This post is inspired by Fred Vanderbom’s Survivors of Infant Surgery blog post “Scar Acceptance 2.” He writes about the challenge of making peace with our pyloric stenosis scars. And in his post, he includes a wonderful photo of he and his wife in swimsuits, lounging on beach chairs at the side of pool. He has come a long way with regard to “scar acceptance.”
I have always had a love/hate relationship with bathing suits because of my feelings about my scar from pyloric stenosis surgery. In my family, I was taught to feel ashamed of my scar.
Here’s a photo of me standing next to my brother at Sandy Hook, New Jersey. I am wearing what I think of as the dangerous suit. Since the straps tied behind the neck, I was always worried about them coming loose. Once while swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, the top of the suit literally flopped forward from the waist up, exposing my scar! I quickly submerged myself to my chin and re-tied my straps, double knotting the bow. My scar was ugly and I wanted to stay cute. When that bathing suit wore out, I bid it good riddance.
In this photo, I wear my black tank suit, as it was called. Why it was called a tank suit, I don’t know, but I did think of it as protection. This suit was stretchy and the straps didn’t need to be tied. See those three white discs on my chest? The buttons were big and clown-like. Just beneath them and a little to my right sat the pyloric stenosis scar. To me, the buttons and I had a secret; we knew the scar was underneath but no one else did. We fooled everyone. I felt powerful.
I wonder what it would have been like if my brother had been the one with the stomach scar. He certainly would not have been able to hide it during swimsuit season; it would have been much harder for him. One thing’s for sure–parents can help kids accept and befriend their scars. They can help them see their scars as marks of power and survival. Scars can show how strong one is and how good one is at healing.
Scars can also be cool. I remember reading a scene in a memoir in which a little girl pulls up her dress at her birthday party to show off her cancer surgery scar. The kids oooh and ahhh. One child actually says that he wishes he could get one! She lowers her dress, and they all go back to batting balloons around the room. You bet her parents had everything to do with her ability to accept her scar. Luckily, my illness was cured unlike hers. But she inspires me to one day be able to feel pride about my scar. Scar Pride! Would make a cool T-shirt.