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Embracing My Scars in Life With Cerebral Palsy

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March is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month. It’s a great opportunity to be able to spread awareness and break stigmas that people may have about cerebral palsy (CP). But it’s also a time when I tend to think more personally about my own experiences with CP. One such normal experience for me is having scars.

Growing up with cerebral palsy meant that scars were inevitable for me. Whether from surgeries, falls, or just plain clumsiness, scars became the norm for me. As a kid, I was accustomed to the routine of running to my mom with each new skinned elbow or knee and having her patch me up. It was normal for me to feel the pain that each new fall or surgery would bring and, afterward, to see the marks that would be left behind on my skin.

I was used to it all. But I was ashamed of my scars. Even as a small child, I didn’t like for people to see the long scar that ran down my back. At one point, I had a special bathing suit with a patch sewn in to cover the scar because of my shame over it.

As I got older and went through school, anything that was different made me a target for teasing. I was the small girl with glasses and braces who walked funny. The physical scars I had started to be joined by some emotional scars too. And I continued to be ashamed of my scars because they were just one more thing that made me different.

It’s strange to think back on the shame that I felt over my physical scars. Because I’m not ashamed of them anymore. I don’t really remember when the shame dissolved. But what I do remember are the feelings that took the place of that shame.

Now, instead of being ashamed of my scars, I am proud to have them. I see them as my personal battle wounds, a battle I fought not to just be alive, but to really live and be able to do things for myself. Without the surgeries that caused some of those scars, I could have been in a very different situation in life today. I am grateful and no longer feel the need to cover them.

Karina's wedding photo in which her back scar is visible.

In fact, when I married my husband in 2018, the scar on my back was on full display in my wedding gown. I remember my mom asking me if I was fine with it, because she knew how it used to bother me. I was happy to answer that I wasn’t bothered at all.

I remember thinking that I had come such a long way from the child who wanted her scar covered to now: the woman who was not only not bothered, but proud, for one of her battle wounds to be on display.

There is a line in the song “Scars” by Papa Roach that says, “our scars remind us that the past is real.” That’s true. Each of my scars has a story. But scars can also remind us that we have fought a battle, that we have courage, or that we have overcome some sort of obstacle.

Today I embrace my scars. Because no matter how they’ve ended up on my body, they remind me that I am alive and living, and that I have fought a battle to be where I am today.

Karina in her wedding dress.

Originally published: March 26, 2021
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