Scars are healing…

Sitting on a school bus headed up to Adirondack Animal Land last year I got to squash in with some great students and listen to the important chatter of a 4 year old. This particular bus ride I will never forget. I sat next to one of my favorite little students, there was something about her. I loved her sense of boldness- she actually told me what she wanted. Her eyes had that little grow up sparkle to them and her voice was very quiet. Sitting with her she showed me her scar, her heart shaped scar that perfectly healed after her port removal. She was so proud of that heart. She told me about the medications she takes and how terrible they taste. She told me about some of her experiences and I told her she was very brave and I was really impressed with her strength. I sat and let her tell me, this little 4 almost 5 year old, about her tumor and port and meds. It was a profound moment that reminded me about this world of tumors and cancer and chemo and ports and radiation and scans. Imagine sitting with a 4 year old to hear that conversation, just as normal to her as talking about her summer vacation and brothers baseball games. This is her normal.

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Scars. Scars are a sign of pain and healing. To have a scar, one must have experienced a painful event- one that will add a story to their life. I have lots of scars from skinned knees, stitches- some have great stories some are silly- all show a pain that healed. I guess scars should be celebrated, kind of recognizing the overcoming of the painful event that healed. A scar is a different piece of us- along with it’s story it looks and feels different than the rest of our skin. My dad used to say scars add patina- they add to our story, what other choice does one have? To live with that scar and carry it on as a part of us… even if it broke us.

I am so often surrounded by children who have scars from the surgeries and treatments they underwent while fighting cancer cells. I see children smile days after having a resection surgery with an incision from the front of their belly to their back… it is their normal. I see children who know bigger pain than I could have endured- chemo drugs that are killing them, radiation that hurts and burns every.single.time. I see children have to relearn to walk- standing in pain and being pushed to work hard through the hurt. All the while those kids are healing and seeing these new scars, visible and different, building it into their story- their normal. I see ports and belly scars in swimming pictures. I know there will come times that those kiddos are embarrassed that they look different but I see brave, bold, strong and special in those scars. I hate that they experienced that pain, I hate that they have a pile of story that shows on their body that they can’t control… but as we all know we don’t get to pick the hard stuff in this life.

Scars are normal for these kids, they are lucky to have scars. It hurts to know that there are many scars and cancer stories that are no longer here to wear the scars and start school, go to prom or swim… to grow. Cancer has taken so many of our kids, it has left lasting scars on MANY more. I love that little heart scar on my friends upper chest, though I know it was a reminder of pain for her it was also a symbol of hope. That scar is a visible reminder of that extra hard journey she and her family went through. That scar is her normal, scans and radiation… terrible tasting meds. Her normal, while she now rocks her first day of first grade is different than most. She has an extraordinary story… to live and carry, to show and share… or to reflect on as she grows with her little heart scar <3.

Other scars show the story of a resection surgery… the trust a mom puts into a doctor who will open your child from belly to back and remove tumors, to scrape those tumors off dangerous blood vessels and nerves… to find it all and stitch your child back up so that the scar can become the normal- to prepare for the scans that come with that scar. Imagine waking up that morning and kissing your lovely as they are opened up and praying that the surgeon gets it all and your lovely gets to have a scar… that scar is a testament to a time of pain, extreme pain and fear and faith. This is part of it… those moms and dads pray for a scar, a testament to that day being successful. Those parents know that some don’t get to carry the scar in their story and normal… some don’t get a long enough journey…

Seeing the scar from a port makes me smile… knowing that this little one got to bring home that port and store it on their shelf in a little biohazard container. They can look at the life changing device that make accessing their veins and administering poison less painful. They can see and feel the scar- and look at what made that scar and that part of their story. I smile because I know those kiddos are SOOO glad that their port is gone, it is a huge step in getting into their new normal of cancer journey mixed with the rest of the world. I love seeing the kids I work with and follow wake up from port removal surgery and be rid of the last big tie to the hospital- hopefully for a long time. It is inspiring to see…

So, you see, the scars are a symbol of healing. Scars are a symbol of life moving forward alongside the story that we have lived. The story is full of pain, but in time the pain lessens and normal is different… a scar shares the pain but honors the right now. I see these children in their lives be bold and different, they are driven and they are compassionate. They have felt extreme pain and they have continued to grow, they are very aware of the friends they have lost, the friends who didn’t get to have the scars only the pain. These kids are a different kind of real and genuine- their normal is the product of the fight of their life and all the scars that the fight left…

 

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