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Is it OK to Be Excited About a 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.

When I envision the intersection of cancer and me, I imagine more Gisele Bündchen wearing her Victoria’s Secret wings and less Debra Winger in the hospital scene at the end of Terms of Endearment (although I can easily see my mom screaming, “Give my daughter the shot!” at my medical team).

As far as I know, Gisele Bündchen doesn’t have cancer, and I certainly hope she doesn’t. But getting a breast cancer diagnosis has made me wonder if I might finally have a shot of looking like her since I’ve felt like I look like her for a while now. Or at least I’ve felt like I could look like her.

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Besides the fact that I’m only 5’6½” with little to no waist, and otherwise distinctly indistinct features, sometimes I’ll stand up straight, stretch my arms up as high as they can go, point my toes tightly and feel as if I have the body of a supermodel strolling down the beach in an effortlessly tiny bikini and fabulously casual cowboy hat as shown in a grainy paparazzi photo in a glossy weekly. Then I catch a glimpse of my reflection and the Jell-O-like rolls on my stomach bring me back to my Weight Watchers reality. But still.

A friend told me the other day about a Bye-Bye Boobies party she attended for a friend prior to her double mastectomy. “We all dressed in our most festive bras and celebrated her breasts before her surgery,” she said.

If there’s anything I’ve learned since being diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s that you’re either emotionally attached to your breasts or you’re not.

I fall into the latter category. I mean, don’t get me wrong—I have a deep appreciation for my breasts. They provided milk to my daughters for a combined 19 months, and they've a part of me since the training bra I wore before I ever had any business wearing it. I’m not ashamed of them, but I’ve never been one to show them off at every opportunity. When I’m braless I cross my arms as a shield out of respect for those who will have no interest in seeing them droop. I have no illusion that my breasts are tied to my femininity, since they make me feel more matronly than anything else. Thankfully, I’ve always felt as if my femininity is larger than my breasts (which, considering the size of my breasts, is a feat in and of itself).

If I have to have breast cancer, I might as well get some pretty, lacy bras out of it.

I’ve always envied women with perky little bee stings on their chest who can wear cute strapless dresses and bathing suits that don’t include enough steel reinforcement and Lycra to create a shortage worldwide, and no bras around the house without sending anyone nearby into a panic that they might get knocked out if one of my boobs takes a swing in the wrong direction at the wrong time.

No one needs to throw a farewell party for my breasts. It’s more like my boobs shouldn’t let the door hit them on the way out—although sometimes they feel so cumbersome that it can be kind of hard not to. Padded and push-up bras aren’t marketed toward women like me, who, if we had any more help down there, they’d be forcibly shutting our mouths on account of our chins being jammed with our own nipples. If I have to have breast cancer, I might as well get some pretty, lacy bras out of it.

While the idea of losing any body part is troublesome on pretty much every level, when it comes down to it, short of my pinky toe (because, let’s be honest, its purpose beyond looking cute with a dab of nail polish is nil), my breasts are really the least functional part of my body. I mean, I’d be devastated to lose an arm or a leg. But if it meant the difference between life and death, I’d still do it. My boobs? Yeah, I’m not thrilled to lose sensation over there or look at scars every time I pass the bathroom mirror. I’m dreading the surgery, recovery and the emotional and technical strain it will place on me and my family.

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But if there’s a silver lining in losing my breasts—besides the most obvious and important one, which means eliminating sleepless nights I would otherwise spend worrying about the possibility of the cancer returning—it’s that I get to bring on the Bündchen B-cups.

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