I’ve always been pretty accident prone. When I was a kid, I was forever falling over, walking into things and falling off things. As a result, I’m covered in little scars. Tiny little white flecks across my body that remind me of a place and time in my life. When I look at my knees (which admittedly, I don’t do often because that would be weird) I can see the scar from the day I fell off the wall at school. I remember the thick scab that covered the wound as my skin fused together again. When I look in my face in the mirror, I see the single thin line from my forehead to my chin, an outline of the story where I dragged the cat down the stairs by her tail and got my comuppance for it.
As I grew older, I got a few scars too. My TB jab, reminding me of the secondary school I hated and the bullies who threatened to punch it. I have a scar on my left breast from where the fibroadenoma I had a few years ago was removed. I’ve learned over the last month or so I’ve got two tiny scars on the back of my head. And there are other marks too. And all of them link together in a tapestry of history, a timeline of events where my body has suffered some kind of trauma and recovered itself. I’ve always been proud of these scars. Every time I bash myself on the doorway as I rush from A to B, I like it when a bruise blooms underneath my skin, a mark of a moment. It makes a story to tell. And I deal in stories.
Now I have a whole range of new scars, new tales to relay. From where they inserted a line in my left bicep that travelled straight to my heart so drugs could be administered easily and blood could be removed without stabbing around for a vein. Come to think of it, my thick, rigid vein, damaged by the drugs – admittedly not a scar per se, but an external reminder of internal healing. The tiny pinpricks on my stomach from injection after injection to rebuild my immune system after every battering it took from chemo. The three tiny little tattoos to mark where they’ll be blasting me for radiotherapy. The slash across my chest where they took out the cancer, and eventually my breast tissue, leaving behind an envelope of skin, a stark reminder of what the last eight months have been about – as if I needed one.
But these scars are different. Part of me wishes I could leave them behind, that they didn’t exist so I wouldn’t have to carry them with me forever. So that when this chapter of my life is done, I can move on and forget about it. But that’s just fantasy. There are many more scars – those that aren’t physical that I’ll carry with me, so even if there were no scars casting patterns across my skin, there’d still be those to contend with. I’ve always marvelled at the scars I got before I had breast cancer. I’ve always been proud and fascinated by my body’s ability to heal and regenerate.
I guess the scars I have from getting breast cancer weren’t caused by my own clumsiness. I didn’t walk into cancer. Didn’t fall over it because I wasn’t paying attention. These scars happened because my body turned against me. Because my breast tried to kill me. That’s something that I have to come to terms with, just one of the mental cuts I have to allow to heal. At the same time though, they tell a story too. That same story of regeneration and healing as all my other scars, just on a larger scale. They show a strength I never knew I had. A resilience I never imagined I’d be able to find. So I guess I should be proud of them. And proud of everything they represent. I guess I just have to give my mind time to scab over and heal before I can accept the physical traces of cancer.
Photo by Georgia Devey Smith