Part of having Ehlers-Danlos means I scar differently than folks with normal collagen. I have a milder version of the kind of scarring some folks get, thankfully, but if something leaves a scar it’s gonna be there for a long time, and I generally know that, from experience, the second the injury has occurred. Some of mine have faded over time, but what was a blood blister on my foot my freshman year of high school turned into a scar that took over a decade to heal. Normal collagen just doesn’t happen around these parts.
My mother knew my skin was fragile, like hers, so when I split my lip on a baseboard heater she forced the ER to call in her & my brother’s reconstructive plastic surgeon to sew my mouth up rather than butterfly it together. I remember that scene vividly, nearly 25 years later, and remain thankful to her for pitching a fit and pulling that poor doctor from his church pew. You wouldn’t know I split my lip now, unless I told you and you squinted really hard at my nose. 27 stitches, years of careful sunblock application, and my mother’s deep wish to “keep [her] daughter beautiful” has been fulfilled, at least in regards to that part.
My hands & feet, however, look well lived-in. Tiny scars from ovens, knives gone astray, pans accidentally brushed when too hot, pockmarks from IV lines & kitty claws create a landscape on my hands, already well-worn from hours of massage. My feet have strange marks from years of insistent barefooted life, painful things jabbed deep in my sole, trips in sandals into dock cleats and badminton net tie-outs. I have lived, and my hands and feet show it; I think they are beautiful for it.
I have a few other odd scars, from an old surgery, strange cat scratchings, etc., and recently I have added at least three to the collection. While visiting Boston, cooking dinner for friends, I pulled a baking sheet out, directly into my bicep. Six weeks later what was then a sharp red & white weal is now a mild pink line with a divot that I will probably have for life. Then, a couple of weeks ago, while cooking for myself & texting with a friend, I didn’t open the oven door all the way; that one started as a two by one inch rectangle of awfulness and is very slowly healing. I proceeded to burn the back of my right index finger while making tacos that same week, distracted by my company as I was prepping tortillas for the pan.
I find not a single one of these scars distresses me, and in some cases, they cause me to rejoice. Scars are markers of a life lived, risks taken, meals cooked, laughter had, distractions offered – and I’ve had all that.
The medical scars? What looks like tiny track marks on my right elbow? The myriad needle spots on the back of my hands? The giant scar that looks like a laser seared across my left hip-joint? They make all the other scars possible. I am grateful for them.
Almost all of my scars that are not medically related are linked to good memories, and I rejoice that I have palpable memories that not even my diseases can take away.
What a blessing is this physical life, with all its deep pain and suffering, that we can look at those we love, those who have loved us, and smile at each other, laughing at the struggles that tried to place themselves between us and brought us closer together. What a gift are we given to stand on this tiny planet and be offered the chance to wear out these bodies. What a joyous blessing is this world.
When I die, I will go away, and my body will be left behind. Offered up to some researcher or medical student with my medical file, full of unknowns, strange test results and more pictures of my insides then anyone really needs. I hope that while my body, then empty of whatever miracle it is that animates life, lays there, that person will also see my shadow in my trips, falls, oven burns & laugh lines and know that however heavy the burden of disease I lived all the days that I could, as best as I could, as long as I could and was grateful for every single second.
We are made up of our choices, our circumstances, our memories. My scars show where the world has made its mark on me, and remind me where, I hope, I have left my mark on the world.
What story do your scars tell?
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This post has been vaguely ruminating since my Boston trip at the beginning of November, where I attended a party with my friends. While there I heard traded the most amazing stories about injuries, and none of it was one-upmanship so much as “Oh man, do I have a story to tell!” It was awesome. Please share your stories too. I would love to hear/read them.
A real health update is possibly going to come along sometime soon, as well as some recipes. My focus the last couple months has been on getting through the days, which is why the quiet has been happening here. My sincere effort is to attempt to return to you lovely people now that we’re making headway.