Scars

“Scars mark the places where life and sanity were threatened, ordeals endured, wounds opened and closed. They evoke a queasy awe in the best of us. We stare and look away, want to ask what happened but don’t dare broach the subject, as if these patches of mended flesh identified experience beyond the realm of human discourse. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the word ‘scar’ is one letter away from ‘scare.’”

–Kat Duff, My Skin, My Sanity

Tell me the story of a scar you have.

Comments

  1. Leigha says

    Top to bottom
    Eight stops
    Eight stations
    Linger too long at any one
    Miss the person
    Linger too long
    Miss a life
    Salutations to courage!

  2. Laurie says

    Scars

    The nurses rushed into the room where I lay in labor with my first child and, before I knew what was happening, quickly lifted me, flipped me over onto my hands and knees, and started yanking upon my belly.

    “Wait – what are you doing, what’s happening?” I blurted raggedly, hardly able to breathe.

    The ignored me. They continued their work, lowering the head of the bed until I thought I would pitch off the bed headfirst into the wall of my private room. One nurse stared intently at the monitor that gave readings from the belt strapped around the belly they were vigorously manipulating. Confused, scared, worn out from days of increasing pain that had produced no baby, I heard snatches of conversation from other scrub-clad people : “….not getting enough Oh-two….”, “….emergency C-section….” “…doctor’s on the way….”

    After what seemed an eternity, one nurse finally addressed me. “Your baby’s had a severe drop in her heartbeat. She’s not getting enough oxygen. The cord seems to have gotten wrapped around her neck, but I think we’ve got it loosened up a little. We’re going to have to do a C-section, okay?”

    Exhausted, terrified, I could only nod as the tears began to flow. Would I lose the child that I had waited so long to see, to hold, to love?

    Things happened quickly after that. The gurney. The rush to the delivery room. Within minutes, my boyfriend, the baby’s father, was stationed at the head of the operating table, holding my hand and stroking my forehead, and the team quickly began their work. Soon, the baby was taken from the horizontal opening made in my lower belly – the bikini line, the doctor jokingly told me – and a too-quiet baby was being cleaned up and assessed while the room held its breath.

    At last, a small cry arose, and a collective relieved sigh exploded from the small crowd in the delivery room. My daughter was rushed to the neonatal unit for monitoring, and I was cleaned up, sewn up, and moved to the recovery room.

    Later, the boyfriend who later become my husband told me that a nurse had told him that my baby girl had bounced back so quickly from her traumatic birth that she had nearly kicked herself over on her belly after she was put in the bassinet upon her arrival at the neonatal unit. John said proudly, “The nurse said she’d never seen a newborn baby so strong! And she is yelling her head off, too; she has great lungs!”

    Today, my lower stomach bears the scars of not just one, but two Cesarean deliveries. My body wasn’t able to produce a child naturally, but as the old saying goes, childbirth – even a surgical one – is the worst pain that is remembered the least.

  3. Gayle Herman says

    JULY 4TH

    Regret? I am filled with it. As I look at a picture taken at Packer Lake during the 4th of July vacation in 1992, the memories flood back in…

    I am standing on an old wooden bridge with two of my sons, ages 4 and 6. As I gaze at myself as a young woman, I see another life, one long gone. At that time, my life was filled with possibilities. We had many friends, and we loved to spend time with our children and relatives.

    Packer Lake was a resort of sorts—small log cabins on one side of a tiny lake. It was booked up years in advance, and we had standing reservations for the first week in July, along with a large group of friends, some of whom we’d see only during that week. It was like camping, but with style. The cabins were rustic, and came complete with a rowboat. We’d get up at dawn and row to the middle of the lake, and fish for our breakfast. Some years we’d catch our quota, other years we’d come up empty, but, the peaceful beauty of time suspended while in that boat, was all that I really needed. We’d take our catch to the dining hall where a master chef would transform our offerings into a sumptuous meal. I can still smell the pan fried trout, cooked to perfection, along with home fries and eggs. We would be ravenous after hours on the water—what a wonderful, extravagant treat to be served gourmet meals in this camp setting.

