Dateline   |  January 06, 2014

'Second Chances' part 3

These teenagers believe the foundation holds the solution to all their problems, but some of their parents have mixed feelings about surgery.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> is changing a face the best way to change a life?

>> people would just come up to me and just be, like, why don't you have a chin? i mean, everybody should have a chin.

>> reporter: the story is familiar but no less painful for the kid living it. we met a student from wisconsin when he was 16. his name is donovan .

>> there are times where people would walk around with, like, their head cocked back to make it look like they didn't have a chin to mock me. high school is hell. my chin has caused me to become more reclusive. i do have a few guy friends. they kind of are dispersed. they are my friends, i think. are they my friends?

>> i don't know why people have to be so mean.

>> reporter: so what was it like walking the halls? always looking over your shoelder?

>> it was a war zone . whether it was being cornered or being tripped, just punched in the shoulder or something.

>> reporter: donovan says the bullies would always deny what happened, so the school rarely took action.

>> i've almost deactivated my facebook account because of the bullying. donovan is gay.

>> reporter: what was it that pushed you to the edge?

>> the same guy that posted on facebook, he straight up said, donovan , why don't you just go kill yourself tonight? it would be better for anybody.

>> reporter: you've never considered anything like that?

>> a few times i have, but i've never gotten to the -- so close to the edge where i was able to return.

>> reporter: donovan applied to little babyface hoping the group's doctors would fix his small chin. surgery is dramatic. why do you want to take such a dramatic step?

>> i believe if it's not there, people won't talk about it.

>> reporter: it would stop. really?

>> yeah. i know there would be, like, backlash. he's the one that lost. but i think i would be the one that won because i did something about it to make it stop.

>> reporter: donovan 's parents and brother supported his pursuit of surgery.

>> a long-term goal will soon be achieved.

>> wow!

>> i thought it was a sign of good things to come.

>> reporter: but when her son wasn't around --

>> he was all cheeks. but he definitely had a chin. a little protruding chin.

>> reporter: donovan 's mom, sue, told us she had mixed feelings about the surgery.

>> if he did have the surgery, how much would his life really change? and i would love to see him discover that it's really not the outward appearances all of a sudden that would make his life complete, but he's learned to put his best chin forward.

>> reporter: psychologist vivian diller agrees, and she says parents should know that cosmetic surgery not only has physical risks but psychological ones, too.

>> in my practice, i do hear regrets.

>> reporter: you do?

>> they complain that they don't look like their family anymore. i kind of miss my face.

>> reporter: dr. diller sees a better, long-term solution for all three of these teens.

>> if you can find a way of enjoying how you look, you can gain the kind of confidence that will last you a lifetime.

>> reporter: this young girl seemed to prove that point. she was born with a rare condition commonly called bpes that affects the appearance of her eyes. though it has taken years, she says she's built the confidence to be herself. her name, cheyenne .

>> i feel like some days i feel not pretty or not normal. but other days i'm, like, okay, i don't care.

>> reporter: standing by cheyenne 's side, her mother, jamie.

>> it's tough being a military family and moving so often. she goes through a lot at every new place, but she's been so strong in doing it.

>> reporter: cheyenne went through several corrective surgeries but didn't see any improvements when she looked in the mirror. you must have been over surgeries after a while, right?

>> yeah.

>> reporter: they're not working. why do we keep doing them?

>> i just, like, gave up.

>> she gave up.

>> i lost hope.

>> reporter: but what she lost in hope she gained in fortitude, and sometimes, she says, she could see herself as beautiful.

>> i see prettiness sometimes. then when i go back, what was i thinking?

>> reporter: when you hear your daughter speak like that, i feel pretty and then sometimes i look back and say what was i thinking?

>> i don't like the last part.

>> reporter: cheyenne 's mom wanted her daughter to embrace who she was, but she also wondered if there was a surgeon somewhere who could make cheyenne 's eyes look more normal. so when she heard about the foundation, she felt conflicted about applying. not sure if she should expose cheyenne again to the risks of surgery or more disappointment if she wasn't chosen.

>> you just don't want to let your child down, ever. i chose not to tell cheyenne at first.

>> reporter: secretly jamie applied for her daughter. but when "dateline" asked to document their application process, she decided to talk to cheyenne about it.

>> what do you think if you didn't get picked?

>> i'd be sad. but i would get over it.

>> not everybody looks the same.

>> yeah.

>> but you can still live a normal life and be beautiful and be outgoing. if you don't get picked, i would feel bad because i would feel like i brought on this stress. i did. open this door, that it would have been opened unnecessarily.

>> reporter: renata 's mother also didn't want to get her daughter's hopes up.

>> you really just never know.

>> reporter: but she also couldn't contain her own excitement that a call from the foundation might actually turn her daughter's life around.

>> i'm very hopeful that they're going to choose you. it's all i think about.

>> reporter: in the meantime, renata finally agreed to see a mental health counselor , katherine brown . she told us she was against kids using elective surgery to build self-confidence.

>> my goal is to help her see herself as being beautiful. and i hope she will want the cosmetic surgery anymore, but that's still her choice and her decision. what kind of negative things would you be thinking?

>> i guess that i'm just nothing.

>> is that the reason why you think you're staying in the house so much?

>> yeah, it's a big reason why.

>> reporter: renata 's mom hoped therapy would help this time since there was no guarantee renata would be picked for surgery. in fact, while all these teens waited for a decision, some would take the brave step to solve their problems on their own.