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Finding Beauty in My Scars After Surviving Ovarian Cancer

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In August 2017, I went through a seven-hour long surgery where they removed my entire reproductive system, a fat pad, part of my colon, my rectum, lymph nodes, and shaved my bladder. The incision to complete that monumental task was enormous. My scar goes from the bottom of my rib cage down to the pubic mound. I had two JP drains in my sides that had been removed, so there were scars on either side.

To make matters worse, my large incision had burst open from infection, so it was larger around the belly button area and healed in a way that was strange. Also, thanks to the tons of medical tape, the skin had ripped off my abdomen so many times I was left with scars everywhere.

Last but not least was the scars from the port placement on my upper left shoulder.

So, needless to say, when I was cleared to have sex after my surgery, I didn’t feel the most appealing sexually.

In fact, I felt probably the lowest I ever had.

And the internet did not help. I read story after story on Facebook groups about women who had lost their partners as a result of their sex life taking a hit. I read about how their significant others found them grotesque and how the women were abandoned. It was either that or I read about how painful sex was, how women had given up on the idea of ever having sex again, and how they surrendered to the idea of a sexless life. Many women just kept saying how scared they were of sex because of their hysterectomies and their scars and, as a result, the fear carried over into the sex life, causing it to suffer or even disappear entirely.

And the fear carried over into my life. I was convinced that was my future and I was going to lose my beloved partner. It really wasn’t because I was worried about pain: pain was an everyday thing, almost like breathing. I wasn’t even worried about not being able to enjoy sex. I couldn’t get over my partner seeing what I looked like.

In my eyes, I was hideous and deformed now. Soon, after chemo would start, I would not even remotely look like a woman. I would have nothing left that would, in my mind, define me as a real woman. I would just be an empty husk, one step away from being a stick figure.

Luckily, my partner is probably the most patient and understanding man you would ever was to meet (even though he has his moments where he can be a real pain). And when it came to my scars, he became the much needed solace in the storm.

Initially, I tried to cover my scar when he stayed with me to help me recover, but he just smiled and asked what I was doing. I told him I didn’t want him to see but he took my hand away.

He kissed the scar and touched it after convinced me to stop fighting with him. And what he said is what has given me a lot of my self-esteem back to this day.

He told me how a scar is beautiful because it is a mark of bravery.

It’s not just a cut. It’s not a deformity or a mark of failure.

He told me it’s a permanent reminder how lucky he is. That he was lucky to find such a fighter.

All those scars, the marks, the track marks from countless needle sticks from labs, all of it —  it was there because I was alive and I had a will to live, something not everyone has or can find when they need it most.

He told me the scars are beautiful to him. They show that I value life. I value our life together.

My scars signify hope.

Since then, I really haven’t been able to see my scars any other way. I don’t feel ugly. I don’t feel like I’m not a woman. I don’t feel shame.

When I see them, I see hope. Hope that things will heal, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Without what he said, I would have been disconnected from life. I would think I was just the disease, another statistic for a clinical trial. I would hide myself like some others do because of feelings of shame and self-hate. I wouldn’t be a good girlfriend because I would be too busy worried about other women and how untarnished their bodies are compared to mine.

I’m so lucky I had someone to help me learn to appreciate and embrace my scars and my new appearance. Not everyone gets that lucky.

Maybe by sharing, this will help someone a little. Maybe they, too, will look in the mirror and not see the pain, the horrors of chemo, or the patient.

Maybe, just maybe, they’ll see the beauty and learn there is hope.

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Getty Images photo via agsandrew

Originally published: January 16, 2018
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