a woman with scars on her face blushes and blocks her face with her hair and her hand while her date tries to cheer her up

Intimacy, Interrupted

“I have scars,” I said.

“I don’t care,” he said.

But I didn’t believe him. I wanted to think that when he looked at me, he wouldn’t focus on the scars. Or maybe he wouldn’t even notice them at all. But my mind wouldn’t let me believe that.

Our history

We had known each other for many years, and had dated off and on throughout those years. We hadn’t seen each other for awhile though, and he hadn’t seen me since a major skin cancer surgery. Nor the several other skin cancer surgeries I’d had since that one.

Most of my scars were fading or had faded, except for the fresh 3-inch scar on my chest from a recent excision to remove a squamous cell carcinoma. I knew it was there, and I definitely didn’t want him to see it. I felt self-conscious enough about it when no one could see it, and I sure didn’t want someone to get an up close and personal view of the bright red area.

It's emotional

Silly? Maybe. But it didn’t feel silly at the time. That’s the enigma of skin cancer. Emotions can be raw. Moods can be euphoric after receiving great news from a doctor’s appointment, or they can be melancholy. And sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason why it’s one or the other. So I did what seemed logical at the time - I pushed him away. He was getting too close, and I wasn’t ready to share my scars.

Because what he didn’t understand is that with skin cancer, scars aren’t always just on the outside. Scars can be deep inside too - the feelings of being ugly, and less than, and undesirable. Skin cancer isn’t pretty, and it can at times make me feel not very pretty.

Every day feels different

Some days I think I have a decent handle on the emotional roller coaster of skin cancer. Other days, though, I look at people who don’t have skin cancer, and I’m kind of jealous of them because they have a perfect, scar-free face and no areas that are just waiting for surgery. I’m positive they don’t have scars from head to toe.

And I want to be like them. I want to feel desirable, and confident, and not self-conscious of my scars. I want to not go into defense mechanism mode about what someone may think of my new scars. I want to feel beautiful. I just want the scars on the outside and the scars on the inside to go away.

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