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How Have Your Scars Made You Who You Are?

Life leaves scars. From skinned knees to surgical wounds, we all have a scar (or two, or three...) And that's not counting the emotional scars we've earned in the trenches. 

How have your scars made you who you are? I'll share first:

1.  My father grew up in New York City playing stickball in the street. Our generation lived in suburbia with backyards and grass. One day, he tried to teach us and I fell on the asphalt and gashed my knee open. I don't have many good memories of my father. Strangely enough, that scar represents one of them. 

2.  After two miscarriages and years of infertility, my husband and I finally connected with a wonderful infertility specialist. He performed my first abdominal surgery - a laparoscopy to treat endometriosis. It left a small scar under by navel. That scar brought me my daughter, as did the larger caesarian scar which replaced it when I gave birth to her. Neither of those scars ever negatively affected my body image. Instead, they represented the triumph of doing whatever it took to accomplish your dreams and constantly reminded me how very much I wanted both of my children.

3.  Years later, the caesarian scar was replaced by a TRAM flap reconstruction scar. (Why do they have to keep getting bigger and bigger?) In an earlier post,"What's the Real Story Behind Your Cancer Scars?" I talked about feeling "diminished."  I no longer looked at my abdominal cancer scars and felt like a life-giver. Instead, I felt that age, disease, surgeries and cancer were robbing me of life. I was becoming less of me, not more.

Today, I don't feel diminished. But, I have to say I'm ambivalent. My body is healthy. I'm exercising. I have a flat stomach and two rebuilt breasts. I look good and feel good (except for the TRAM flap pain.) But, I never forget the price I paid and still pay. I guess it's a lot more complicated having cancer than having children.

The bottom line is that our scars speak volumes about our lives. Factually, they evidence life's traumas. But, their real story is in how we interpret those facts, what we read into their very existence. And that can change daily. We have good days and bad days and some days we're ambivalent. It's all real and it all makes me who I am. 

Writing this post, I realized I've written a lot about my scars, which means they are on my mind as well as my body. Are your cancer scars on your mind? I'd love to read your comments and thanks again for sharing with me.

Survival > Existence,

Related Posts:

"What's the Real Story Behind Your Cancer Scars?

My "Beautiful," Eloquent Cancer Scars

Follow the Map of the Scars to Liberation!

Mindful Monday - Take Action!


Helen Melhuish's picture

I got my first breast scar in my early twenties when I had a fibrous lump removed. At the time I was very vain about it, but it wasn't a tidy job, which didn't help. And would you believe that I had never heard of breast cancer??! Sounds horrifying now - and I still feel the guilt about what my family were going through waiting for results. I had no idea until I was told it was benign. This scar has always been visible, tender and obvious to me. I can't miss it. I had trouble breast feeding on that side too - there's a lot of internal scar tissue - or maybe it was psychological. This early surgery experience did however make me very breast aware, so in a way I am grateful that it made me super vigilant, which in turn lead to me finding the change that meant cancer last year aged 45. I think it meant I was also less surprised - almost like it was bound to happen. I'm sure this isn't true, but it's a feeling I've had at the back of my mind all this time. My two new scars are very tidy - the big one I can't see without a mirror. So now I have a set of three. Although I am scarred I am grateful every day that they could save my breast. I am in pain every day - the radiotherapy affected my old scar tissue as well as the new, which I wasn't expecting - so my entire breast and chest wall still hurt. But it's all manageable, and my scars are not hugely on my mind. I've lived with one that's not too pretty for 25 years. Now I have two more and they could be said to represent that my life has been saved and my cancer was caught in time. The physical for me has been nothing compared to the mental scars that I think will take longer to heal.

Debbie's picture

Hi Helen:

You have certainly been through a lot and your scars, physical and mental, evidence how hard the fight has been. Your reaction to the physical scars is admirable and inspiring. I like how you credit the first scar for making you more vigilant about noticing changes in your body. That's such a positive way of looking at it!

I agree completely that the mental scars take longer to heal. It's all part of the process and I'm glad you're here discussing these issues with us.

Survival > Existence,


Catherine's picture

Looking down at my chest the other day, I realized I’m more focused on the radiotherapy tattoo (that teeny, tiny dot) than the massive mastectomy scar. I take it for a good sign of acceptance.

