Skin Deep


Typically I avoid long glances of my naked body, but recently I took a long look at my reflection in the mirror. It has been a while since I contemplated my physical appearance. I mean my scars. From my surgery. I stared at myself my changed and altered self. I realized that I am covered in scars. Most of which I acquired in adulthood. The first ones I see are on my shoulder. Three big holes that are there from a staph infection I got after a tattoo. It was not an unclean tattoo. I gave it to myself because I kept touching it. The infection required me to go to the hospital e.r. several times to have the wounds drained. It was very painful and I begged for all the numbing medicine they would dole out.

The next scars are cancer related. I see the small horizontal slash that resides over my port. This is how my chemo meds are administered. I love my port. No more endless needle sticks due to my bad veins. I don’t always like this scar though. It is noticeable with any kind of crew neck shirt. It is only a year old so it is still quite red in color. And it is accessed a lot so it seems to always have a bruise or puncture hole in it. The next scar I see is the big bad mastectomy scar. The one that made me cry for hours in the weeks that followed my surgery. The scar itself is different from one side to the other. On the right side it is flat and smooth. In the center I have what can only be described as a “belly button”. That is sadly what it looks like. I hate it. You can see it through my clothing. On the left side my scar is covered in the stretch marked tissue that used to be atop my breast. To be flat chested with stretch marks is a bit cruel. This side also looks like it has skin cancer so red bumps of various sizes crawl up onto my chest from the scar.

My abdomen has had stretch marks from pregnancy since I was 20. I hated them for years. But I had one child that was 10.8 lbs and my twins were 8.8lbs EACH. So there was no getting around it. They are my battle scars. As much as I once wished they were gone I know that I am proud of how I got them. When I met Kelly I was afraid for him to see them. Eventually he did. He loves me anyway. There are two other scars on my abdomen. The cesarean section incision from which Clay was born. A surgical procedure that undoubtedly saved his life. Although we planned to have him at home my conscious led me to the hospital. And at the delivery we found out that his head was not engaged in the pelvis. Just his umbilical cord presented on the cervix. A complication known as cord prolapse occurs when the cord is compressed and limits the flow of blood/oxygen to the baby. It is very dangerous. If I had not had a c-section this is likely what would have occurred.I am thankful that he was born safely.

I also had my appendix removed a few years back. I was in agony and went to the doctor. She told me she thought I had an appendicitis. I said “Do I get antibiotics for that?” “No you get surgery for that.” My scar covered body brings about many different emotions. At times I find it very disturbing. I am still human and vain. At other times I am more accepting of the situation. I have cancer this is what happens. I have never really heard breast cancer patients talk about the physical scars. We are so busy talking about the intense emotional issues that a scar seems less significant.

I have emotional scars too. I think if I could look at my heart/soul I would see twisted and ugly lines running all over it. Due to the damage of an unloving father, a harsh step mom, an alcoholic ex husband. Damage that I did to myself through sin. Acts of unkindness that I committed toward others. And the cruelty that at times was done to me. And cancer has scarred my inside too. My heart is broken for my children. It is marred and beaten from the day to day disappointment of not getting a “full ride”. It is a twisted mass that only resembles the heart it once was. It still has the same capability to love. It is just not as pretty.

I think these scars are really the tough ones. My physical scars I hide with a shirt. My internal ones I hide with a smile. Or I cry alone. I think the internal scars make us the vulnerable and damaged people we are. Maybe the past makes us more kind and empathetic. Or it can make us more closed and angry. The damage provides opportunity for change. My past is something I have learned a lot from. I choose my friends very carefully. I do not allow toxic people in my life. I protect my little wounded heart from those who intend me harm. I also let myself be open to love and joy because I am painfully aware of how short life is. I try to not be embarrassed by my flat scarred chest or my checkered past.

When we are close with one another those scars disappear. We don’t notice every flaw. If we do then we are probaly very unhappy. Love is about looking past the defects and accepting each other for what we are. My cancer has scarred my body. It has altered me in every way. But I am still me. And just as Kelly loves me though I am scarred on the outside he loves me with my internal scars as well. Beauty is just skin deep.

20 Responses to “Skin Deep”

  1. Deb says:

    Damn, girl – if you don’t get a pulitzer prize for your writing, there is no justice in the world. I know you don’t write for that reason, your writing comes from deep within your heart, but you express yourself in an absolutely amazing way. That is truly a gift. It is beautiful to read.
    Please don’t agonize over the physical scars. When I first had my melanoma surgeries (two, plus good size skin grafts) I hated them, and they all show unless I wear long pants. But I figured the days of being a pantyhose model were long over (yeah, that like ever happened!). Now I wear them proudly – look what I have been through and I’m still here. I have other scars, like most of us do, from collarbone surgery from the car accident, and various other operations and mishaps. But it’s the cancer scars that make us strong, define us, define our history and our strength. They may be ugly to others, but that’s tough. It’s me.
    While your emotional scars don’t show, they define who we are and where we’ve been as well. Some hide these better than others, but most of us have them. I think if anyone saw your heart, it would look beautiful, Andrea.

