Seeing Scars

The clocks have gone back and right now I’m feeling grateful for winter coming our way. I don’t want it to be freezing cold all the time, but like many people I’ve started feeling the need to hibernate as the days get shorter and it gets dark so early. The colder days give me a good excuse to say no to things without being questioned. After work I want to get home as quickly as possible and hide under my duvet and escape from the world.

The winter months mean its easier to cover my many scars from surgery and cancer treatments with high necks and warm layers, which I am very grateful for. My scars tell a story, a huge narrative within my life, often they are scars that no one else sees or notices, but I know they exist and they get me down a lot. I have multiple scars all over my body, including a large one on my neck form my original melanoma site. Often, when I tie my hair up I worry other people will notice and stare at it, or ask questions about how I got it. My scars make a feel vulnerable and despite being 13 years old, the one on my neck is still prominent, and its the last thing I would want to talk about.

As human beings we are a curious bunch (aka nosy) and over the years there have been a few incidents where I have been asked about the scar of my neck by total strangers. Needless to say I’ve not been impressed by this! Another memory that sticks in my mind when I saw someone from school on a night out when I was back from university for the summer, they saw me and said; ‘what the f*** happened to your face?’ I’m not quite sure I knew how to react, but one of my friends quickly jumped in and told the person in question where to go! Firstly, It’s not my face, its my neck! Secondly, what a way to make someone feel terrible about themselves and shatter the little confidence they had left! Years have passed and I’ve not seen that person since, but the memory is still vivid. Clearly they weren’t taught tact and manners growing up – who does that?!

My hatred of my scars will always be there, during my holiday to Thailand in the summer I noticed some spots of vitiligo getting progressively worse; this is one of the side effects of taking Pembrolizumab, so I know I shouldn’t let it get me down, but it becomes another reason to dislike what I see, and it’s something else I cannot control, like all the other ugly marks on my body. The majority of my vitiligo is on my torso and my thighs and legs so it isn’t easily spotted by others, but I know its there and it certainly has an impact on my confidence and what I choose to wear.

I try to overlook my scars when I look into the mirror, but they’re not easily missed, I am able conceal some, but others are too noticeable or in too much of an awkward place to hide. In some ways I should be proud because they tell a story of everything I’ve been through to stay alive, they should be constant reminders of how strong I am, but the person I now see in the mirror is totally different version of me. In reality I hate my scars and the story they tell.

I’ve been thinking about getting a tattoo for some time, possibly over my portacath site. I got one inserted two years ago after numerous issues with my veins meant it was getting more and more challenging for nurses to successfully cannulate me for chemotherapy.  Despite being discreet and easier to manage than the other options, my portacatch protrudes slightly from my chest which I find ugly. When I have dark days I wish I could rip it out of my chest, like the scars and vitiligo it is another physical reminder of my diagnosis. I am not sure what tattoo I would have, it’s just be an excuse to cover up something I hate. Maybe I’ll become addicted and get them all over my body! I had my eyebrow tattoos done around two and a half years ago and it was one of the best decisions I made at the time.

All the scars remind me there is an unwell person staring back at me and I constantly have to dig deep for the strength to keep going. I don’t want all the scars to define me, that’s not who I am, but sometimes its hard to get past. It’s more than just the physical effects, but it’s the psychological ones too. Cancer has changed every single aspect of my life and the scars are a permanent reminder of my lack of control.

The various systemic treatments I’ve received over the past 4 years have shattered my confidence, made me loose my hair and eyebrows, made my skin itch and become sensitive, made me sick to my stomach, hardened my veins and kept me awake with fear and worry for hours and hours on end. They have fundamentally changed me as a person. My scars will always be a reminder of just that. I need to learn to embrace them, right now all I feel is sadness each time I catch my reflection in the mirror. All I see are my scars.

12 thoughts on “Seeing Scars

  1. Hi Jo, I don’t know you or you me so apologies if I put anything wrong as I don’t mean to. But reading this made me want to give you a virtual hug and say sorry. I’m a nurse and I started reading your blog when a friend was diagnosed with stage 4( she’s a nurse too). I wanted some insight and a way to help me understand a teeny weeny bit. So thank you for your honesty and I’m sorry as a nurse for not always appreciating the enormity of the scars etc that we sometimes create. You and your blog are inspiring xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ruth, thanks so much for reading and commenting! I really appreciate it! Of course I would much rather have the scars and be alive but it is hard sometimes, especially with the fear of people asking questions! I think the mental impact of the scars will never diminish even when they fade away!

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  2. Dear Jolene, thank you for sharing 💚 Scars show you are a survivor (I also have major scars) Though you are right to express exactly how you feel. They certainly change how you see yourself. However, managing other people’s perceptions is not a responsibility to concern yourself with. We do well to manage our own struggles. You are an inspiration. J🌟

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Just read your recent blog Jolene, I’m so sad you feel so low at times it’s being human. You are a truly amazing young woman with such courage where others would have given up. I’m an always in total admiration of all you achieve! You are beautiful x x ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Just remember Jolene that you are a beautiful lady. My ex wife suffered from Keloids and had many scars on her body including one that was on her chest, very visible, even one on her breast. I know it’s not easy Jolene and l wish that l had a magic wand. Love and support as always.xx Bob.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Jo,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts so honestly.
    I hope you are able to embrace your scars when the time is right for you as they represent your strength both physically and emotionally. Love your blog. Take care, Adrian.

    Liked by 1 person

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