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This Is What a Mastectomy Looks Like

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.

Does it seem odd that I cried harder when I found out my cancer was gone than I did when I found out I had it initially? Because I did.

RELATED: The Grand Possibilities of My Mastectomy

When I awoke from my bilateral mastectomy surgery on February 14 in a massive general anesthesia fog, which I can really best describe as the best sleep I’ve had in nearly two months, the only thing I remember my surgeons telling me was that there was no cancer detected in the lymph node that had been biopsied. I wept. I sobbed. I hyperventilated. Then, after professing my love for my husband for no fewer than 37 times, I went back to sleep. And I didn’t wake up fully for another couple days. Everyone should have such a good, sound sleep (although hopefully not because they’ve just had two breasts surgically removed).

A few days later when the breast surgeon’s office called to tell me the full biopsy results had come back and the cancer, indeed, had remained intact in the ducts, and had not spread to the lymph nodes or the other breast, I wailed. With relief. With the knowledge that I’ll die of something, but not breast cancer. With the fact that I could once again go back to sleep and not wake up again and wonder and worry—although unfortunately general anesthesia is not an over-the-counter medication so it seems unlikely I’ll ever sleep that soundly again in this lifetime.

Since my surgery, my propensity for tears has only grown stronger. It’s probably a mix of the narcotics, narcotics, more narcotics and the fact that my 2- and 5-year-old daughters have coughs so loud right now that I’m told windows three towns over are rattling from the vibrations.

But so much of my emotion is really what could have been that isn’t. Also? It’s also what it is for others that it didn’t end up being for me. It’s hard to say I dodged a bullet, exactly. I have two, raw, giant scars on the right and left sides of my chest that are very much evidence that I was fully engaged in a war on cancer. But the fact that, in the end, the main battle was just six-weeks long? And I won? I beat it? Holy shit. I am one lucky 'effing woman. This is the end result—

While I always knew that cancer wasn’t necessarily a death sentence for everyone, I think I’m probably not alone in, that when I got my diagnosis, I assumed the worst immediately. You hear cancer, you think caskets, desperate sadness and question the existence of God’s twisted sense of humor.

There’s no question that cancer needs a better press agent. Sure, organizations like Komen and the American Cancer Society are massive PR machines that spread news of research and cure like gospel—and, by all means, hallelujah to them and others doing similar work. But I feel like I would have benefited from some kind of literature that would have told me, despite seeing a dying Susan Sarandon leaving her children to Julia Roberts as her kids stepmother in the movies, and TV commercials starring Jennifer Aniston and gorgeously adorable bald-headed children, that there is an in-between.

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

I never knew being average could feel so good, or make me cry quite so hard. But for the first time in my life, doing something half-ass—like having a cancer that was able to be surgically removed from my body—would feel quite so good while make me snivel and sob quite so hard simultaneously. Thank God for small favors, or, more accurately, the average ones.

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