The Invisible Scars of HBOC
“In a perverse way, I was glad for the stitches, glad it would show, that there would be scars. What was the point in just being hurt on the inside? It should bloody well show.”
― Janet Finch, White Oleander
Last week’s #BCSM chat (click here for transcript) touched on “the invisible scars of cancer.” It’s a great topic, and one that applies easily to those of us facing HBOC. Whether you choose surgery, or have it forced on you, you have visible scars. My scar on my left breast is 4.5 inches long. The one on my right is 4 inches. I have one small scar on each hip and a matching set on my inner thighs (fat transfers and grafting). I like these scars (mostly). I can point to them. They are evidence that I lived through Hell and am still breathing. The ones that lurk beneath the surface are ten times more difficult, though.
When confronted with BRCA, or HBOC, regardless of choosing surgery or not, you develop scars. You cannot point to these scars; no one else can see them; they are invisible. These scars are, often, the deepest and most painful.
My invisible scars are plentiful. People see me, and see a healthy-looking young woman. But I am not. I have wounds that will never heal, ones that I cannot point to as evidence of battle. Cancer may have taken away my fertility. It took away my innocence, and showed me my mortality. These are cuts that do not heal.
I am scared of metastatic cancer. This is a fear that haunts me. We can never again be “normal,” or go back to a time before our blindfold was ripped off and we saw our future. I do not live a single day without thinking about cancer. This, in itself, is a scar.
Once you have surgery, or treatments, and have no evidence of cancer, people believe it is “over.” For us, it is never “over.” Our fear of cancer remains. We worry about the fate of our children, our family. We worry about seeing our children grow and pass each milestone. Surgery does not alleviate this. It helps, but does not heal. These are the invisible scars. Ones we live with and no one ever sees.
What are your scars? What will live with you forever, unseen, even, by those closest to you? Our community is important because only we understand. Our wounds are shared. We cannot, necessarily, heal each other, but we can relate.
Here’s one more quote to end this post. It’s by Rose Kennedy: “It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.”