Excellent post on the meaning of scars. Each mark on our body has a story, and it’s so interesting to reflect and be reminded of all those moments. (The scar on my forehead is from grade ONE, when I was running down and hill and fell onto a rock. I can still remember how the blood dripped down, and how the class all wanted to see after I returned to class with Frankenstein stitches.)

Debbie's picture


I think you've hit on an interesting word -  "acceptance." I knew I was healing when I could look at my scars and tell their stories without anger and resentment. Love your "Frankenstein stitches" story! I think it's important to remember that our cancer scars aren't our first, and they might not be the last scars we get. Life has been happening to us for a long time and we're still in it.

Survival > Existence, 



Jan Baird Hasak's picture

My scars enter my mind from time to time, especially emotional ones born from two bouts with breast cancer and a marital breakup caused by unfaithfulness. Will those scars heal just as my physical scars did? I think so, but it takes time. Thanks for this post upon which we can reflect. xxx

Debbie's picture


I think most of us are healing from something, physical and/or emotional. It's a challenge but time is definitely an ally. Thanks so much for your comment.

Survival > Existence,


Rita Brestrup's picture

I have had such issues with healing for the past year during reconstruction. Finally, things are looking up six months after the nipple reconstruction. It has been difficult looking at myself but then I thought about my friend who chose not to have reconstruction and who has a daily reminder of her ordeal as well. Two different stories but the same reminders. I am simply grateful for my doctors and God who has been by my side. Scars are insignificant in comparison. The mental scars are much more significant. I find myself not letting others get too close for fear they would grieve should something happen. I am cancer free and I am certain God will keep me so but it is so difficult sometimes to reconcile the past with the future. I am grateful for your site.

Debbie's picture


I had the same problem looking at myself during the first year of reconstruction. Intellectually, I knew things always look worse before they start healing and looking better, but I was still emotionally devastated. Once healing sets in and things start looking up a bit, it felt like I was climbing out of a hole. I could see some sunshine. I think it's the same thing with the emotional scars, it takes time and lots of support, but things can definitely get better. I hope that you are able eventually to let people in and not let your fear keep you isolated. You need and deserve the love and support of others. It would be a horrible shame if you let cancer take that away from you too.

Thanks so much for your comment and I hope you visit WWGN often.          

Survival > Existence,



Riana's picture

I'm 21 years old with a lot of emotional scars... The thing about my scars is that you can't see it but people sense it in my actions and my attitude... I'm scared of living my life positive because everything I do turns out negatively... It started when I was 14 , my father died of stomach cancer and I think because of all his body scars I live with his scars everyday my mother within a month after my fathers death , moved in with his best friend and a year later I had another sister but life there never felt like home. We lived without happiness, love, money and no time for rest and schoolwork. Me and my younger sister were like maidens cleaning and cooking for 16 people everyday for 3years... My mother couldn't take it anymore. In my last year of school we finally moved out of his life and started our own like we should have done years ago and that's when I met my fiance the best man in the whole wide world and I started my first job where I'm currently still working but my work is the worst ever I get beaten down by the worst possibly words and actions everyday they don't care about anyone or anything last year I fell pregnant best thing that ever happened to me and then all of a sudden I miscarried on 3 months because my boss forced me too carry heavy things and made my life a living hell at work. She didn't even give me the chance to go to the doctors or anything she told me everyday that children will ruin my life and that I would never be able to be a good mother she tried to bring me down so much that I , now today live with such depression and anger I can't even live with myself anymore because everyday I get a new scar... My scars of how I see myself... I just needed to share this because I don't have scars that any one can see but I have scars that makes me weaker and weaker everyday... I live everyday feeling the pain and scars and hopelessness the same way my father did...

Debbie's picture


I'm so sorry for the loss of your father, especially at such a young age. My daughter was about the same age when I was diagnosed and she had a very hard time with my illness. I can't imagine what would have happened had she lost me. Just because scars don't show doesn't mean they can be ignored. Please look for support and help from someone you can talk to about the pain you are experiencing. Working through your pain will help you build a life with your fiance which is positive and healing. Good luck and many blessings.

Survival > Existence,


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