I was joking with a friend a few years ago about how agonizing job interviews are, and he said: “next time you have a job interview, you should just make a PowerPoint presentation describing the history of all of your scars.” (PowerPoint? Yes, he’s a consultant so only communicates in PowerPoint.) I thought it was hilarious, so in case I have a job interview anytime in the future, I’m going to do it here. The big question was how to order it? Chronologically or starting at head and moving down (or vice versa)? As I’ve had more surgeries and accidents, the same story covers more of my body, so I’m going to go chronologically.
- I have an eye-shaped scar on the back of my right thigh from a questionable birthmark that was removed. I couldn’t sit still for the few days that I was told to sit still, so I popped all of the stitches and the fine line that my parents were promised turned into a gaping oval.
- The back of my right ankle bears a jagged white scar. I was biking and stopped and bored and kicking my feet along my pedals to make them spin. Right up until I lost my balance (this is a common theme in my life) and the pedal that I had just kicked chopped through the back of my ankle, helpfully straddling my achilles tendon. So much blood. No stitches (primarily because I don’t think I ever told my parents).
- Under my right eyebrow, I have a scar from when I was sledding head-first down a hill and smashed straight into a tree. The only thing I remember after the pain of impact was waking up in my friend’s bed (the tree lived in her backyard) with her dad hovering over me. Afterwards, the feeling of hair growing through a hard scab was so bizarre that I spent an inordinate time petting my eyebrow.
- Chicken pox left me with a pock mark under my right ear and on the back of my neck.
- Dirty, moldy, gross shinguards (soccer) produced a fungal colony on my right shin. This turned into a three month process as we first figured out what it was, then figured out I was allergic to the topical anti-fungal cream, then figured out I was allergic to penicillin (allergy to anti-fungal produced hives — I was twelve so couldn’t control the itching so gave myself a bacterial infection from itching so much, hence penicillin), then, after the fungal infection jumped from my right shin to my left shin and then, weirdly, my right shoulder, the dermatologist finally gave me an oral anti-fungal. My mother in his office is a memory forever seared into my brain: “you mean there’s been an oral solution to this problem THE WHOLE TIME?!?!?!?!” I learned a few things from that experience: 1) I’m sensitive to most every cream available, prescription, over-the-counter, or entirely unnecessary (like make-up); 2) if I’m allergic to something, I get hives; 3) oatmeal baths don’t work as well as you hope; 4) ice baths do help, but only if your mother has the stomach to keep you in there while you’re screaming and begging for someone to kill you RIGHT THEN to put you out of this horrible misery; 5) benadryl is amazing for so many reasons; 6) I have a deadly allergy to penicillin (hives that appear in your throat cut off your ability to breath).
- Sports produced multiple deep scars but none on my skin. I broke my right ankle and tore my right MCL (knee ligaments) playing soccer. Ballet, gymnastics, lacrosse, playing the piano, driving aggressively, skiing, sailing, and making out with boys never produced an injury (miraculously).
- I still have scars and calluses on my hands from rowing at Brown. I also have little pocks on the back of both calves from the slide.
- While living in New Zealand and riding horses when I was 20-21, I found myself in need of medical attention a few times.
- I slashed open my right shin on a chain link fence — I have a moon-shaped scar there that still is a little numb. Butterfly “stitches” only.
- I have a jagged scar on my left thigh and another more purposeful one between two of my ribs about three inches down from my left armpit. An out of control horse squashed me between him and a tree. The thigh wound was from a branch digging out about an inch of fatty tissue from my thigh. The rib wound was from the chest tube that they had to install in order to re-inflate my left lung. This was my first experience with a hospital intensive care unit. Those nurses are god’s creatures.
- In addition to the broken ribs from the punctured lung, I had fractured a couple ribs a few months previously. No skin scar; prescription: Jake Daniels.
Thirties (now): this is where the truly gruesome scars begin.
- Cancer: 1) small scars on the inside of my right bicep from the PICC line; 2) a straight white scar above my right breast from the port; 3) huge scar number one running down my cleavage from the first chest surgery to remove my tumor post-chemo; 4) two drain scars number one from that same chest surgery — small horizontal lines at my diaphragm; 5) small scar between my right middle and fourth toes from focusing my scratching during an allergic reaction there with the internal thought of “I won’t care if I scar between my toes.” Internal scars: severely damaged veins from chemo making IVs difficult to insert and uncomfortable once in.
- Heart Surgery: 1) new big scar running down my chest. This one is longer and more jagged than the first one resulting from an emergency happening while the surgeon was opening my chest and needing to get things open and under control a lot faster than expected. 2) four drain scars — two over the first two and the other two in the same area; 3) two tiny puncture scars below my main scar and above the drain scars from the two procedures that happened prior to the heart surgery: one to drain the fluid from my pericardial sac that inadvertently also poked my right ventricle, the second to drain the blood pouring out of my heart post-heart-poking. 4) One scar each along each groin — the one on my right groin originally for the central line, the second one along my left groin because I had to go on bypass during the previously mentioned emergency. My sternum is still wrapped in metal wire.
- Two inches of white line along the inside of my left wrist: wrist surgery from shattering the head of my left radius while snowboarding. Unless it really starts bothering me, the plate that the surgeon installed is with me for the rest of my life.
So. I have a few.
The interesting thing is that the longer I am doing this kind of work (blogging and health and nonprofit and working with people and all the rest) and less “big law” or “big corporation” kind of work, the more I learn that so many people have so many scars. It’s just more obvious when you can see them on the skin. Emotional scars like fear and worry and abuse are less obvious but in many ways are so damaging. Primarily because they prevent people from looking forward. I do that too. I look backwards and say “what if I could do this still” or “what if that hadn’t happened.” And it’s not helpful. Because it did happen and that past is no longer here. So the only thing that looking backwards does is face me in the wrong direction when the future comes and smacks me on the back of the head. Wouldn’t it be easier if we all just looked forward?