    The week always went the same way. While the women watched the toddlers, the men would take the older children on a hike. Later in the afternoon, the women might venture out to commune with nature and enjoy each others’ company, forgetting for a few moments, the responsibilities of motherhood. On Tuesday evenings, the owner of the ‘resort’ would make a simple spaghetti dinner while his chef went into town for supplies. Then we’d play bingo—a fun family activity which cemented our small community into life long friendships. We’d all look forward to the 4th of July, when we’d pile into our cars and drive forty minutes through the mountain roads to the town of Gray Eagle. We’d join the celebration at their park, where thousands gathered to hear a live band and then watch the fireworks display. We’d huddle under blankets as we ‘oohed and ahhhed’
    upon seeing each new set of fiery wonder. The noise was deafening and the smoke from the fireworks often made it hard to find our cars after the grand finale. But we’d all feel happy and satisfied as we made our way back to our campground.

    I thought that nothing would change my world…but, four years later, I was no longer a part of that life. Now I spend every 4th of July mourning the loss, while my children continue to go to Packer Lake with their Dad and his new family, continuing the tradition that we had begun. As Fleetwood Mac once sang, “I’m just second hand news.”

    • Beverly Boyd says

      I know too well the loss of friends who seemed to be mine but were in my life because of our navy husbands’ connection. Though I don’t regret having initiated the divorce; it saved my life, I had not expected to be cut out of the lives of people I believed were my friends. Time heals and I’ve had a rich life full of experiences I would have miss if we had stayed together. I hope something like that will happen for you.

  4. says

    Gayle, as I read your story, I kept expecting a terrible accident to occur–and I guess you imply that one did–but not the kind I expected—and not the kind of scar I expected either. I’m sorry for your loss of that place and your place in it.

  5. Sarah says

    One of the scars I have is one no one can see. It’s on my heart, my soul, my mind, and my spirit. It’s just one big huge scar. It’s the scar my ex-husband gave me.

    • Tammy Tucker Weston says

      You don’t think they can heal, but they can. Sometimes takes many many years. Allow some one else into your life. Trust me, that scar although will always be there…will become a much needed learning experience.

  6. Crystal says

    I have plenty of scars. Some are in my memory and some are physical. Some of my physical scars come with bizarre memories; like when i split my chin open or crashed my bike or skateboard, all when i was younger and more daring. And then, some of my memories have left scars…

    Some of my physical scars make me laugh, some make me cringe and say “ouch!” It’s amazing hoe I can feel what it was like to get hurt and end up with a scar, and another scar has no real significance other than a neccessary surgery. That scar isn’t so exciting, not a real good story to tell. Although I am self concious of a ocuple of them and cover up. Their’s are the best stories I can tell about the scar.
    Some of my scars are fading…and with time that goes by, they get lighter and lighter. Then I just smile peacefully to myself with memories…some fond and not so fond, but either way, these scars are mine. They’re really not so bad, just little reminders of an exciting life and sometimes sad. The scars may never go away but maybe just simply fade, but they’ll always be mine and unique like me.
    My scars remind me of some fun incredible times and the people I was with, and some scars remind me of people I wish I had never met, but all in all, they’re still mine.
    I sometimes pet my scars, and soothe them but not as much as I used to when they were fresh. Now as they are fading…I don’t visit with them as much. Some of them have names, like when, where or dates. There is not much more to go into regarding scars. I believe I do have one in each body area.

  7. Sheila Sugarman says

    NO TIME FOR GOOD-BY

    The call came at 5:00 pm. The pained voice said, “He’s dying! “Come quick!” Half an hour later, frantically driving the 100 miles to say good-by, the phone rang again. I pulled over, stopped the car, clicked on the phone, and heard the pained voice say, “He’s gone.” “He died a few minutes ago”. From the gaping wound ripped opened in my heart, these words silently screamed in my head. “What?” “It can’t be!” “It’s too fast!” “Why didn’t you wait for me?”

    The wound in my heart has healed these past 5 years. The long, jagged scar still hurts like hell sometimes. These words silently whisper in my head. “Why didn’t you wait for me?” “I wanted to hold you in my arms, and tell you how much I love you, one more time before you left?”

