Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Scarred Life

Throughout the day while at my desk, clothes shopping, getting ready for a function, or even just lying in bed I'm reminded of what once was and what threatens the future by a single scar and it's never healing abnormality. This single spot as well as occasional tingles along and under the scar lines will never let me forget. On occasion, I still have the sensations of an active stoma and am urged to reassure myself that my reversal wasn't a dream, but remains reality.

Of course I have the typical, vertically long slice down the middle - from the groin to the rib cage. And after repeated slicing in the same line,  it has become rather deep as it curves around my belly button. Accompanying this is a scar on each side of the abdominal length reminder of the previous stomas - one in the shape of a hash mark and another a deep single slash with it's own peculiar complication presented as a knob at the end that never truly heals itself.
This spot is a constant source of irritation and serves as a constant reminder of what I've endered. The knob presents itself as if a stitch is lodged deep inside, forever trying to work it's way to the surface to be released from the captivity of the body. Alas, whether a stitch is embedded in my skin or not, there isn't any hope for discovery. This pustule like spot becomes irritated periodically and collects within itself a clear liquid that pushes its way to the surface that vexes the skin until without conscious act, my fingers are led to this knob to kindly relieve the area of its' building pressure. Once it's devoid of the liquid, it lies flat again against the skin and maintains a slightly open red dot that taunts me to attempt to discover what may lie beneath the skin. The few times I have relented to the taunting of this red spot has been painful as I dug under the skin as deeply as I could allow myself with needles to attempt to catch what may be the cause of such irritation without any success. This spot is also indifferent to hot compresses and ointments. The only time this spot has begun to heal was when I tanned for a month's time, the heat acted to dry out the gradual collection of liquid. However, after tanning completed, the collection was again started. Like most of my health, this also is an anomaly that my doctor and others have been unable to explain.

And then there are other scars that aren't as blatant although continue to serve as visible reminders. Multiple scars on my chest from the repeated placements of central lines and their stitches, a scar on my lower abdomen from a drainage tube, and countless scars on my hands and crook of the elbows where IVs were inserted and needles for lab draws. I do worry about future accessibility for IVs and needles though from all the scarring.



I know some are deeply bothered by the presence of scars and view scars as bodily imperfections and reflections of one's self worth. I don't subscribe to this perception or interpretation of the role of scars on one's life or meaning and I urge you to refrain from such a perception as well. The visibility of my scars have never been bothersome to me, I rather view them as a badge of survival, an so it's never mattered to me when others see or even comment on my scars. In fact, I find it a bit humorous when strangers react to seeing such a scarred up abdomen as they try to ascertain what the cause is of such scars.

It was this attitude that kept me from ever considering products and procedures to lessen the scars. However, when my gynecologist asked to complete a series of laser procedures on my abdominal scars to allow the scars to lessen in color and size as part of a research study, I consented to undergo the procedure. The laser procedures were short repeated sessions and the heat of the laser was uncomfortable, although not unbearable. The heat was most bothersome on my freshest scar, the deep single slash with the slightly open knob. Each session let my abdomen red from the laser's intense heat and it was a display of gradual changes. I was surprised at the results, not only did my scars reduce their pink or red hues and blend in more with the surrounding skin, they also became less puffy and less deep so that they're more level with my skin. I wouldn't have sought such a procedure if it hadn't been part of a research study at no cost to me but I'm glad I had the opportunity to benefit from the laser procedures.

With or without treatments to reduce the visibility of scars, don't let your scars hold you back. Scars don't define us and aren't a reflection of negativity, imperfection or damage to the body. Rather, they are merely reminders of what has been survived. And that, indeed, makes a pretty awesome, empowering statement of self.
I leave you with quotes that speak to the strength of a life with scars.

  • Scars remind us where we've been. They don't have to dictate where we're going. - Agent Rossi, Criminal Minds
  • Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars. - Kahlil Gibran
  • In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they're still beautiful. - Alice Walker
  • A pearl is a beautiful thing that is produced by an injured life. It is the tear [that results] from the injury of the oyster. The treasure of our being in this world is also produced by an injured life. If we had not been wounded, if we had not been injured, then we will not produce the pearl. - Stephan Hoeller

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