Saturday, 12 April 2014

Frankenstein's Monster. Or, Vanity.


I can't believe that after everything I've been through over the past few weeks, that it has come down to a question of vanity. 

Ten days post-surgery, my friendly local GP removed the dressing and replaced it with steri-strips, as advised by the hospital, and I saw the new scar in all its angry, red glory. 

I was pretty upset when I saw it. To me, I looked like Frankenstein's monster, a cobbled-together hack job of random body parts. I am aware that as a young-ish and vain woman with a sound literary education, this is not a comparison that most people would draw...but here we are!

I'm probably this disappointed because the previous wound literally looked like it had been scratched on by a paperclip when the dressings came off, and this one is more reminiscent of a sausage on a BBQ, oozing its insides out of the holes  you've pricked with a fork. My expectations were high, and this has missed the mark by a long, long way.

It probably also doesn't help that I'm single, because to insecure ol' me, having this...thing on my chest, an area of the body that we as women are groomed to believe is our most powerful asset, just feels like yet another disadvantage. I know that's dumb, and I also know that if the scar was on my leg or my arm or my back, I probably wouldn't care. 

Also, I know that unless I actively show people, the only people likely to see it are unlikely to care, and the next lucky bastard that gets my shirt off will probably have put in a bit of groundwork to begin with, and is unlikely to be turned off at that point by an ugly scar in an unfortunate location after all that effort. And, as one friend helpfully suggested, I should think like a 15-year-old boy: scars are cool, and...boobs!

I've spent the last eighteen hours being a sad sack about it, and now I'm done with that. I'm going to focus on the good stuff.

I live in a country where this amazing level of medical care is available.

I live in an era where the technology to give me a healthier, safer life is available. 

I live in an era where I have the luxury of complaining about a scar that is less than 10cm long with very little functional impact, and where people listen to me whinging and say supportive, soothing, kind things. 

I found out I needed the surgery as a result of a routine check, not because something went horribly wrong and I ended up in the emergency department. 

I managed to land in the care of the leading specialist in the country. 

The operation went well, even though my deeply-implanted pacemaker/ICD was difficult to remove, and the leads needed lasers to burn off the scar tissue. 

I get to say "lasers". 

I didn't become the one-in-100 that needs their rib cage cracked open to stop the bleeding, or the one-in-800 who die because they can't stop the bleeding at all. And that's not considering the fact that I'm a high anaesthetic risk to begin with. 

My employer has been incredibly supportive, as have my workmates. 

My family and friends have been their usual, wonderful selves, and on top of that I've become closer to people I wasn't as close to, rekindled older friendships and made completely new friends with pretty amazing people. And I've seen more of all of these people in the last three weeks than I had for a long time before. Not a day passed without a visitor and a phone call, and the support has been overwhelming.

Today, I managed to get my shirt on, OVER my head, so my mobility is coming back.

I went for a walk in the rain yesterday, because I could... Although it did highlight to me that I have a lot of fitness to regain!

I was probably the fittest and in the healthiest mindset I've ever been when I was hospitalised, so, although this seems like a huge step backwards, really I'm probably at a pretty good level of fitness now.

My pants still fit (just!), despite having been locked indoors for three weeks. 

I've read heaps. 

I've become addicted to Game of Thrones, and my scar ain't got nothin' on Tyrion's.  

See, lots of positives!

Probably part of what got me is that seeing the new scar took me back to this image of myself, six years ago, alone and scared in a new city, thinking my life was over, not understanding what impact this heart condition would have on my existence, staring at a huge, purple scar and a flabby body in a fogged-up mirror,  crying my defective heart out. I was so unhappy, and so scared of what the future may hold. At that moment it felt like it held nothing. 

But a lot has changed since then. I've been to hell and back a few times, not just medically but also in my personal life, so I'm definitely stronger and can do and handle pretty much anything. I have more friends. I'm closer to my family. I'm the same weight as I was in that image I just mentioned, but more of me must be muscle because I'm not sad anymore when I look in the mirror like that scared girl was. Hah, or maybe I'm just older and wiser! I still don't know what the future holds, but none of us do, and I'm not scared of it anymore because I'm making an effort to live it and enjoy it every day. Even now, writing this, I made a conscious choice to move outside into the sunshine and the wind to write, rather than watching it pass me by outside the window. And when I think of it in terms of that horrible place I've come from, the scar seems pretty insignificant. 

I do realise that when I look at The Scar, it's 10cm from my face and occupies my entire field of vision. But when others look at it, it's in the context of a 6'1" body! So maybe my friends are right. Maybe it's not so bad after all.

So here it is. This is what upset me so much last night. Hope it doesn't gross you out too much, and that grown-up boys think that scars are cool, just like 15-year-old ones do!

Yeah. All this fuss, for that. Harden up, girl. Harden the f**k up. 


  1. I can't remember where (probably in the black hole of Tumblr because I now can't find it) but I read a thing recently that said something along these lines: "Scars don't form on dead tissue, only on the living. Scars aren't proof that you were wounded. They're proof that you survived."

    So yeah. That.

    1. True, dat. And I'm very much alive, and I guess I'm pretty lucky that I am!


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