Body image, cancer, and me

July 20, 2015

IMG_1580By Jody Mason

When I saw that YACC was looking for a male to write about body image, I figured I’d give it a shot. Back in 2011, I was diagnosed with a bowel blockage. I had surgery to remove it, and then get a colostomy. At this point in my life, I was 31-years-old, never had any major health issues, and was about to go under the knife.

After the surgery, one to two feet of my bowel was removed, leaving quite the 10-inch scar from above my belly button down, plus the lovely new colostomy. I didn’t mind that too much, to be honest. I was a little embarrassed about having a colostomy though, especially at my age. There’s nothing like having a bag of crap attached to you 24/7.

After this, I had my first encounter with YACC. My friend, Lesley, worked there and we had a little meeting about what they did. I jokingly told her that I hoped chicks dig scars because I will be filled with them soon enough.

From the original CT scan, my medical team also saw a spot on my liver. Seven months later, I had a liver resection and my colostomy reversed. I looked up where my liver was before the surgery and thought, “shouldn’t be that big a scar,” but once the procedure was done, I thought they operated on me with a shovel. There was a big upside down Y incision. They used the same cut on the colostomy reversal ,but had a lovely hole scar that took a while to close.

So here I was, cut up like a Christmas turkey. Now I was never a male model by any stretch; I always joked and carried on that I was cut more like a bag of milk than a Greek god, but I was never ashamed or nervous of the way I looked. Having these brand new, huge scars was a shock to me. I was bored one day in the hospital and counted 80 staples from the Y incision alone. Getting them all taken out was a blast. The poor nursing student taking them out pretty much said she was sorry after each one.

Two surgeries, three new scars, and single. I was a little nervous once I started dating, to say the least. It was bad enough that I was undergoing cancer treatment — which I hear can be a turn off for the ladies — but having these lovely new scars was another thing. Taking off my shirt in front of guys didn’t bother me at all, but showing off my nice new cuts to a potential Ms. Jody was another thing altogether.

Luckily for me, I found an amazing lady who didn’t mind me having cancer, or these lovely scars, which put me at ease. After that, I realized that like my cancer diagnosis, the scars weren’t me either. Since then, I’ve gained another lovely four scars from lung and port surgeries, which I wear proudly as well.

I also have seen this little meme online that says “Never be ashamed of a scar. It simply means you were stronger than whatever tried to hurt you.” I think that’s pretty awesome.

The scars don’t bother me anymore; if anyone wants to see them — not that people do — I do not mind showing. They are a part of me now, and I’m here to show them off if need be. That being said, the scars are covered up 99 per cent of the time anyway.

With respect to the rest of me from treatments, I have put on some weight. I look like I used to normally, but due to side effects from chemo, I’m bald as well. That took some getting used to. During my previous 20 rounds of chemo, I never lost any hair at all. It thinned a little, but nothing noticeable. My current regiment had other plans, I guess. I never looked like a stereotypical “cancer patient” before, but I do kind of now. Women have a harder time losing their hair than guys usually, but for the first couple of weeks, I was a little upset, to say the least. Better to lose my hair then the alternative.

Cancer has changed a lot in my life, but I think I am a better person for it. Sure, I have some scars and lost some hair, but the main thing is that I’m still here fighting.

Want more? Read Jody’s survivor profile!

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