    Sheila Sugarman

  8. Tammy Tucker Weston says

    ” Mosaic of my scars”

    A lifetime of scars my heart does hold
    Some will stay and some will go away
    so I am told
    Reflecting back on the suffering ending
    in the abrasion
    it carries can be very heavy
    At times fate has left me
    feeling tested
    My scars I adorn would not trade
    The person I am they have made
    Oh sure I have ambiguity
    If not for these I would not have found me
    I have found the beauty of something once so
    ugly now beholds
    A Mosaic of my scars has made me
    interesting
    also taught me the importance
    of inner peace
    So many to lists, however,
    I feel cherished to be the one
    allowed to live this

  9. Julia says

    There is the scar on my forearm from when I was a kid of about 11 years of age. A large German Shepherd, tied to a running line behind the produce market where we would walk for a gallon of milk or a head of lettuce, was just doing his job, when, before I knew it, he lunged for me, biting only my arm in the process. My brother outran him, but I turned to run only a few seconds too late. I covered the arm because I was scared to see what the dog had done, but when I did peek, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. My dad took me to the ER and the bite required a bunch of stitches. For me, I think I enjoyed the attention I was getting. It made me feel tough and resiliant.

    During the next several years, my parents fought, due to dad’s alcoholism, and were not around much. Mom took a job waitressing as dad’s health failed and dad went out drinking; us kids would fix our own food and I began emotional eating behavior, which made me fat. I was in the fifth grade and weighed 200 pounds. My skin began stretching because my body was growing bigger. These stretch marks became scars with hugh psychological scars of their own. How I valued myself diminished, as I also had a bed wetting problem that did not stop until age 14. This added another layer of psychic/emotional scarring to an already unstable young mind. Daddy wasn’t around much and died from his addictions. I think the tough 11 year old in me was gone by this time. I needed the support of my dad, or at the very least, some encouragement from Mom. Neither came. All these issues, including new body issues, made me feel so out of control. By age 16, I went on a severe weight loss crusade, losing 70 pounds in three months. It wasn’t healthy. I became anorexic, purging and binging on food. Controlling my weight was a way to make me feel like my body wasn’t ugly or shameful. I envied the pretty, popular girls in school. One day I went shopping with Mom when I saw these nice bikinis. I tried them on and loved how my figure looked, a definite hourglass shape. Mom’s expression was somewhat passive and I wondered why she wasn’t happy for me to finally wear a bikini. I went swimming at the local public pool, where lots of kids from my school also went to swim. Boys and girls whom I recognized were there. A really pretty girl, who was popular, happened to be wearing the same swimsuit as me. I felt proud of myself and even got up the courage to jump off the 20 foot high-dive! Only decades later, after working through shame issues, did it occur to me that the beautiful bikini I was sporting was also showing off a very stretch-marked hourglass figure. At least my confidence level was high. Even though I am somewhat horrified now to think how I must’ve looked, the truth of the matter is, “you can’t keep a good person down.”
    I was determined to feel good about myself that day, no matter what.

  10. Elya Braden says

    The Ignorance of Skin

    Once you have been turned inside out,
    seen the jellied glistening of your internal organs –
    serpentine colon, rancid liver, flaccid stomach,
    fetal kidney, cradled heart, pulsing uterus,
    there is no going back
    to the ignorance of skin –
    smooth and peachy, self-satisfied,
    creamy and delicious with youth.
    Now you tell your stories
    in tracings of scars,
    like a beribboned soldier
    touting his victories.

    This was where they removed
    my appendix when I was 8,
    and here the kidney stone,
    too large to pass.
    Here’s where they took my gallbladder,
    and this was my daughter’s emergency exit,
    after 32 hours of labor, her untunnelled head
    breaching the stubborn heat
    of Indian summer.

    Scattered skirmishes
    now neat rows of stitches,
    soldiered in formation.
    Your body tells its story -
    of battles won and battles lost,
    of death and dead and pardons granted,
    of severed sacrifices -
    on the yellowed parchment
    of your skin.

  11. Anna Meredith says

    It’s purple now, and it stands out raised as proud flesh. I see it when I turn my head for a breath in the pool. My too-pale arm arcs out of the water, and it seems to me more of a question mark than a period.

    Did they really get all of it out? How far advanced was it? How many more of those are hiding on my skin, waiting to turn malignant?

    It was the seventh piece of flesh to be taken from me in one year. When people ask about it, I don’t make much effort to spare them the discomfort. “Cancer,” I reply and then wonder if they’ll say more than “oh.” I do at least spare them the details of how it felt to watch yet another part of me leave.

