By Heather Brown
Using the prompt from Sharon Bray about “every scar tells a story.”
Scars. We all have them, whether we realize it or not. Some scars are visible and some are invisible. Sometimes we choose to show them and sometimes we choose to hide them. Sometimes we have positive feelings about the experience that goes along with the scar, while other times negative thoughts may influence if you show the scar. Some scars heal faster than others.
Scars. This is something that adolescents and young adult cancer survivors experience as part of their cancer experiences. We may carry different types of scars depending on our individual situations — physical scars from surgeries and procedures, physical changes from symptoms of the cancer, mental scars from memories associated with their cancer experience, and different types of loss and grief. AYAs can experience loss of health, loss of opportunities, loss of relationships, loss of confidence, and are often left with the grief and weight of these losses.
For me, my scar reminds me that my body had cancer, that my body had this disease growing within it. I see my thyroidectomy scar in the mirror every single day. My scar is pretty small, and it is almost tucked into a spot on my neck. Over time it has faded and has become less noticeable. Often if someone is not aware that I had cancer, they may not even notice it.
I recall after my surgery for a period of time, I was concerned with how visible my scar was. As vain as that may seem, I wonder if at some level, part of me was afraid for everyone to see the scar that cancer left on my body. As my scar has healed physically since my surgery almost five years ago, I seem less concerned with the visibility of my scar. I find myself more accepting of my scar and moving beyond those initial feelings.
I think that it is important for me to acknowledge that while my scar can represent challenges I faced, my scar also reminds me that it doesn’t define my whole cancer experience and feelings. Parts of my experience post-diagnosis have been positive — my body has healed after surgery, and I have had opportunities and experiences that came after diagnosis which brought me insight. I have perspective to see that while receiving a cancer diagnosis as a young adult sucks, there were aspects of the experience that brought me comfort, connection, gratitude, strength, and resiliency and this showcases an element of beauty that I have come to recognize in my scar.