Survivor Scars: Embarrassing, Difficult Reminders or Sources of Pride?

Most adults have scars. However, cancer survivors often have distinctive physical and emotional scars. In this first post of a two-part series on scars, I focus on psychical scars, saving a discussion about emotional scars for my next blog.

In total, I have eight recognizable scars from cancer. A couple scars are noticeable, while my clothing usually hides the more serious of my scars. Although a couple of my scars are still slightly painful, I am incredibly lucky that my remaining side effects from cancer are mild annoyances rather than constant pain.

In a culture that values blemish-free bodies, having scars from an uncontrollable event like cancer can be very frustrating and sometimes embarrassing. For example, I have a small, raised scar on my neck. It’s where my central venous catheter or port lived while I received chemo for a few months. People, even friends, sometimes mistake that scar for a hickey, which has led to several uncomfortable, but some entertaining conversations.

In the months and years immediately following my treatment, my scars angered and revolted me. They were consistent reminders of an experience I wanted to forget as I moved forward. I tried several different treatments to lessen or mask the appearance of some of my scars, but nothing really worked.

My mother encouraged me to see my scars as something different than embarrassing blemishes. She helped me embrace them and view them as signs of my strength and my ability to overcome a difficult and challenging illness. However, this was very difficult for a self-conscious college student.

Over the years, my feelings towards my scars have changed and I now embrace them as badges of honor. I am unsure what exactly changed my feelings toward my scars, but it is easier (both physically and emotionally) to regard them as a reminder of my strength rather than as defects.

Do you have visible scars from your battle with cancer? If so, do they bother you or have you embraced them? Leave me comments and let me know how you’ve dealt with your scars. I look forward to reading your experiences with and feelings about the physical scars of surviving cancer.

Category: Cancer

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