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"Scars" by Heather Hancock



I believe I am more than my scars…and so does everyone else, mainly because they don’t know my scars exist.  The still pink, puckered railroad tracks that crisscross my torso where my breasts used to be…glorified in raised relief. They see me every day all dressed up with nowhere to go and think, I am sure, She looks fine…They may catch a hint of my tattoo which owns “I am more than my scars”… but all in all, they don’t really know who I am, what I have been through, what I feel… and who could blame them.  I hide it every day, behind clothes and a smile that says I am right as rain. 

I am in moderate pain all of the time, nothing too debilitating.  Just interfering with some activities, like getting up off the couch or doing more than walking at the gym… but not getting dressed, taking a shower or feeding myself.  I am a patchwork quilt that still functions.

The worst scars are beneath the surface…the ones only I can fully appreciate.  Not the ones that pull or burn…these don’t ever close or lighten…and I try to hide those disfigurements from even myself…the memories of a hairless body and bald head/ fatigue that overwhelms all but the smallest tasks/the isolation in a room of people/the panic of another complication…And…Every day I look at my body in the mirror.  Every day reality reminds that I have had cancer…And yet I am still alive.  Every day I wonder when it will come back…I am told to mitigate my stress, to meditate/exercise/enjoy life and eat healthy because all of those things lessen my chance of recurrence.  I am told especially…don’t stress. 

But stress is my life…it is an essential element of my job as a Trauma Surgeon…an unequivocal element of my personality…it seems unavoidable.  And I can’t have a recurrence…I don’t know that I can face cancer again.  And every day, I look in the mirror, straining my body against it’s restraints, to start anew until I can’t.

This isn’t something we are supposed to reveal as women…despair, anger and fear… emotions not well suited to the female façade apparently.  Platitudes and graciousness sit better on our lips…at least that’s what we are led to believe.  A generation of women have ended themselves over making other people content.  They had scars beneath the surface, rising like burned tattoos upon their skin… until they burst… releasing all the pain they could no longer bear. 

Why do we nurture such simplistic masks when such rivers roil beneath the surface.  If we could be as concerned with how the tides shifted in someone ,as the set of their curls upon their brow…we would be a better neighbor than one who only brings a casserole over at a funeral.

The scar in the earth at the end of life’s path is not even what I fear the most, it’s the path itself, carved out of my flesh one slice at a time. It is the pain getting there that is the horror before the veil would for death to take this reluctant, blemished bride. And would I be restored? Rebuilt and mended without a mark? I hope not. My scars have stories upon stories embedded in them. A roadmap of the life I have led and cancer has merely added it’s boundaries to that page. I am more than my scars…I am the universe stitched together in uneven tissues…I am everything.



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