(NEW YORK) — For the first time since they were teenagers, 42-year-old twins Tanesha and Tiwan Sweet can finally go out in public without enduring taunts, stares and whispers.
Up until a few weeks ago, the women suffered years of humiliating harassment for having size 40G breasts.
“I used to work in a nursing home and a lot of the older men groped at me and touched me,” Tanesha, who hails from Long Branch, N.J., told ABC News. “I always went to work wearing two bras and a sweat top, and I would never take it off, even if it was 90 degrees out.”
But the torment continued outside of work as well. Going to the beach, even while covered up in pants and tee shirts, led to more teasing.
“We were just walking along and people were staring, and we’ve even had cars stop, look and whisper while they’re pointing at us,” she said.
On top of the emotional pain, the sisters also endured years of back pain and discomfort. Tanesha said she suffered from unrelenting back spasms.
Relatives and friends who had breast reduction surgery spent years trying to persuade the women to do the same. They were initially reluctant because of concerns over cost. Their surgeon, Dr. Russell Ashinoff of The Plastic Surgery Center, said the procedure can cost between $5,000 and $8,000 if not covered by insurance.
But both sisters found out their health insurance would pay for most of the surgery.
While considered a cosmetic procedure, Ashinoff explained it’s also a reconstructive procedure that improves self-esteem and eases physical symptoms; the latter is why insurance companies agree to pay for the surgery under certain conditions.
“We removed probably about 1,200 grams from each breast, which is about 2.5 to 3 pounds from each side,” he said.
Tanesha said the surgery took her from a 40G to a 38DD, taking quite a bit of stress off her back and neck.
“I haven’t had a back spasm since the surgery. I have had no pain at all,” she said.
And her bra size isn’t the only part of her wardrobe that has changed.
“I can finally buy a size extra-large shirt now, and I can also wear button-up shirts, which I could never wear before,” she joked.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
AJ Willingham, CNN
Patrick Gillespie, CNN
Danica Lawrence, Fox 13 Utah
Virginia Anderson, Kaiser Health News