My Road Map of Scars

A woman describes the scars that cancer and other life events have left her with.

For roughly the first 40 years of my life I remained pretty much free of scars. I’ve always been a good healer. Stick a Band-Aid on it and I’m good to go. Once cancer intersected my life, my body became a road map of scars. Those scars show where I’ve been, the road I've traveled
to get to where I am now and hopefully where I’m heading, which would ultimately be a place where cancer doesn’t exist.

My double mastectomy took place just days after my 40th birthday. I can remember taking off the bandages for the first time after the surgery to see my aesthetic flat closure with the bulbous drains still protruding from my body. At that moment I didn’t feel shocked or sad to be missing my breasts, as I know some people feel. To me it was more of a relief to have the area where my cancer had originated and continued to recur removed.

The one thing no one told me about, or if they did tell me I didn’t understand until I experienced it firsthand, is the feeling of numbness across my entire chest where my breasts once were. Not only are the scars on my chest itchy, but there is almost like a band across my chest that feels strangely numb and itchy at the same time. At times the itch can be intense, especially when certain fabrics rub my scars. It’s a sensation of a deep-down itch that no matter what you do you can’t get relief. Yet I survived.

My hysterectomy came next, a couple of years after my mastectomy. The procedure was performed robotically, leaving me with five small slit-like scars across my lower abdomen. These scars don’t itch and aren’t numb. They are relatively small scars considering all the parts that were removed during the hysterectomy. Today they are a mere dotted line on my abdominal road map of scars. I can honestly say I don’t miss my uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes and cervix. Those parts were never of much use to me anyway. I’ll survive without them.

Next came Pete, my power port. Yes, I named my port. The scar from my port is not as noticeable as the device itself. I’m a smaller-framed person, so my port sticks out quite a bit, which can be good or bad depending on the situation. The negative is my port sits right in the same place where my car seat belt comes across my chest causing some irritation. I use a seat belt pad to help with that. The positive side to having the port so visible is that it is great for the nurses when it comes time to access it. There’s no guesswork there. Pete stands at attention, ready to do his job, and he does it well.

Along the way between the surgical scars, but not cancer related, I happened to be bit by a “friendly” dog. This so-called friendly dog was attempting to attack my dog. If it hadn’t been for the top of my right hand intervening to pick up and protect my dog, she would have ended up with a giant gash on her throat. Instead, I have a rather deep, indented scar on the top of my hand now. My dog was completely unharmed, and I don’t think she even knew what was happening at the time, as I was the one who wound up at ER that day with stitches and yet another scar. We both survived that encounter.

Scars are pretty amazing when you really stop to think about them. They show such resilience in healing. How skin and tissue can be cut open and then seal itself back together to become whole again is impressive. My scars are what makes me uniquely me. They represent all I’ve been through and all I’ve endured. I wear my scars proudly and with honor, for without them my length of survival may have been shortened or altered. With time, all scars can heal, emotionally and physically. This is my road map of the life I’ve lived: the stories within me that I’ve lived to tell and the scars I have to prove it.

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