At the age of fifteen, Naomi Kemunto noticed her breasts were growing excessively big as compared to her peers.
Unlike the glorified perky pairs emphasized in the movies, hers kept growing.
Now a 33-year-old mother of two, Kemunto says her big breasts made her teenage life uncomfortable.
It was not a very big concern for her until she was nineteen that is when the burden of excessively large breasts became noticeable.
“I could not do chores due to back pain and they kept growing, the bra size became a problem, and when they did it looked nice when I dressed up. It was until after I delivered my first born child when the doctor mention that I had Gigantomastia and advised me to see a plastic surgeon,” she narrates.
Gigantomastia or breast hypertrophy is a rare condition that involves developing extremely large breasts due to excessive breast tissue growth. It affects people assigned female at birth. If you have gigantomastia, you’ll experience rapid and disproportionate breast growth.
According to Kemunto, she did not have enough supply of breast milk and depended fully on lactating cookies and powder to get enough food for her baby.
“I only managed to breastfeed exclusively for four months. Because it was such a struggle, it made me get a five year space before I got my second one,” she says.
When she clocked 27, the situation got worse. She could not do anything in the house.
“I got back pain whenever I cooked or did any house chores, the only advantage was I had a stable job so I could employ two nannies,” she recalls.
According to Naomi Kemunto her excessively large breasts attracted stranger’s unsolicited prolonged gaze and comments such as how big and unappealing her breasts were.
“Some would even make fun out of it, after the second baby is when I decided to have the surgery. Last year I had the procedure and the doctors confirmed I could still breastfeed even after the surgery.”
Although she never experienced self-esteem issues like many women with her condition, she recalls feeling different after the surgery.
“I did not look at myself in the mirror after the surgery, I was scared of the wounds, but the moment I stood up, I felt lighter like a burden had been removed from my body. I used to feel a bit uncomfortable with my body especially when people looked at me and I could not dress in front of anyone or put on something that was revealing,” she says.
Makena Mugaa founded the Gigantomastia Foundation in 2015 having suffered from the condition until 12 years ago.
“I realized that there was no voice to air this issue. Many women and men were suffering from the same issue and had no idea that it actually existed. The foundation offers support to women suffering from the same issue both emotionally, psychologically and financially. I am elated to report that 350 women have benefited from the same treatment and men are not an exception,” she says.
According to the founder, most of the women undergo a lot of stigma surrounded with the myths that are associated with the condition due to lack of knowledge from the public.
“Others go through a lot of mental torture, leading to depression because of low self-esteem associated with the condition. Others are even physical handicapped as a result of the weight and to extreme extents some end up in abusive relationships,” Makena narrates.
“It is important to me that through this platform a lot of awareness has been garnered over the years and more and more women are coming out to get this corrective surgery done that eventually helps them health wise and also elevates their self-image and confidence making them feel more comfortable in their own skin,” she adds.
Dr Martin Ajujo, a plastic surgeon, explains that the major causes of Gigantomastia are unknown.
However, there are two patterns of growth.
The breast can enlarge during puberty and continue to progressive enlarge throughout or start growing during pregnancy and breast feeding without abetting.
In some women the growth during puberty is worsened by the growth spurt during child bearing.
“It is associated with physical and psychological pain. Physical symptoms include back, neck and shoulder pains, grooving and/or ulceration of the shoulders with bra straps due to the weight of the breasts, limitation of physical activities or routine chores, breathlessness and in extreme cases shoulder dislocation. The psychological trauma comes from stigma, depression, poor self-esteem and self image and helplessness,” he says.
According to Ajujo, there is generally a lack of awareness and understanding that it is actually a disease.
The small girls or women are wrongly termed promiscuous or given demeaning nick-names that dent their self-worth.
The patients also suffer from poor productivity due to persistent pain that can be misunderstood and mistreated.