  2. Art Bucher says:

    Andrea, I think Jesus would embrace you because of your scars. You have so much in common with him.

  3. Wendy says:

    That was beautiful. You are beautiful. Inside and out. Hugs and love, Wendy

  4. joshua says:

    each scar (external or internal) has a story. none of us are going to come out clean on the other side, but few will have as much character as you.

  5. Brianna says:

    I read this today and it helped me. Thank you. You are helping so many people by sharing your thoughts…

  6. Amy says:

    Gosh you are a beautiful writer – and from your description a beautiful person inside and out.

  7. Pamela from PA says:

    Andrea, your glow from your love of Christ shines much brighter than those ol’ scars do! I always feel self concious because I have some pimples (at age 46!) and I need to lose weight, when one of my beautiful daughters smiles at me, and stares into my eyes saying, “you’re so pretty, mommy!” They don’t see my imperfections, my husband says he doesn’t even notice, they see our love for them, and love for Jesus shining through! Your children and husband probably think you are the most beautiful wife and mother in the world..and rightly so! You really are beautiful, every word you write proclaims it!

  8. Renee Khan says:

    Andrea, thanks for the best laugh I have had in ages. I refer to the belly button and the stretch marks.

    You still have your humour. You still have your fight.

    I am also sure that I would be hard pressed to find someone whose spirit is as beautiful as yours. I believe spirit is spirit deep.

    Love Renee

  9. leah says:

    Andrea, it’s not what you look like, it’s who you are, and you are so beautiful!
    i love you!

  10. Tina, French Creek, WV says:

    What you wrote reminds me of a song called “Broken and Beautiful” about how God takes us just as we are, scars and all. When we come to Him torn up, shattered, bent and bruised . . . He will lovingly mend us and help us to see ourselves as He sees us. What you said about past damage makes it even clearer to me that I have to forgive somebody right now because I know that she acts the way she does because of past hurts. Her internal wounds have made her insecure and needy at times. I can’t avoid dealing with her since she’s a coworker and it can’t be avoided, so I thank God for putting her in my life so I can learn patience and understanding. I thank God for you, too. Thank you for sharing your journey with all of us.

  11. gj Iceland says:

    Thank you Thank you thank you.
    You are a wonderful women. I wish you all the best.

  12. Michelle Wienke says:

    Beauty really is only skin deep- I think as we get older and mature we come more and closer to that realization! At least I have…..

    Your words “I choose my friends very carefully. I do not allow toxic people in my life. ” is so important to your outlook and recovery! I too, rid myself of all of the toxic people who were sapping the life out of me-at least the ones that I’m not related to (!),,,,but just having a few people picking and whining and being toxic in general will really bring down your ability to think positively and do what is best for you! That was a brave and smart thing that you did-and both you, and Kelly and the kids will have long term benefits from that decision!

    Just wanted you to know that Im thinking about you! Have a glorious sunny day!

  13. ruthie says:

    i love you.

  14. Donna Arnold says:

    Hi Andrea:
    Beautiful, babe…absolutely beautiful!!!!!!! Love you…Donna in SC

  15. the bad hippie says:

    thank you for being your beautiful self, scars and all.

  16. Linda, Palm Harbor, Florida says:

    You have always been such a beautiful writer…you really need to write a book! How you always reveal yourself to all of your friends and even the people who don’t know you personally amazes me again and again. You are a wonderful woman, Andrea, and God created you with a purpose in mind! You have touched me yet again. Love you and God bless.

  17. The Other Andrea says:

    You need a publisher. Immediately. You are a wonderful writer and a beautiful soul. As I continue on my own journey with ovarian cancer, I will continue to follow your story and pray many blessings come your way. Thank you for sharing your life on your blog. You will never know how much your writing and sharing blesses others.

    I find this verse. Jerermiah 29:11 important to remember always:

    “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

  18. Joan says:

    Dear Andrea:
    I am one of Dr. Dan Gottlieb’s nurses. I saw his interview with you. He speaks so compassionately and highly of you. I am so touched by your strength and love. I would like to offer you some of my time. Whatever works, Weds. or Thurs. six or seven hours for whatever you may need shopping, babysitting, cleaning, nursing, whatever. Just send me an e-mail if your have a need.

  19. Imstell says:

    Beautiful, Andrea.

  20. Cindy says:

    How do you know if someone is toxic? How do I know?

    Where is the line?