If I was ever murdered and dismembered by a serial killer I reckon that all of my body parts could be easily identified. By scars. Except for my left leg. My left leg is pretty much perfect. I do have my Dad’s toes though so if they used him as a reference point then that would easily solve that problem.
Everyone accumulates scars throughout life – that’s part of living. I once sliced open my finger on a pen knife. When I was three I bit my tongue off and had it swiftly sewn back on again (that’s a story worth telling one day). I used to have a massive wart on my right leg that eventually fell off quite dramatically and it left a dent.
Most of my scars are thanks to my constant companion CF. My port scars are obviously my favourite scars. You all know by now how much I worship my port and I would gladly collect more port scars if I needed to. Before I got my port I had nine PICC lines. If I ever forget exactly how many I’ve had I can tally them up by counting my PICC line scars. I also have countless little cannula scars all over my body from when I was a baby and had a full-time gig as a human pin cushion.
My least favourite scar by far is on my stomach. I was born with a condition called meconium ileus which occurs in about 10% of PWCF. Basically, I had poop stuck in my small intestine which was not going to voluntarily exit my body under any circumstances. The surgeons needed to go in and cut out the poop along with a hefty part of my small intestine. Eventually I had another operation to rejoin my insides. Unfortunately my bowel decided to rebel and turned gangrenous so the two operations needed to be repeated. At least one of my operations was a bit of an emergency. Once I made a miraculous recovery the surgeon apologised to Mum. He said that if he’d honestly thought I was going to survive he would have taken a bit more care with his incision so it was less of a train wreck.
On one hand I’m very happy I have this scar because it’s literally the reason why I’m alive. I have the opportunity to look at it everyday when I’m towelling myself dry or getting dressed but I don’t even notice it 98.7% of the time and I bet Dave doesn’t give it a second thought either. So, it can’t be too big a deal. Right? Well, on the other hand, my family will know that I let it restrict me in a few ways. For example, I choose not to wear bikinis. I’ve given bikinis a go but it makes me feel too self conscious so on balance being bold isn’t worth my inner mental torture. I also firmly believe that the outline of my scar can be seen through certain tops and dresses so I choose not to wear those tops and dresses. Because my scar was created when I was a newborn and I’ve grown a fair bit since then it is tight and chops my belly in half which is revealed by tight-fitting clothes.
My scar advertises me as different – against my will. It isn’t an expression of my personality, it wasn’t a choice like cutting my hair short, choosing jeans as my default clothing item, deciding that high heel shoes are not really my thing or getting my ears pierced. If I wanted life then I needed my scar. Life = scar. Scar = life. For me, life and scar are a package deal, take it or leave it. My scar presents undeniable evidence that there was something seriously wrong with me and graphically suggests that I still live with a serious health condition. I certainly don’t need a scar to remind me of this – I have medications and treatments and coughing and mucus and salt caked to my skin on hot days and fatigue and a sore belly and many other daily reminders. Instead, my scar betrays me to the rest of the world. If I bare it, people will see it, and although adults will not ask me outright their eyes tell me that they’re wondering what the heck happened to me. CF is usually invisible but my scar makes CF visible.
There is a great initiative called “Scar Stories”. I really encourage you to check it out. Photographers have captured images of survivor’s scars which have been carved by cancer and cancer treatment. The images are powerful and I think each survivor was incredibly brave to reveal themselves in this way. I wonder if the survivors thought and felt differently about their scars after they saw their photos. A carefully crafted photo of my scar would help me to evolve in my thoughts and feelings. I wouldn’t necessarily show the photo to anyone because the purpose of the photo would be for me alone to look at it from time to time. I think it would help me see my scar the way other people see it. To be more objective. To embrace it as something which has the potential to be empowering, special and unique. A mark which enhances, not detracts. A tattoo of sorts which I allow to tell a story worth listening to rather than gagging it because of the gossip it might stir up. When I see the survivor’s photos I see their scars this way. I don’t see mine this way. Not yet. I’m getting there.