• “Oh, you had surgery on your neck.”IMG_7517

    That was the statement my neighbor made when I was talking to him about a parking space situation. My response, “yes, I had thyroid cancer.” He went on to ask how I was doing and I assured him I was doing well and he shared that he had scars from skin cancer on his face. We briefly discussed our now mutual dependence on high SPF sunscreen and then went on to talk about the reason I stopped by.

    As I walked away, I thought, “yes, I HAD cancer. I don’t have it now. “ I went on to think about scars, that scar is one of the smaller ones that grace my body, but it is one of the more impactful ones. I remember being in junior high and mortified when classmates would see the scars from my two open-heart surgeries when changing in the locker room. I was ashamed of those scars and for years, hid them behind high-necked shirts, even requesting my brother’s fiancée choose a gown that covered the top of the one on my chest.

    Interesting to look back at my younger self and realize that what I thought was so important to be hidden, was actually a sign of my strength, grit and tenacity. As I reached my late 20’s, I developed an attitude of “love me, love my scars,” because without those very important scars, I would not be around to be loved or not loved. I realized that as a friend said today, “we all have scars.” They are a representation of the struggles and challenges that I have endured in my life and frankly, I am darn proud of each and every one of them now.

    I don’t just have surgery scars, off course. I have scars on my knees and hands from accidental injuries. These scars are just as important to me as the ones that developed after medical care. These scars mean I tried something, that I put myself out there to learn a skill, do physical labor, or test my limits. The scar on the palm of my hand from a knife blade that went awry makes me smile. I remember that injury like it was yesterday. I was working as a cook at a dude ranch in Colorado, awkwardly trying to slice roast beef while not using my broken thumb to steady the fork. It makes me chuckle to remember how THAT was the incident that caused my boss to believe that I did in fact break my thumb 5 days earlier and I needed to see a doctor as my jerry-rigged splint was not working well. The other accidental scars have their own stories that bring back memories when I see them.

    As my friend said, everyone has scars, some are visible and some are invisible. We have a choice about how we deal with those scars-do we hide them from the world, ashamed at their appearance and/or the reason they exist? Or do we let the scars reveal themselves, proof of what we have gone through in our lives, like badges of honor for the battles we have won? Whether those battles are visible or invisible, I think it is in our best interest to own those battle scars. We earned them, we fought for them, and we may even still be fighting the battle that caused them to exist. Scars are there to remind us how strong we are, how far we have come and how much we have endured. What a disservice we do to each other and ourselves if we ignore their existence.
    What do you think? Do you hide your scars or do you let them be seen?