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