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How My Scar Inspired Empowerment After Open-Heart Surgery

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Remember when you were young and played a little too rough on the playground, and ended up falling somehow? You probably have a scar somewhere to commemorate that moment. Everyone has a story about how they obtain their scars. These stories can be fun to look back on, but for others scars have a deeper root, a deeper meaning. As for mine — I wear it like a badge of honor.

When I was in college, I had open-heart surgery to correct a heart condition I had for several years prior. The surgery itself was hard. I struggled physically and mentally. I prepared myself mentally for the huge scar I knew would lie right in the middle of my chest. I tried to imagine what that scar would look like, and ways I could conceal it. Thoughts about what I will not able to wear and what I can wear started flooding my mind. I was preparing myself to strategically buy clothing I knew would hide my scar.

When I was able to go home, I anxiously awaited the chance to undress so I could actually see my scar. I walked slowly to the bathroom and stood there, just waiting for the courage to look. When I worked up the nerve to look, I instantly pulled my shirt back down. I felt like it was staring at me mercilessly, peering through my soul. So many thoughts traveled through my mind. This scar was permanent. There was nothing I could do to try to fade it away.

For me, this wasn’t the worst part. When I had doctors’ appointments for check-ups, they wanted to see the progression of the healing of my scar. Every time I was asked to take my shirt off, I felt embarrassed and exposed. They knew one of the most profound things I had been through based on my scar. I felt vulnerable, like a child whose parents just discovered their secret diary. I do not like feeling easily read. I hated the fact that all someone had to do was look at my scar, and they would know an essential piece of information about me. I did everything in my power to make sure my scar was covered at all times.

The first year was challenging for me. Every time I undressed, there it was — again. When I was dressed, I felt secure. My clothes became a safe haven for me. If I had to get dressed in front of people, I always made an effort to turn around. I felt there was this weird shame that belonged to me because of this scar. But that could not be further from the truth.

With time, the negative feelings started to dissipate. As I kept looking at my scar day-in and day-out, it slowly became a symbol of empowerment. When I thought about all that had happened, I started thinking of it as a badge of honor. It shows that I am a survivor, thriver and warrior. When I think about the story behind my scar, I think about strength and power. I think about beauty. There are scars to my beautiful, and I am absolutely OK with that.

If you are a survivor of a surgery of any kind and have a scar — rock it! You have earned the right to wear it proudly.

Getty image by Victor Tongdee.

Originally published: May 7, 2019
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