Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Scar Map

These are my cancer-related scars. As much as I hate war imagery because of how it glamorizes violence, I still tend to think of my scars as battle wounds. Each of them tells a little bit the story of my life over the past few years. To me, they represent my pain, my struggles, and my survivorship. I'd like to say thank you to sister Kili and all the other people here who have been vital in helping me in my on-going effort to re-imagine my body as a work of art and not just another medical anomaly. I won't pretend that I am exactly comfortable with others seeing these photos which is why I put off posting them here. In the end, I decided to share them because I don't think you can really get to know me for who I am if you don't see this part of me as well.

The line down the center of my back is where they cut me open for my first major surgery. This scar is a little over a foot long.

The dark brown area around my first scar came from the radiation treatments. If you look closely, you can see my birthmark as well. Before the treatments, it was the darkest thing on my back but now it's really light compared to the permanent "tan" that radiation therapy gave me.

The surgery that left me with this scar was considered "minimally-invasive". I guess that's just relative to how much they could have done to me. On the bright side, this photo managed to capture what has got to be the best manicure that I've given myself in a long time.

For this surgery, they went into my chest and cut out the part of my rib that the tumor was attached to. Even though it was more invasive than the first surgery, it was not as emotionally difficult to get over the first stage of recovery because I knew how much pain I could handle and that it would decrease over time.

The two small(er) scars underneath the big one came from where they inserted two plastic hoses into my chest to drain fluid as it built up after my second major surgery. The morphine drip was needed mostly because of how uncomfortable/painful it was to try and sleep with these two hoses sticking out of my chest for five days. It wasn't until they took them out that I found out each hole in my chest was holding up twelve inches of hose inside of me. The thoughtless doctor who pulled out the first one didn't even bother to prep me with a little extra pain medication before he literally yanked it out of me. If I hadn't been so traumatized, then I'd have probably yelled at him for not at least giving me some notice that he was about to do it.


brownfemipower said...

girl, have you read beloved? your scars and their stories remind me so much of sethe (the main character) and her relationship with her scars--she got whipped and had the tree scar on her back--on the one hand, her scars were something beautiful, that paul d makes love to and loves dearly, on the other hand, after they are finished making love, her scars are something ugly and obscene...your scars have that type of story--something that represents your strength and survival and the love of so many who love your scars so dealy, because the fact that they are their mean you have been "fixed" if just for a moment--but at the same time, those scars never should've been there--like how you said, they are battle wounds, and if only you didn't have to fight the goddamn battle...girl, i'm like kili, tho, i love and honor and repect your scars--and if the three of us were together, after we took your pictures and posted them, we'd have a ceramony to honor your scars and i'd write down their stories, and kili would make a beautiful alter to always remember the story behind them...

ps. girl, i've never seen nails that look so beautiful!!!!! :-)

fiercelyfab said...

That scar reminds me of the scar my own mother had from cancer--in her back and long.

And they do hold the stories of your battles. Thank you for sharing and bringing memories of my own mother's battle, her bodily scars from cancer that can devour your entire body.

Wow the freaking resiliency and pain the body and mind can endure is fierce and at times not very fair. I want to hug you really for everything that you've gone through. My mother went through her terminal battle and it was really painful to see. Faint memories strike me hard on occasion--and that's part of life I guess cancer having taken someone special from my life when they were still young.

Kilimanjaro: High and Lo said...

Oh my dear Bint, sweet sister-

THANK YOU so much for sharing those amazing pictures of your scars and the story behind them!!!!!! thank you for giving yourself full permission to be uncomfortable yet share a special part of your life with us. this totally caught me by surprise and what a pleasant surprise!!!! thank you for showing and honoring your scars and body. the scars are very beautiful and they photographed well. thank you!!! for sharing your experience.

goodness i wanna hug you --along with BFP for being so fabulous and FAB for sharing her wonderful story about her mom. if i assisted you in any way in sharing your photographs, blessings, love, and give thanks to that! you have assisted me quite a bit in healing and seeing cancer through my mums' eyes, which is something that i'll always be forever thankful for. when i looked at your photographs i immediately thought about my mum and wonder what her reaction would have been. your scars are beautiful but i can only imagine the bittersweet feeling they may represent because of the pain associated with having them. and that's ok too....

Bint, you have done something that i wish my mums could have done (but i know it's ok, because she wasn't ready and did what she knew best to do) or maybe even witness your unfolding. but's that ok too, because so many other people have that opportunity to witness that. ya know, i can remember my mums being inundated with ridiculous pamplets and other mis/information booklets on how to "hide" her scars from others and blah blah blah and i'm sure that crap supported her insecurities that her scarred chest needed to be hidden. i support you in recognizing your body for what it is---a beautiful piece of art that needs to be seen for a myriad of reasons...it's unique, beautiful, sexy, and perfect AS IS. even if you still have insecurities or feel uncomfortable about what you see, you have unknowingly helped so many other women (and people for that matter) shift their consciousness just a bit and consider the truth that a body *decorated* with scars really is a work of pleasant and beautiful to see. i've always thought that scars were **physically** beautiful to see and often would get emotional when they were shown to me because i learn so much in their stories. bint, so much is represented in those pictures, far more than you probably realize at this moment.

the pictures you presented are a testament to your natural beauty, your courage, strength, and resilience, and ability to overcome adversity (whether real or perceived, depends on how *you* look at it) and still stand relatively tall and be as beautiful as ever. thank you bint for showing how beautiful a woman IS, standing in the fullness of your own divinity, giving me an opportunity to support and share in that glory, and reinforcing something i have always known. i love women like you bint because ya'll are templates of beauty and it makes me thankful to share in this experience. much love sis. again thank you so very much..xoxox blessings from here!!!

Kilimanjaro: High and Lo said...

i realized after i hit send that my comment was loooonggg and i'm sorry. your story feels like my story and then i get emotional and start typing my heart away and forget that's it nearly 4 in the morning but i had to make my comment. thinking of you. kili xoxo...i dearly love your blog!!!

midwesterntransport said...

bint, i echo all the professions of gratitude and amazement. and thanks. thanks for sharing those photos, thanks for sharing your stories, just thanks.

oh, and i'm also one of the folks that thinks scars are fucking beautiful. i know they change your body and they can be so hard to adjust to, but they're also unique. one of my friends has a scar on her chest from heart surgery. when we first met, i was surprised that she showed her scar so frequently - she wore low-cut tanktops and dresses and never tried to hide it. as time went on, i recognized just how incredible a statement that was - folks so rarely show their scars.

this is not to say that anyone should or shouldn't show their scars, just to say...the body is beautiful in all its forms. and there are folks out there who will embrace that.

nubian said...

you are indeed, a survivor and your scars are proof of it.

Plain(s)feminist said...

Thanks so much for sharing these incredible and beautiful pictures. I agree with bfp - when I think of scars, esp. scars on backs, I always think of Beloved and of the importance of scars and their stories. I am curious to see how mine turn(s) out, since I often tend to have keloid scars - so I don't know if this newest one will end up both tall and wide (possibly not) and purple (probably).

I'm sorry you had such a bad experience when they pulled out the drain. Mine was tiny and only a little was inside (I think - I didn't look, but it didn't feel bad coming out).

I've been thinking about what to say the next time someone asks me about the scar on my arm (from a mole that was removed). I may have to lift up my shirt and tell them I survived a shark attack!