    I suppose it is common these days. One woman in her fifties told me that we won’t know what the years of ignorant sun exposure would do to us for still many years to come. I puzzle over it. How could my mother have not known that peeling skin and swollen, red “tan lines” were calls for help from my very cells? How could she have let me lie there in the deep South summer sun in just baby oil for hours?

    I do know though, and I understand that she would have smoothed sunscreen on me had she realized the damage that was going on before her eyes. I protect my own fair-skinned little one now, from too much sun at mid-day and whatever other hazards may lurk in the shadows. I have learned what she could not have taught me, and I would have taught her to smooth the sunscreen on her grandson’s back before going out to play.

    She missed his birth by ten years though, and she was much gentler when strangers asked her about her scars. She could barely say the word ‘cancer’ to herself. So much unspoken … and maybe she didn’t see after all. By keeping silent and not naming our scars, they may stay hidden, but I believe they go deeper and take longer to heal.

    I see this purple line every time I lift my head to breathe between strokes. Each breath is a choice that I name survival and life and strength and fierce determination to live out loud, scars and all.

    • says

      Dear Anna, I had some skin cancer removed from my nose last year and I’ve been “unhappy” with my scar, in fact, I’ve avoided long looks in the mirror because of it. It’s strange, but I’ll show my breast cancer scars to anyone, but I guess that’s a choice–since I have to lift up my shirt to do it. The scar on my nose is just there and it makes me feel exposed. Reading your piece made me feel more proud–and less vulnerable about it. Thank you!

      • Anna Meredith says

        Dear Laura, my nose empathizes with yours. I had considered a sparkly decoration for my scar there. I handle my feelings on this one by showing off how uneven my nostrils are when flared, usually just for the mirror. It at least makes me laugh a bit.

  12. Andrea Jones says

    My four-year old niece asked, “what’s that line on your tummy?” I told her, “I used to be a teddy bear, and it is the seam where they stitched me up when I became a person.” I like this story better than, “it is the twelve inch vertical scar the doctor left me when he removed my 13lb ovarian cyst, one ovary, one fallopian tube and my appendix when I was sixteen. The story changes depending on the age group of the audience; the older crowd is much more impressed with the statistics. I have even been known to produce a few interesting tumor pictures when I am really in the mood to entertain.

    The first adult question is always, “how didn’t you know you had a 13lb tumor.” Well, I am very tall and I was growing quickly at this age. The tumor simply grew with me. It took a long time for it to show and then I thought I was just fat.

    I caught Mono when I was sixteen and once I was better the doctor was concerned that my spleen was still extended. A thorough check up revealed a tumor they thought was about the size of a grapefruit. I was rushed next door for an ultrasound. If you’ve never had an abdominal ultrasound, they make you drink what feels like ten gallons of water before the exam. I was in tears from having to pee so badly. That is my first worst memory of the entire event. My second worst memory was watching my mother’s face as she watched the ultrasound. As she got paler and paler, she looked at me and said, “the next time we do this, it had better be a baby.” The ultrasound had revealed a tumor more the size of a soccer ball than a grapefruit.

    I was whisked over to meet with the surgeon. As my mom and I watched him eyeing the ultrasound results, I was thinking, “wow, this is surreal, I can’t wait to tell my friends.” I didn’t know it at the time, but my mom was thinking, “oh my god, please don’t let my daughter die.” After the surgeon had basically introduced us to my newly discovered tumor, he said, “I don’t believe it is cancerous because at this size, you would probably already be dead.” “Holy Shit?” That is what replaced my previous self-absorbed adolescent thought process. “Thank God!” This was my mom’s next thought. Surgery was scheduled for two days later.

    My mom called my brother to come and get me. She then went home, called our neighbor Carol, and had a serious cry that she hadn’t wanted me to see. Now that I’m a mother, I understand how terrified she was and appreciate that she didn’t let me know it then. My dad was working out of town and everything happened so quickly, he hadn’t been able to get home yet. Thank goodness for friends.

