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The Grand Possibilities of My Mastectomy

Photograph by Getty Images

Mom to two little ones and mom.me contributor, Meredith C. Carroll will be sharing her experiences of her recent breast cancer diagnosis, imminent treatments and day-to-day living with the big "c" here on Mom's the Word. Please join us in supporting Meredith and wishing for the easiest path through this challenging journey she and her family are facing.

I was only half-joking when I asked the second plastic surgeon with whom I had a consultation if he would throw in free Botox with my bilateral mastectomy.

“You know I only make 30-cents on the dollar for these cases?” he said, narrowing his eyes at me.

“Well, then if you have to do liposuction from my abdomen to fill in the area around the implants, do you think you could just do some extra liposuction while you’re already in there?” I asked.

“And put it where?” he said.

“In the trash?” I suggested.

RELATED: Is It OK to be Excited About a Mastectomy?

It was hard not to think about nips and tucks in his office, which boasted pictures of some celebrities known for their astonishingly large boobs, ice-rink-quality foreheads and Barbie-size waists as much as their movies and albums. The receptionist at the front desk in his office has lips so pillowy with collagen that I had to resist asking if I could lay my head down on them for a mid-afternoon nap.

He wasn’t the plastic surgeon I ultimately decided on for my reconstruction. It wasn't because I squirmed uncomfortably when he drew all over my topless pictures that had been taken under bright fluorescent lights and then displayed them nearly full size on his computer screen as he explained the procedure to me. And it wasn't because I doubted his ability to do a great job. He probably would have been terrific, but I ended up choosing the plastic surgeon who told me how his work might just not be terrific.

“I want to go small,” I told plastic surgeon No. 3. “Think small, perky and cute—in that order.”

“Listen,” he said. “You need to remember that the priority is getting the cancer out. My job is to do the best I can to get you back up and running and looking relatively normal, but you need to stop thinking about this as a cosmetic surgery procedure. This isn’t some elective surgery.”

I have cancer and I’ll be lucky if, at the end, I look good in my clothes, if not necessarily naked.

My heart dropped into my stomach when he said that. I figured if I were getting anything out of this, spectacular boobs was it. I didn’t want to be told they might not be good. But I also appreciated that it was exactly what I needed to hear.

It’s been easy—or at least kind of nice—to think there is some kind of pink cloud among all the ominously dark gray ones in this breast cancer process. My new boobs might still be perkier (if not as small as I want them, damn it), but they’ll still be numb and fake. I thought shopping for them would be uplifting, but as it turns out, it has been one of the most depressing parts of the process.

Seeing the before-and-after photos of other women’s mastectomies and reconstruction was a pretty big smack in the face that I am not Kate Hudson or some other flawlessly svelte celebrity going to see her cosmetic surgeon for some discreet maintenance. I have cancer and will be lucky if, at the end, I look good in my clothes, if not necessarily naked. Of course I’ll be luckiest if in the end I’m cancer-free, but if the penultimate part of the process had been Miranda Kerr-like knockers, I might have had even more to look forward to.

The more I think about how I’m not getting the rack of my dreams, the more the nightmare of the diagnosis and the dread of the post-surgery pathology results looms ever larger in my head. And the more I realize my breasts might look like those on a cousin of Frankenstein (Franken-tits, if you will), the more I start to think about the long road to recovery, the potential pain and the fact that I might not be able to shower for a couple weeks.

RELATED: New Year, New Breast Cancer Diagnosis

When it comes down to it, I think I’ve been avoiding the emotional and psychological impact of this situation by distracting myself with the section of the Victoria’s Secret Web site that showcases bras without underwire. Sure, it could all be so much worse, I tell myself an infinite number of times each day. My diagnosis could be far worse. I should be more grateful it’s not, although being grateful for any kind of breast cancer is a hard pill to swallow. Throw in the fact that I fooled myself into the thinking there is an upside, and the downside just got even lower.

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