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Why I Embrace the Appearance of My Scars

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I have always found it strange when doctors and patients complain about scarring or act like it is something to be ashamed of. To me, scars will not taint who I am or how I am perceived because I wear them with pride and carry around a unique back story. Others can judge me because of them, but they judge because they do not understand my history.

I am one of the lucky people whose body overreacts to surgical incisions, burns and minor injuries, also known as hypertrophic scarring. Anything that a normal immune system would consider to be “minor,” my body is a drama-queen over. For example, accidentally burning my hand on a hot pan creates a puffy blister that then becomes a very wide and lumpy permanent scar. My scraped knee forms scabs and when those scabs fall off, my body leaves large white marks instead of forming new healthy cells. Before surgery the surgeon tells me he will neatly stitch up my incision so I do not have a visible scar, yet my body continues to create excess collagen and overreacts to the incision, creating a lumpy, wide scar in its wake.

I went through multiple abdominal laparoscopies to look for Crohn’s damage and five years of monthly infusions and chemotherapy in order to tame the overactive B-cells. The constant IV access whittled down the strength of my veins and I was forced to have a port-a-cath implant just below my collar bone. That implant stretched my skin, popped out like a sore thumb and at first left a small scar; however, two years later I am staring at a half-inch by three-inch lumpy scar where the port used to be.  But I love it.

I have friends that ask me about it, to which I always reply, “It’s from my port-a-cath,” and they give me this disgusted face and say, “It’s so big!” After going through the flares and quiet periods of lupus, I have embraced the appearance of my scars. They remind me of what I have been through, especially when my quiet periods can make me second guess all the pain and treatments I required in the past. Was it real? Is my diagnosis correct? Now I am able to look down and say, “Yes, all that pain was caused by an invisible illness” (minus the butterfly rash on my face).

Having an illness that still has others saying, “Well, you look great!” can be incredibly frustrating. It can cause a person to secretly thirst for a definite test result on an ultrasound, a new skin lump/rash or blood result that can validate the whirlwind of symptoms. The “hurry up and wait” saying for symptoms to show themselves before a final diagnosis is made takes an exhausting toll on a person’s body and mind. That is why scars are so meaningful to me. I have my story, I have proof for myself and for others who may be skeptical. It is proof that I love and wear with pride.

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Thinkstock photo via francescoch.

Originally published: May 5, 2017
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