The Scars That Bind

Scars are intriguing and fascinating. Each one tells a story.

Some people’s scars invoke a beautiful memory such as the moment they entered motherhood. Others may stem from a more somber place such as war, abuse, surgery, or other injuries. Scars should be celebrated. They remind us of our body’s incredible ability to heal. They are badges of honor that we acquire throughout our lives. Many spend a significant amount of money trying to minimize or eliminate their scars. To me, scars should not be erased. This would be akin to tearing a chapter out of a book and still expecting to understand the story in its entirety.

IMG_7629Scars are a receptacle of memories that can be summoned to mind at their very sight. My daughter has two scars, both under her chin. When I see them, I am first reminded of a five year old girl lovingly dancing around our living room trying to get her baby sister to stop crying until she slammed face first onto the hardwood floor. The other scar did not appear in such an endearing manner: a little boy pushed her at school and her face landed on the corner of a desk. Two scars. Same exact location on her body yet two completely different scenarios of how they appeared.

Up until three years ago, with the exception of a small scar on my finger I was otherwise scar-less.

Since then, I have had four major surgeries leaving me with at least six of them. These scars tell a story of a young woman who removed her breasts, ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes and cervix.

While this may seem extreme, when you are faced with a 90% chance of developing these cancers and have seen your mother and grandmother endure the effects of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery you do what you must. Admittedly, when I look in the mirror I do not always like the reflection. My body no longer looks like that of other women my age. But my grief is short-lived: I choose to focus on what they represent – strength, courage, and a deep eternal bond with my mother and grandmother.343cropped

My mom recently had a double mastectomy and when she showed me her fresh scars, my grandmother immediately came to mind. I had gone through my entire childhood without knowing about my grandmother’s first bout with breast cancer which required a one-sided mastectomy. I was sixteen when I accidentally saw her getting dressed one morning and noticed the asymmetry of her chest as well as her scar. Twenty years later her cancer recurred necessitating a second mastectomy thus leaving her with a new scar on the other side of her chest. Her battle scars – earned by fighting twice and winning both times.

My mom’s two scars, as identical as can be to my grandmother’s ultimately represent courage and love. Without their cancers, my scars would have possibly come too late in life or at too high of a cost.

I believe that the three of us are in a special minority of people who are linked not only through blood and DNA but through our scars as well. We wear them proudly across our chests where our breasts used to be.   My scars remind me of the sacrifices my grandmother and mother made so that I could be healthier.

Many options exist to permanently remember a life event or a special connection to someone or something. Some may mark the occasion with pictures, a special piece of jewellery, a celebration, or a tattoo. In our family, three generations are bound through our scars. In a sense these are our tattoos that once faded, appear to have been written in invisible ink. Their stories however, are as permanent as can be and when the time comes will be shared with the generations that follow.

-Jana Popliger-Sinclair

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