The Stars (and Scars) Shone Brightly
Years ago, I had just started dating someone when he asked if I would like to attend a semi-formal work event with him that was taking place a couple of days later. The location was a beautiful, historical building with stunning gardens, and I was excited to go. I didn’t have time to go shopping for an outfit though, so I looked through my closet and found a dress that I thought would be good for the occasion.
Skin cancer scar: a stark reminder
The evening of the event, I got dressed, did my hair and makeup, and thought I was ready to go – and then I noticed something that threw my mojo completely off kilter. The dress was sleeveless, and all I could focus on was the bright red, three-inch scar on my left shoulder and upper arm. That scar was a stark reminder of my recent skin cancer surgery to remove basal cell carcinoma. Up until that night I hadn’t paid too much attention to the scar, but here it was – standing out in all its glory.
Feeling low and ugly
I seriously could not stop looking at it, and I thought that everyone else in the place would be staring at it too. This brought my good mood crashing down, and in fact, I decided that I no longer wanted to go. Quite the drama-filled response, I realize, but having skin cancer can be a lot of highs mixed with a lot of lows and in this moment I was feeling a low. Not only does skin cancer leave visible scars on the outside, it many times can also have an emotional effect on people. And that night, I felt ugly, and less than, and I was sure my friend’s coworkers would wonder why he would even want to bring me.
Looking back on it now, those feelings seem like an over-reaction to a scar, but in the moment seemed justified. Skin cancer can do that to you. Confidence can go up as wounds heal and scars fade, but it can also come crashing back down.
Avoiding featuring my scar
I did end up going, and I honestly don’t recall seeing anyone staring at my scar when we arrived. If they noticed it, they were polite enough to not ask. The only somewhat awkward moment during the evening was when the photographer wanted to take our picture and I realized that the side I was standing on put my scar in direct view, so I made the guy switch me sides. He was understanding, and the photographer was patient, and we got a great photo that didn’t feature my scar.
Continuing to enjoy life
The evening ended up being a lot of fun. It was a perfect summer night – I remember the sky was filled with stars, and in the safety of the moonlight and the dimmed lights inside the building, I had a wonderful evening. No one (including me) could see my scar, and I could quit focusing on it.
If you’ve had recent surgery, know that scars will fade in time. Feeling self-conscious or overly sensitive about them is normal, but do your best to not let them stop you from enjoying life - especially on a star-filled summer evening.
Have you taken our In America survey yet?