Mathabo Setlawane

Why she needed breast reduction

I wanted a breast reduction since I was in high school. My breasts were big, but they got even bigger when I was at the University of Limpopo. That’s when I started wearing two bras.

I was a size 32 on the lower body and 36 on the upper body. I had back pain and pain on my neck and shoulders. My breasts reached my belly button.

My posture was affected as I had to push my breasts backwards. The procedure was not cosmetic, it was necessary for me to do.

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How she feels about her body

I could write a whole book about how much I love my body right now. I used to isolate myself, I could not even take full body pictures, only selfies.

Whenever I took pictures I would fold my arms, face the other way or hide behind people. People gave me nicknames and it broke my heart. 

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My work requires that I stand in front of people regularly. Whenever I was presenting I would look at people's faces and ask myself whether they were shocked at the size of my breasts. 

Becoming a social runner

All my life I wanted to be a runner, but I couldn’t because the load was too heavy and my back was sore. After the surgery my life changed for the better. I ran my first 10km race in 2015 and I ran Comrades Marathon in 2018 and I’m never looking back. 

Mathabo Setlawane


Since I was a teenager I always wished to wear a dress and a strapless bra. That dream came true in 2015, the first time I wore a dress. The whole office came to a standstill. My colleagues couldn’t recognize me, saying I looked 10 years younger.

Her family and friends

My family and friends thought I was not serious about my decision. It took me three years to prepare myself psychologically. It is a terrifying thought.

I did my research and interviewed one colleague who had done it, I needed reassurance. 

Her experience with the procedure

When the doctor saw me for the first time she said the procedure was necessary and urgent because she had never seen someone like me. 

She removed 2.5 kg breast tissue from each breast, which means 5 kg was removed from my body. I felt lighter. 

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The healing process

You need someone to look after you, especially the first week because I couldn’t bath or lift anything. My brother helped me a lot, he did all the house chores for me. 

The costs involved

Doctors are expensive, bless them. I had to pay the hospital, the plastic surgeon, the anesthesiologist and the chemist. In total I would say it cost me about R 53 000.

My medical aid paid 80% of the costs, this excluded the GP consultation and the specialist consultation, which was about R 800 at the time.

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It took me a whole year to budget for it, but because I was determined I made it happen.

Advice to other women

I was concerned about whether I would be able to breastfeed one day, or if I’ll come out alive. I say do your research, do it out of necessity not because someone else did it. 

Take time to prepare yourself mentally, save money and don’t take a loan or end up getting into debt because of this, get family support and don't t rush into it.

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