    My brother was two years older than me and we had always fought, except when we had to stand together against anyone else; then we were thick as thieves. When he picked me up, he flung the standard brother comment, “so what’s wrong with you – do you have a brain tumor?” Wow, could being a sister get any better than this perfect moment? I got to tell him the news. I then enjoyed two days of being waited on hand and foot and many apologies for teasing me about being fat. Maybe this tumor thing wasn’t so bad after all.

    But alas, I eventually had to go get cut open. In preparation, to add insult to injury, they shaved my nether area, which hadn’t had hair very long to begin with. Then Mr. Humorous surgeon came in and asked me, “what kind of scar would you like? We could do a Z like Zorro or a serpentine snake, or just go with a straight line and call it ‘the path to adventure’? I blushed 10 shades of red at that, but ultimately opted for that choice.

    I was dressed in the fashionable, peak-a-boo butt, robe and hauled downstairs where I was introduced to my anesthesiologist. My-oh-my, this was probably one of the most handsome men I had ever met. He smiled his gorgeous smile and promptly stuck a needle in me. He wandered off as I explained to my mom that after the surgery she was to make sure my butt wasn’t outside the robe when they took me back to my room. Hunky doctor returned just in time to hear me follow-up with, “mom, did you notice how gorgeous that guy was.” It was okay though because the drugs were hitting me and I was beyond embarrassment, except for that butt thing.

    They rolled me into the operating room, took off my fashionable robe and laid me on the coldest, steel table you could imagine. I was having empathetic thoughts towards all those Thanksgiving turkeys as Mr. Hunky said, “I want you to start counting backwards from 100. You are going to experience a taste like onions and then you should fall right to sleep.” I started to tell him how much I hated onions and I was out like the proverbial light. It never even dawned on me to appreciate the fact that I was naked in a room with a man that should have been bronzed.

    Six hours later, the third worst memory occurred – waking up. A nurse was shaking me telling me I had to open my eyes. I felt so violent towards her at that moment that every swear word I had ever heard, but had been afraid to repeat, came flooding to mind. I wanted to hurt her like she was hurting me. I don’t know if I actually said anything, but just my thoughts should have scorched her alive. I do remember telling her to go get my mom, and my brother, and my dad. NOW!! She didn’t though. She just kept shaking me until I was semi-coherent. I remember being wheeled out, my mom taking my hand, and then continuing to my room. My mom told me later that my lips were bright blue and she was afraid to let me out of her sight. She also admitted that she forgot to make sure my rear end was covered up.

    The hospital didn’t know where to put me so I ended up in the maternity ward. This was an excellent choice because the mother of one of my best friends was the head nurse. My favorite nurse was the tiny red head that peaked into my room and said, “I’m not your nurse today but I had to come in and meet you. Your tumor is in a big bowl downstairs and it is so amazing. I can’t believe it came out of you.” I liked her immediately. I also liked the thought of my tumor being the winner of hospital show-and-tell.

    Recovery was pretty standard; morphine for the pain, several daily walks to view the new babies, and visits from my surgeon. I was the last one on his rounds so he always stayed awhile to visit. On one visit he ate almost an entire box of my Sees candy. I don’t even think he realized it. It wasn’t a big deal though. I had enough candy sent to me to feed the entire hospital. I had gone from 130 lbs to 111 lbs. At 5’8”, I looked like I needed fattening up. After a week I went home and after two weeks I bounced back like sixteen year olds are capable of doing.

    I obviously still have my scar. When I even bother to notice it, I rarely think of the pain and fear. Usually what comes to mind is how brave my mom was and how sweet my brother was and what great care the medical community gave me. I was very lucky.

    By the way, my mother got her wish. My next ultrasound WAS for a baby. Well actually, I had twins at 27 so it was for two babies. It was my turn to be pale and somewhat terrified.

  13. Lisa Bulman Taylor says

    His six year old fingers trace the raised scars on my arms, some still freshly pink, others faded and light, too many to count. His questioning eyes break my heart, oh to be so sweetly naïve again. My nightmares began at his age. Every time I give him a hug, stare at his sweet smile and gentle ways, it tugs at each scar on my soul. Each scar bears shame, each scar a written story that I can never escape. “How come there are so many?” he asks. I ask God the same question every day.

  14. Tempered Ashes says

    My scar is on my “lower region.” It is red and aching–and beating like a hamster. I wish it could heal so I could “go on” with my life. I guess it won’t though–not until I attend to it.

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