will benefit the most from intervention and avoid interventions that are unlikely to prove ineffective or even dangerous.

“We recognize that sometimes situations do not meet the standard criteria. Individual funding requests may be made to address these exceptional circumstances.

“If BMI is not an acceptable way to assess if someone has attained optimum lean body mass, you can request alternative valid measurements to prove your case.

“We recommend that everyone in a similar circumstance should continue working with their GP.”