A man proudly shows off a large surgery scar on his forearm.

She Had Me in Stitches, but Nobody Was Laughing

Ronald Reagan was president. Michael Jordan was the darling of the sports world. I was in California, living the dream. No one I knew had a cell phone, yet, we were connected...

Stitches after skin cancer removal stink

I was down. I had a wound that was stitched three quarters around my left forearm. The doctor could not close the wound. She just left a hole. Life in the melanoma world had begun. This was my own personal world since I knew of no one who had melanoma and in fact, I had never heard of it before my diagnosis.

Stitches and scars, with only my skin cancer story to tell

I was left with 20-30 stitches that looked like a railroad track circumnavigating my previously un-scarred arm. I hated those stitches. I hid them. I made up stories about them (as-in 'you should see what happened to the other guy'). I couldn’t sleep well. I felt broken. I knew people who had surgeries for skiing injuries or torn ligaments from football. Their stitches and scars seemed cooler, like a badge of honor. I was the 24-year old with melanoma in 1988 and got my stitches from laying out.

Isn't it ironic?

The fact that my doctors could not stretch enough skin to close the wound made it worse. You must remember that the very reason that I had melanoma was rooted in vanity, in tanning, in finding acceptance and affirmation. Ironically, the very things that I sought, led me to further thoughts of shame. Now, I would be a pale, scarred 20-something in Los Angeles looking for shade and good deals on long sleeve shirts.

Stiches to scar

I spent weeks in stitches, yet, I never laughed. Eventually, the stitches became a long scar. Year after year, I could feel people staring at my arm and I would debate internally how to explain my “terrible look". Skin cancer was not something young people got. Only older, balding men with too many years on the golf course got skin cancer and it was never a big deal. How did I get this way when every other peer was still tanning and looking “good”?

Changing the story about my scar

One day, I accepted my fate and myself. I changed the narrative. I was not yet an advocate for healthy skincare practices because I still felt like an oddball, but I came to terms with my scar. I opened up about my skin cancer and it’s serious nature. I became comfortable in my skin and the skin tone that God gave me. I was ok with “me”, even if I was not the “norm”.

Wearing my scarred arm proudly

I look at things differently now. I hope people notice my arm. It gives me a natural opening into discussing my story and my thoughts on skincare. My scar is now my gift to others. Every little pinpoint on my scar where sutures had been, is now an opportunity to pinpoint the need for sunscreen. The open wound healed but now leaves a mark and allows me to leave my mark.

Wear your stitches and scars proudly too

If you have stitches and scars, I appreciate you. I encourage you to put them to good use. Find your voice in them. In some Asian cultures when a vase breaks, they don’t toss them out. They glue them back together and proudly display them. Think of yourself as a valuable artifact and tell your story. My guess is that others will judge you, but not as something defective, but as someone who has overcome so much.

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