A really strong woman accepts the war she went through and is ennobled by her scars. Carly Simon
Children show scars like medals. Lovers use them as secrets to reveal. A scar is what happens when the word is made flesh. Leonard Cohen
It’s a shallow life that doesn’t give a person a few scars. Garrison Keillor
Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars. Khalil Gibran
Cancer scars are superficial things. They exist on the surface and easily become symbolic of how cancer has changed us. But being superficial, how can they possibly illustrate the extent to which we have been altered? How can they ever make obvious all that cancer has broken?
I had a mastectomy, TRAM flap reconstruction, nipple reconstruction, areola tattoo and a lift of my healthy breast. I can still see all the scars and I’m two and a half years out from my surgeries. What can’t be seen is the numbness of my right breast and entire abdomen. You also can’t see the constant pain when I wear a waistband or bra.
I used to have a slightly bulging tummy, but the TRAM flap got rid of that. I can’t say I miss it when I wear something tighter, but I never would have traded it for the lingering pain of the TRAM.
When I look in the mirror now and see my scars, I tend to give a slight shrug, as if to say, “It is what it is.” I’ve learned to accept the fact that my tattooed faux areola is slightly lighter than my remaining real areola. I don’t like the fact that my fake nipple has gone underground, barely resembling the body part it was meant to replace. In fact, when I am braless, my one real nipple is the only one you can see, making me look asymmetrical. (I never go out of the house without a bra, so I’m just saying this is how it looks to me.)
I think the word that best describes how my surgeries made me feel is “diminished.” Like aging, my cancer surgeries and resulting scars, pains and problems, made me feel less of what I used to be. It’s not that I don’t respect what my body has gone through, because I do and my scars are eloquent reminders of that. It’s just that the results make me all too aware of how quickly you can go from healthy to damaged.
As time goes on, I feel less diminished by the physical effects of my cancer. I am in better shape than I was before, because I discovered yoga. My 53 year old breasts are perkier and my tummy is flatter. But I know the price I paid and still pay every day. And today, I’m tired of paying it.
What’s the story behind your cancer scars? Do you feel ennobled by them, or do they just annoy you? Do you have good days and bad days when it comes to how you feel about your scars and the other physical effects of your cancer?
Survival > Existence,
Image courtesy of Quinn Dombrowski
I try not to look at my scars
I try not to look at my scars for too long. They just make me feel tired and sad. If I dwell on them, I just start thinking about what else the cancer could take and that’s not a good place to be. I know some people see them as some kind of badge of honor, but I’m afraid that’s not me. *sigh*
I’m sorry, Debbie, that you have continuing pain as a result of the tram. Your posting resonates with me. I have scarring, numbness, and pain — and I had a DIEP flap. My griping about the pain and my pity party can be read on a recent posting: http://bethlgainer.blogspot.com/2011/12/going-off-diep-end.html
My scars are just an ugly reminder of all the Hell that I have been through. Two jagged scars make a line from one side of my chest to the other. The smaller scars at the top and bottom of my right breast from a previous lumpectomy seem insignificant at this point.
There’s also the very small two scars on my abdomen from the oopherectomy, and the belly button that is a stranger to me. This is the only scar that has improved the looks of anything. Now I have a cute little dimple of a belly button, but alas, it is not the one I have known all my life. It is a cute little stranger.
Then there’s the scar along my neck. Basically it follows the curve of a crew neck shirt almost an entire quarter of my neck, from the collar bone to the back. This was from the removal of an additional 17 lymph nodes (none cancerous). Even though this is by far the most artful scar of the bunch, it has a nice smooth curve and is thin, it’s still there and visible. So I wear crew necks or turtle necks.
But the biggest thing about the scar (across my chest) is not that it is the scar that saved my life, which is how one should probably view it; it is that is says, and will always say, this is the day your life changed forever. You will never be who you were ever again. There’s no going back to a normal life – ever.
You see with my life saving surgery, a nerve was damaged that keeps me in constant pain, not the pain that most people are familiar with, but a fire in my armpit that is never quenched and just the feel of my shirt turns the heat up to nearly unbearable. You say you never go out without a bra – I don’t ever wear one. I can’t. Not even if I wanted to. Much too painful. And all those cute blouses I used to wear to work – now I can’t wear them either. I buy my clothes in the men’s department now. Men get softer clothes. With wider armholes.
But, it covers the scars.
Thanks for writing. Sorry my comment is such a downer. Cancer is kind of a downer too. So is pain. Bleh.
Your post reminds me of many of my clients. I am a tattoo artist specializing in both cosmetic tattooing and decorative tattoos over scars.
It is possible to use tattooing to simulate a 3 dimensional nipple for a more symmetrical appearance. Of course it won’t fool anyone on close inspection, but for everyday, after the shower, purposes, it looks pretty good. This might be an option for you. Below is my website, but you can also check to see if there is someone local to you who does this work.
There are also options of cover the scars with decorative tattoos.
Thank you for sharing your story and strength.
I did see it, it seemed a bit silly of Facebook. Very silly and a bad for their image. I wish you lots of luck as you move through this process to survival.
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