Cancer Leaves a Mark

by GregP_WN

Cancer leaves a mark, in many ways. There are the inevitable scars from surgery, bruises from injections or treatments, skin burns and peeling from radiation, and then there are the mental scars, the flashbacks when you smell something or hear something, and even PTSD that never seem to go away. 

Cancer Leaves A Mark, Behind Every Scar Is A Story

The average person on the street doesn't know or understand all of the ways that we are marked for life by cancer, because as many survivors say, "you can't understand it if you haven't been through it".

In a recent discussion on WhatNext, here's how a few people described how cancer has left a mark. Read through these and tell us if you can relate to any of these statements. 

Carool  - "Yes, both mental and physical scars. Very small lumpectomy scar on my breast and a small scar around my armpit from the sentinel node biopsy and these scars are nothing to me. Mental scars are larger: increased bodily vigilance; anxiety; Doomsday feelings at times. I still rerun in my mind my treatment scenes and other cancer-related experiences (PTSD?). So, yes, it certainly did leave scars."

IH25 says, "Yes, I will have scars. One on my chest from the port placement and removal. A couple on my abdomen from surgery. 4 tiny blue dots I can see if I look hard."

Cancer leaves a mark on our bodies, but also intrudes into our lives and leaves a mark on them. Most survivors say that they can never get back to what "normal" used to be. Now, we just call it the "new normal". 

Live With Cancer said, "Sure, there may be a small literal scar where my port is, but mostly cancer has left a mark on my life. My life is definitely changed in nearly every way. Most, not in bad ways, just different ways."

Molly72 describes how she has been marked - "Lots of scars, one large & deep shark-bite on my arm is the worst looking. Others that still hurt on my legs. One on my neck that had the nerves cut & I can't stand to be touched on my jaw & ear, one ugly one on my nose, so many others......! Not badges of courage as I have read before, just reminders of cancer battles."

Some cancer survivors say that they have scars that are barely noticeable, but still, they know that they are there. Each time she sees them "Beechbum5817" is reminded of all that she went through during treatment and a mastectomy surgery. She says she has both marks and scars. "I have both, and I always will. I am just thankful that my scars are better looking than I thought that they would be. Before my double mastectomy, the only time I had ever seen a mastectomy scar had been on the cover of either Time or Newsweek back in the late 70's. It showed this woman with the ugliest, jagged looking scar that I had ever seen. That was what I thought that I would look like. Thankfully, they do a better job now. The marks that bother me the most are the tattoo dots that I can see. I can't find all of them, but one always catches my eye. I never wanted a tattoo, so this I hate the most."

Cancer Leaves A Mark Mentally

PaperPusher describes how cancer is leaving marks and scars on her Husband's body while marking their lives at the same time. "There are physical scars from the removal of his RLL that are added to his list of scars from other injuries that are mostly sports related. But it's the mental scars that have left their mark the most on both of us-him more so than me. He told me during treatment that he was going to have PTSD from it and he's right. He can't see a scanner on TV without his stomach doing flip-flops. He gets anxious anytime he has a doctor's appt and more so with his oncologist which is to be expected. I drive him to his appts if he has to walk very far since he gets too Short Of Breath. That alone makes him more anxious but he's never liked my driving. lol He gets confused more easily and has problems with word retrieval that are getting progressively worse. Sometimes the TV remote confounds him or trying to get to the Caller ID on the phone. His cancer loves to go to the brain and he hasn't been able to have a brain MRI bc his kidneys were too damaged from the chemo. So since he's had a prior stroke we don't know what's what. The sense of vulnerability is there too. He used to be so social and he's not anymore. Him recognizing that he's having memory problems and can't drive as far as he used to are sad for both of us. He made a bucket list during treatment and most of it is falling by the wayside. ~Sigh~

One invisible mark that cancer leaves you, is the fact that your life is permanently changed. Janet Springer says, "Yes, I have scars from surgeries. I have one huge scar that is thankfully covered by my hair. There are invisible scars from the ordeal. But scars are the result of the healing process. One doesn't have cancer without it leaving a mark. For better or worse, I was permanently changed."

SteveG describes how cancer has left a mark on his family and the way his Grandchildren see him now with his scars. "I have both physical and mental scars. I have two belly buttons. What is most noticeable is that my eyes no longer match and my right eye sees no better than it looks. Nobody seems to notice several inches of skin cancer scars on my face due to three Moh's surgeries or that my nostrils don't match. I am 65 and the youthful attitude of indestructibility that I once had is long gone. My reaction to these extra years is to be cheerful and helpful and to keep myself in shape. I chase my six grandchildren for hugs and kisses. I went through the loss of my parents and two cancers to get these grandchildren and I treasure them because I did not get them for free and I don't know how long I will have them. Before I got the first of my two cancers, I used to turn off the radio between Thanksgiving and Christmas because I found the Christmas music too giddy. I guess that's the word. Now I am so giddy to have survived another year that I wish they would keep playing the music after Christmas and even found a channel on TV that does."

Cancer Leaves A Mark, You Were Stronger Than What Tried To Hurt You

Despite all of the marks and scars cancer leaves, most survivors will tell you it's a small price to pay to have gone through all of this and are alive to enjoy the rest of what life has to hold. MSESQ describes it like this, "I have three small scars, two from my port and 1 from my lumpectomy. A small price to pay for my life. Emotional scars? I think about recurrence once a week or so but other than that nothing. The positives are that I endured something I never thought I could and emerged stronger for it."

Some people say that even though their scars are both large, small, some deep and some shallow, they will fade with time. LilMom says, "The first scar I got from on my face is from skin cancer. The scar runs from the corner of my eye to nearly the corner of my mouth. That was my first dance with cancer. At first, the scar was deep and easily seen (I had over 10 stitches). I tried to hide it with makeup, but it would always smudge off and leave this scar even more noticeable. So many people and students would ask me about my scar. It's been over 5 years and the scar is barely noticeable. So much so, I often forget it even exists. I think that is figurative of my skin cancer too. I often forget to mention it in my medical history (this ominous thing that once hijacked my life). I now have a huge scar where my breast once existed. It's like a hole in my chest (figuratively speaking). I believe in time this scar too shall fade into the past as I go forward with living my life."

Cancer Leaves A Mark, Scars Do Not Form On The Dying

Created says that she sees her scars as medals instead, "Scars, maybe. On my tummy and breast. They took the 'ugly' out. I'm left with medals. Each time I see one, I realize how truly precious and brave I am."

How has cancer left a mark on you or your life? Please share in the comments, the more people that read your experiences, the more people that will see that it's normal to have scars, and marks. 

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