Scars, a result of the body healing itself after infringement. Many people have them, they come in all shapes and sizes, and there is a million dollar market for various creams to reduce appearance. But all too often, people find themselves ashamed of the scars they carry, a discomfiture that warrants concealing. The body is a carefully orchestrated symphony and the keynotes are to protect against the external environment. Hence, scars are to create a shielding barrier and when your body goes through any form of destruction, the impairment of a scar, or the wound healing process is instantaneously set in gesticulation. On the other hand, scars also offer a telling story, an aide-mémoire of our past and the battle we fought to wear them proudly.
When I was 21 I had my first major surgery, a partial thyroidectomy. The Doctor found cancerous nodules on my thyroid during a routine checkup. I was unable to marinate what any of that meant, as I didn’t even really know what a thyroid did at that time, let alone it being a potential cancer risk. Before I knew it, I was undergoing biopsies, then a surgery which inevitably left me with the left side of my thyroid. At the time the news broke that I was going to need surgery for its removal, the only thing that I could ruminate was the thought that I would have a scar on my neck for the rest of my life. Being 21, the vanity side of things surpassed any concern that it could have been cancer. After all, how could I possibly live with a visible scar for the rest of my life? (Insert sarcasm here).
It took quite some time for me to become comfortable looking at myself in the mirror after my thyroid surgery. In the beginning I would formulate “cool” stories about what I could possibly tell people if they asked why I had the scar. This was my way of being emotionally detached from my scar and what I had endured to gain it. During this tempo, I was doing anything but wearing it proudly. Unable to lie about how I got the scar, I decided one day to just tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth; to wear my battle scar with honor.
Fast forward six years and you would assume that I would have learned a thing or two from my 21-year-old self. Inopportunely, I did not take any lessons from my former self, in recognizing that scars are a striking resemblance as to what a person has been through and the emotional and physical story it left to be told. Alas, when I was told that surgery would be required to remove the tumor on my ovary, the OB stated that it would be a small incision, leaving a small scar, similar to that of a caesarian. Acknowledging that a C-section type of incision would be rarely seen (after all I am not a bikini wearing type of gal), I decided that unlike the scar of my past, I would be more comfortable with the small abdomin scar of my future.
Unbeknownst to me, I had colon cancer that was discovered while they were operating to remove my left ovary, as well as the tumor that had attached to it, ever so boldly. Unpredictably, the surgeon had to engrave a rather large incision down the center of my stomach, which met the “caesarian like” incision at my bikini line. There were no two ways about it, my abdomin had been sliced open from side to side and top to bottom. When I awoke from the surgery, I had no indication that a) I had cancer and b) I had multiple scores across my stomach.
Once the news was finally revealed and the Doctor illuminated their route of entry, I immediately thought back to my discerning 21-year-old self and my excessive conceit. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t walk around baring midriff, but the thought of my reflection starring back with a sizable scar across my stomach sounded anything but attractive. For the first two weeks or so of my recovery, I refused to look at myself in the mirror, afraid of what my reflection would project. Steve would inspect the incisions to keep tabs on how they were healing, in fact, he found it rather fascinating; to see how the body would self preserve and instinctively retreat into restorative mode. However, if I was unable to look at myself in the mirror, how could I possibly expect anyone else to?
Yet again, I was abashed by my body and the distorted pictorial I had of my battle scars. It wasn’t until after I was released from the hospital that I mustered up the courage to look at my wounds. I had discovered that it wasn’t the actual scars that I was reluctant of, but rather what they came to represent; cancer. It was a reminder that I was now a cancer patient and the poignant scars that were left was far worse than the scars themselves.
After irreversibly seeing my battle scars for the first time, it became easier and easier to see my reflection in the mirror. We all have self-doubt and mine came in the form of shame, a shame that I was unable to shake since I was 21. Auspiciously, going forward I have vowed to not view my scars with dishonor, but rather a reminder that I have the indulgence of being alive and the possibility of death. Life and death is a fine line, my friends and one that must be walked respectably with the scars that you were fortunate enough to collect. No matter how many creams or ointments, your body will take care of itself; it’s you that has to take care of the self-acceptance of your very own battle scars.