I remember growing up seeing a scar on my mother’s abdomen. It’s a large scar to the left of her navel about 10 inches in length. It looks as though someone took a crude knife to her abdomen. My mother had acute appendicitis when she was 18 years old. While the doctor was performing the emergency appendectomy, he found that my mother also had Crohn’s. During that surgery, he removed fifteen inches of her colon. Mom hobbled down the aisle and married my Dad a week after being released from the hospital.
I never thought much of my mother’s scars until it was time for me to have surgery. I did everything in my power to avoid it. Diet changes, medications, natural remedies, prayer, etc. In the end it was inevitable. My body had become dependent upon Prednisone.
One of the biggest things I struggled with leading up to surgery was not the pain. It wasn’t the risks. Nor was it about the ostomy… if I really thought about it. My biggest problem were the scars. I know that I’m going to sound extremely full of myself, but I was always fond of my belly. It was, in my opinion, one of my best physical features (my nose, my feet and a few other features are another story). I couldn’t bear to think my stomach would now be marred by a horrific scar.
Society Condemns Imperfection
Many people take careful precautions to hide their scars. Google “cover scars” and it will give you 22,600,000 results on different ways to hide scars. In American culture, scars are considered something shameful and ugly. In fact, my surgeon told me that if I was not happy with the scar, he would send me over to the plastic surgeon.
There are some cultures, however, who practice something called “scarification.” Scarification is the practice of purposefully scarring the body with pictures, words and designs as a way of permanently modifying skin on various areas of the body. It’s an important aesthetic and cultural component in African cultures. Not only is it done for the purposes of social status, and religious roles, but also for beautification. Much like tattoos.
Although I would never condone scarification as it is a form of self-harm (and apparently painful!), it is interesting to find the differences in how scars are viewed from one culture to the next.
I had a rough time recuperating after surgery… especially my first one. I had a beautiful incision. My surgeon stitched me up with “invisible stitching” and then put steri-strips over that. He was careful to cut around my belly button. I was on 40mg of Prednisone. This hindered the healing process and allowed abscesses to develop.
I had to go to the ER for the first one. The doctor discovered that the abscess was two inches deep. And so he did as most any doctor would, he opened it up. It needed to heal from the inside out or else risk further infection. I was devastated. A beautiful incision ruined by infection. I developed two more abscesses. One above and one below. Prednisone wasn’t going down without a fight!
Thankfully I didn’t have to deal with a gaping hole on my abdomen for long. My surgeon skillfully took it out during my takedown surgery. Looking back I have thought a lot about my scar. Tried to reduce it’s appearance. Vanity. Society tells me that my scars are ugly. Unwanted. No one wants to see the pain that someone else went through, right? My mindset began to change.
Who cares what other people think of me. Even if my husband told me that my scars were ugly that wouldn’t matter (BTW: He told me my scars don’t rob me of beauty). Someone who won’t accept your flaws, isn’t worth thinking about. No one is perfect. We all have flaws. It doesn’t even matter what you think of yourself… Lord knows we’re too hard on ourselves.
Remnants of a Battle Won
There is Someone who will accept me no matter how often I fail. No matter how many scars I have. No matter how big my nose or my feet are. No matter how many times I get angry and treat Him poorly. That person is Jesus. I know not all of you share my faith. But please bear with me for a moment. As we approach Easter, I am reminded of Jesus. He never gave up on me. There are times that I was disappointed that He didn’t heal me the way I expected. But He brought me through the lowest points in my life. And will bring me through more. He accepts me. Scars and all… He even has a few of His own. Evidence of His love.
How do I look at scars now? Jesus’ scars are evidence that He conquered death that I might live. My scars are evidence that I conquered my colon. Now I can say in all honesty that I am very proud of my scars. and I’ll show anyone who asks. “LOOK! This is where my colon tried to kill me. Battle wounds. This smaller scar is where my life-saving ostomy was.”
I want people to know why I have these scars. My colon tried to kill me. But I won. I lived to tell the tale. Be proud of your scars. They are reminders of your great battle. The battle that you are winning.