By Tina Conrad
If you find yourself on the internet googling scars, there are tons of products and creams and potions to make your scars magically disappear. Scars act as a constant reminder of pain and loss. Scars evoke emotions, make you alter what you are wearing and stare back at you all-knowingly. My body after breast cancer looks worthy of the battle that it fought. With a double mastectomy, I have two large scars across both breasts. With a shirt, tank or sweater, the average stranger would have no awareness that I am a breast cancer survivor with a double mastectomy. However, every morning as I enter the shower, I am visibly reminded of what I have overcome.
I can clearly remember the first time I saw my body after surgery. I had a revolving door of help after surgery. Side note: It is extremely humbling to have your mother and best friend bathe you when you are 37 years old. Due to the mastectomy, I couldn’t easily lift my arms above my head at this time and I could not get my drains wet. All I wanted was a slice of normalcy, for the drains to be removed and the clearance from the doctor to return to the shower. I wanted to be independent. I wanted to be normal. I wanted to be me. The green light came to shower right as all my company was leaving town. Maybe it was seeing myself for the first time after my surgery, maybe it was being alone, truly alone for the first time, maybe it was not recognizing the body I saw in the mirror, but I completely broke down. The shower became my place of emotion. The tears mixed with the falling water, and I couldn’t tell where the droplets were coming from.
This new body took some time to adjust. This body was full of scars where my breasts had been. This body didn’t resemble the body I had watched grow and change from a young girl to a woman. This body was foreign. With bruising and scars, it looked how I felt. But it did not look how I mentally pictured it. It took some time to mourn the body that was lost. It was my body, it was the essence of me and it was ok to grieve it, to be sad. I have often heard of cancer survivors writing letters to their bodies, to their breasts that were gone. I had written a poem after exiting the shower. That poem served as my tribute to my body. It was full of loss on a grand scale, of sadness and anger and emotions of the whole spectrum. It was the start of my vulnerability with social media and sharing it was my way of letting others experience what I was going through.
Shortly after my chemo, I started to run again. I marveled at my body and the way it ran its first mile after months and months of poison running through my veins. I have gone on to run many miles, many races and even half marathons. I am now truly grateful for this body of mine. I am in awe of its resilience. It is a relationship that we are in together. I don’t look for potions and creams and tonics to make the scars go away. I embrace my scars. They are a reminder of what I have overcome and what my body is truly capable of.