SCARS PHOTO PROJECT
I was 35 years old and the scar is a result of the extra folds of skin left over from dramatic weight loss from Bariatric or Weight Loss Surgery. I was having medical issues from the extra skin, so it was removed with an abdominalplasty or tummy tuck. Before the scar, I was dealing with issues like rashes, sores from skin on skin contact and just a self consciousness of "tucking" my extra skin into my pants when getting dressed.
I am a very outgoing person, but going to the pool was out of the question initially.I feel lighter (almost 15 pounds of skin was removed as I was a size 64 pant before surgery) and more confident. It has allowed me freedom in what I wear and my self perception.
Initially at the pool or beach, I get a few stares out of curiosity, but once I explain why I have it and its purpose, people are very accepting and actually congratulate me on taking control of my health with weight loss surgery and the operation that caused this scar. Who reacts to it the most? Children.
At the age of 28, I was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma. What started as a small bump on my right shin, test after test, and no answers I was sent to the Foothills Hospital in Calgary for a CT Biopsy. Results came in fast, and January 28th, 2006 changed my world. I was informed that Chemotherapy needed to start ASAP, and there would be no time to make alternate arrangements for “years to come, and family planning” – AKA – Freezing of any eggs. At 28, that was not my main worry – it was let’s beat this!Along with 18 months of chemotherapy, I also underwent major surgery. That surgery was what created these scars.
In order to ensure the tumor was extinct – not only from the chemo, the oncologists and surgeon wanted to remove the area surrounding the tumor. I was given 3 options. A. Leave it as is, hope the chemo helped kill the tumor. B. Amputate from above the knee. C. Perform a surgery called Limb sparing surgery. I chose C. So with over ¾’s of my right leg removed and replaced with metal rods, and plastic, it is considered a prosthetic. I had to learn to walk again, and use the knee and leg.
Physically I am no longer able to “run” and walk constantly with caution. Emotionally I am a stronger person because of my journey.young kids stare, and have no problems asking – I had a story that I was attacked by a bear or a shark – but that only lasts so long. Most know my story, as I have told of it often, and some just look, and wonder. J
My daughter is fascinated with them – She is almost 7, and tells people my story if it comes up. The journey I had to earn my scars is worth everything. I believe I was given the cancer to fight it. I have always believed in mind over matter, and I won.Leg – It looks “gnarly” and I have never ever covered it up, nor felt I needed to. I earned that mark, and I will wear it proud.
For the “caterpillar” one – It is cute, and that portal is where the poison entered, and saved my life. Fascinating to know what can burn your skin on the outside, can do wonders on the inside.
My scars started appearing when I was 24 years of age, and continued to appear into my early 30’s. I received them all through self infliction, or self harm. I was going through a very rough patch in my personal, as well as being undiagnosed for Bi Polar 1 disorder, and I felt very lost and not in control. The initial act was a minor attempt at suicide by cutting my wrist…the rush I felt as the blood oozed out of the cut was incredibly intense and it brought me a sense of Calm. For the next 7 years self harm was my go to in bringing me back to that serene feeling I had been longing for. Before the scars I felt very lost. I didn’t have a sense of identity, I didn’t fit in anywhere, I never felt comfortable. The act of self harm never filled those voids, but they did provide me with calmness and distraction, as well as a moment of piece from the tumultuous cycle my mind would go through in trying to figure out who I was.
After years of committing these acts over and over and over again I finally gained understanding through the assistance of clinical psychologists. One in particular helped put me on the path to self understanding and to an epiphany as to the ‘why’s’ behind all my actions. From the age of thirty to roughly thirty-two I gained more knowledge about myself and who I am than I had ever known in the thirty years prior. That feeling was the same feeling I received when I would cut myself, but magnified a million times over. I haven’t cut myself since… For the first several years I was very shy and reluctant to have anyone see the scars. I never wanted to explain where they came from because I myself didn’t fully understand the why. But after learning and understanding more of myself I became more comfortable with my body and with having people see the results of my actions. I was surprised at the response, not that I was looking for attention or response to begin with, but many of my friends were very understanding and started to open up to me about their struggles with mental illness. It empowered me to want to learn even more so that I would be better equipped to help those who felt how I once felt. I have never been more in control and confident with who I am, and never again do I feel embarrassed or shy about my body. It is my story and I won’t ever want to change where I’ve come from, less I wouldn’t be the man I am today without this history.
I have found that the people who react to it the most, and the ones who notice them the most and inquire are the people who have reached a high level of empathy towards their fellow human beings. The ones who genuinely care for others. It almost seems like a magical gift that as soon as they see a scar in an awkward place on someone’s body, they can immediately tell that something emotionally deep and sacred has happened. Sadly, the people who respond the most negatively about this issue (not just self harm but mental illness all around) are my parents. I haven’t really had a good opportunity to tell them my whole history, but they have been made aware about my battles with mental illness. The support and understanding has been quite lacklustre from them and it feels like the issue is easiest to deal with if we all just pretended it didn’t exist.
My philosophy about my scars now is that they are badges of honor. Something that I wear proudly in the sole fact that I am now in control. I am very appreciative towards them and I look at them with pride because they helped me get through a very hard time in my life. I know they are not the most safe and healthful way to deal with problems, but they helped me and are my history; I can’t change that and would never want to. I never talk about them initially with my friends, family, or passing stranger as I know it can be a sometimes uncomfortable exchange, but I am always willing to share my story for those that are truly interested…you never know who’s life can be changed simply by sharing your own story.