By Corrina Cameron
At 19, I liked my body. It wasn’t perfect, but I was happy with how I looked. The night before my surgery to remove a gastrointestinal stromal tumour, along with half my stomach, it dawned on me that my abdomen would never look the same again. I was saddened by this thought. I had just begun feeling comfortable enough in my own skin to start wearing two piece bathing suits a few years before. I remember thinking, “Those days are over now.”
I remember standing in the mirror of my bedroom taking pictures of my abdomen. I sometimes think back and wonder why I did this and I think it’s the same reason that people take pictures of flowers. Flowers are here in all their glory one day and wilted or damaged the next. Something about their short life makes them worthy to be photographed. My body too was young and unscathed, soon to be changed forever.
I came out of that surgery with many scars: one small IV hole scar on my left arm; four one-centimetre incision scars on my abdomen for laproscopic work; and one very long, uneven scar from below my belly button all the way up to my sternum with 84 tiny pin prick scars along either side from the staples. This long scar was so disappointing for me. The surgeon said that it would be a thin line in the end. But to no fault of his, I developed an infection a few weeks after the surgery which caused the flesh to split. This long scar is over a centimeter wide now in some places. With the little staple scars along the sides it looks like a centipede. Who would want a giant bug-shaped scar on their abdomen?! Some people might think that’s cool, but I didn’t.
At first I was embarrassed of my scars. I thought they were ugly. It also didn’t help that people wanted to see them. Their reactions were always similar: “Ouch! That must of hurt!” Yep, it sure did. I felt like a freak.
About four months after the surgery, I was out with my mom and a friend shopping for bathing suits when I started playing with the idea of buying a new two piece bathing suit instead of the one piece suit I had set my mind on. Why shouldn’t I buy a two piece? Who cares if I have scars? So what if people stare. I survived cancer! At some point between the surgery and bathing suit shopping I came to realize that something pretty significant had happened to me and I should be proud of that journey.
My scars were the evidence of that journey. Should a soldier be ashamed of their battle scars? No. So, I shouldn’t be ashamed either. I grabbed a bikini off the rack and took it into the change room. As I looked at myself in the mirror while wearing the bikini, I wondered if I would have the guts to wear it to the beach, even after my change of heart toward my scars. I decided that if the day came to go to the beach and I couldn’t muster the courage, the fact that I am now comfortable with my scars was reason enough to buy it.
I can’t say I’m always comfortable showing off my scars in a two piece bathing suit even now. If I don’t wear a two piece, it’s not because I’m embarrassed, it’s because I don’t feel like the attention my scars may bring. Some days I’m not feeling brave enough and don’t want to give people a reason to stare or ask questions. But other days I have the courage to wear a two piece and it feels liberating.
At the end of the day, whether I display my scars for the world to see or not, I am comfortable with them. To others they may not be very pretty, but to me they are beautiful. They are beautiful because they are a part of who I am. They remind me of where I’ve been, of what I’ve gone through, and of how much I have grown because of my experience with cancer. To be ashamed of them would mean I’m ashamed of my story, and I’m not.
I love my scars and I’m grateful for them.