As well as being a cancer blogger, Laura Yeager is a religious essayist and a mental health blogger. A graduate of The Writers’ Workshop at The University of Iowa, she teaches writing at Kent State University and Gotham Writers’ Workshop. Laura survived cancer twice.
I probe the scars of cancer treatment and realize they are my salvation.
When I'm standing there naked after a shower, looking in my bathroom mirror, I can't help but stick my finger into the hole that was made by the drainage tube that was stuck into my side after breast cancer. The tube was attached to a bulb that caught the fluids draining from my body. Today, when I did this, I couldn't help but think of Thomas, sticking his fingers into Jesus' side after Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead.
Yes, folks, cancer treatment is a little like crucifixion. What doesn't kill you makes you well. My oncologist used to say "I'm pumping poison into your body." They burn your flesh with radiation treatment. Then, they cut you up and remove the most treasured parts of your body--your beautiful breasts. It's a bit ghastly. You die a bit.
But when it's over, you come back from the dead. Your hair grows back. Your cheeks turn pink again. You regain your strength. And you become like the proverbial Thomas, poking your finger into your own wound to verify that this whole hideous procedure happened to you.
I remember my youthful body. I didn't have one scar. I did have a huge brown birthmark on my lower back. Once, I was swimming in Crystal Lake and a fish mistook my birthmark for a large insect. The fish chomped into the birthmark, trying to tear it out of my skin. I remember the little fish's teeth wedged into my flesh. I remember wiggling my body to shake it off me. But what happened next was even stranger. The birthmark, now stimulated by the teeth of the fish, began to grow and blossom into an even bigger brown mark. It was determined that I needed to have the thing removed. A dermatologist took it off in his office--outpatient surgery. This left me with my only scar for about 25 years. I didn't have any other scarring on my body until my cancer experiences.
I remember looking at my breasts, what was left of my breasts, after my mastectomy. They were sutured up with dark black stitches. Now, years later, of course the stitches are gone and all that's left are the long, white scars.
I'm going to have another surgery in July. The doctor is going to remove a breast implant. In 2016, I had the opposite one removed due to an angiosarcoma surgery. So now I'm a bit lopsided. I've got an implant on the left side and nothing on the right. I want symmetry again. So I'm going under the knife. The doctor said he would cut along the existing scar. How nice of him. I won't have a new scar to contend with.
I'm not sure it's possible to get through life without acquiring marks left by healed wounds.
At least it hasn't been so in my life.
Cancer treatment is like one's own little crucifixion and resurrection.
I should know. I have the scars to prove it.