My massage therapist mentioned at one point how “beautiful” my scars were. As a supportive oncology and breast surgery massage specialist, she knows what she is talking about. Still, although I understood intellectually what she meant, emotionally I had a hard time agreeing with her.
I’ve been told this before. Shortly after my surgery, I had a test of some sort. The technician saw the 15” red scar across my abdomen and told me how great it looked. I wasn’t buying that, given the fact that just a few weeks before, my body was undamaged. She tried to assure me by revealing that she had the same surgery and wasn’t so lucky. To prove it, she showed me her scar, which was thick and bumpy (mine is narrow and smooth.) She was so impressed, she asked for the name of my doctor and said she may go see him to have her scar “fixed.”
There was another conversation with an MRI technician, who told me how beautiful my reconstructed breasts were. I remember thinking that my plastic surgeon would have been proud to know his work was appreciated, but it just made me feel sad.
And, speaking of my plastic surgeon, how many times did I see him after my two surgeries, each time being told I was healing well and looking great. It never, ever looked great to me. In fact, the summer of 2009, which fell squarely between my two reconstructive surgeries, my body image crumbled to a degree never reached before in my life. Each day I looked in the mirror I saw a scarred, bruised breast (missing a nipple) and a 15” gash across my abdomen. Hadn’t they told me I was “lucky” to be diagnosed with Stage 0 breast cancer? How could so much damage have been wrought by a cancer that didn’t even have the get-up-and-go to form a tumor?
To this day, I can honestly say I have never found my scars to be beautiful. With the passage of time, I guess I’ve gotten used to them, because I don’t feel the horror I felt that awful summer. I know now that I reacted to them those first awful months as very visible reminders of how cancer had taken over my life and my body. I guess a more rational, less depressed person would have seen her scars as evidence of how my medical team had applied its skills and talent to rid my body of cancer. I just wasn’t able to see the glass as half full at that point.
As I’ve gotten farther away from that time the scars have faded a bit. But they are still there, and they always will be. I’m now more appreciative of my doctors and myself – how we stood together to rid my body of the scourge that is cancer. I have the battle scars to prove it and, although they’re not beautiful, they speak volumes about my life.
Survival > Existence,
Image courtesy of Jessie Romaneix Gosselin
Hi Debbie, I love your blog.
Hi Debbie, I love your blog. I had skin cancer not breast cancer but I can relate to your associations with your scars, the loss, the changes and the gradual process of healing. We’re all individual and will react to situations differently, so our experience of cancer will in some ways be unique to us, yet at other times we share such similar experiences and it’s comforting to know you’re not alone, thank you for sharing.
It will be a year tomarrow since my surgery for breast cancer, 3/29/12. I had a lumpectomy. I had a lumpectomy on my right breast, and had breast reduction on my left. The right breast now has no nipple. I can’t get used to the scars, that are supposed to be fading with time. I call them my battle scars. But that definition has men wondering what I am talking about. I am single, and have been dating for the last year. So at what point do you tell someone about your journey? Well I prefer to wait till the shirt comes off, because I can’t go into such detail about my life in a conversation before that.
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