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Wear Your Scars With Pride

Wear Your Scars With Pride

I remember my mother having skin cancer surgery on her nose which left her with a huge scar and a disfigured shape. The doctor swore to her that her nose would look normal, yet until the day she passed, it looked wrong. My dad had many surgeries for skin cancer but never seemed to leave anything but a small blemish.

My own scars

Fast forward a few years, and I had my first skin cancer surgery under my left eye. That one was a tiny scar that looks like a tiny wrinkle. To be honest, I’d rather have it look like a scar.

In 2014, I had another basal cell carcinoma. This time, under my right eye. The doctors required that I have Mohs Surgery and while they got all of the cancer on the first pass, I had a large scar. The first few days out, I looked like a female version of Frankenstein’s monster. They told me though, that the scar would flatten out. Sure, it has somewhat but it’s still quite a large scar that shows up well in photos.

Scars tell our stories

But you know what? I don’t care. I wear all my scars with pride, including that one. For me, each scar is a chapter in my life where something happened that I overcame. Whether it is the scar right at my hairline from a car accident when I was 16, to the small scars and disfigurements on my hands and arms – they all tell a story that is uniquely me.

I’m a photographer and took quite a few photos a few years ago of a beautiful model. When she was a child, she got bit in the face by a dog. The scar ran up her jawline and onto her face – yet she was still stunning. I asked her if she wanted the scar removed in Photoshop and she told me no – the scar was a part of her.

I feel the same way. But, not everyone feels the same – and I realize that.

Many people hate having scars

According to a study referenced at the US National Library of Medicine1

We identified five major themes related to the impact of skin cancer surgery: appearance-related concerns; psychological function (e.g. fear of new cancers, recurrence); social function (e.g. impact on social activities and interaction); adverse problems (e.g. pain, swelling) and satisfaction with the experience of care (e.g. satisfaction with surgeon). The priority of participants was the removal of the facial skin cancer as this diminished their overall worry. The aesthetic outcome was secondary but important as it had important implications on the participant’s social and psychological functioning.

Discuss it with your doctor

If you are worried about scarring after skin cancer surgery, talk to your doctor about your concerns. There are many ways that the doctor or a plastic surgeon can minimize a scar. In my case, the plastic surgeon worked on my face immediately after the cancer removal.

If you are not satisfied with the results, your insurance should cover the cost of any care needed to repair your look.

Wear your scars with pride

Scarring can be a scary thing for most people, but the important thing is to remove the cancer. Everything else is secondary. And if you’re like me, scars are another road on the map that is me, and I embrace that.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The SkinCancer.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Patient experiences and outcomes following facial skin cancer surgery: a qualitative study by US National Library of Medicine (NCBI) Found at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5461874/

Comments

  • wseverin
    7 months ago

    I just went through my third procedure to remove another spot on my face. I have sebaceous carcenoma, or as the doctors have told me, it’s the same thing as malignant melanoma. There are several more “procedures” to go, each one being sent to a pathology lab for i.d. As a man 62 years old, I don’t worry about scarring too much. It only bothers me when I play in my band onstage. Lord knows I have plenty others that can’t be seen. No doctor can tell me this yet, but I’m wondering if this stuff came from somewhere else and/or if it has spread. That’s my main concern. No one, as far as I know, in my bloodline has ever had any kind of cancer. If anybody can shine a little bit of light on this subject would be appreciated. Thanks in advance. Warren

  • Nina M moderator
    7 months ago

    Hi @wseverin, I’ll try to send anyone I see with sebaceous carcinoma here, although I haven’t seen anyone yet. When you asked about where it came from, I thought of this article that talks about some fo the risk factors for sebaceous skin cancer: https://skincancer.net/clinical/what-is-sebaceous-carcinoma/. This article talks about testing for spread, and some reasons why they might do those tests: https://skincancer.net/diagnosis/. I wonder if you could ask your doc specifically whether your spots are at risk for spreading, and why or why not? Your questions are good ones, and I’m glad you’re interested in knowing more about what’s going on with your skin cancer. – Nina, SkinCancer.net Team

  • wseverin
    7 months ago

    Nina, about all I have been told about my issue is that sebaceous carcenoma is the rarest, hardest to treat, and, of course, the most aggressive skin cancer. Both have told me that, as well as the WebMD, etc. Again, I have another “procedure” next week. Another biopsy. A friend of mine, let’s call her Susie, is a two time survivor of breast cancer and recommended that I get a p.e.t. scan, no matter what the Dr says. It could be from a “mother” cancer somewhere else. And that does kinda scare me because I lost my drummer last year. How? Went to a chiropractor for knee pain, Dr sent him that day to an oncologist, finding out he had stage IV lung cancer and didn’t make a year. Any cancer can be deadly, sadly, but ANY type is taxing on the b.p. and nerves!

  • riley0003
    7 months ago

    Sheila, I understand your feelings completely. I’ve had many basal & squamous cell excisions and had no issues with the scars on my arms, back, legs, etc. But I was diagnosed with melanoma on my face in the summer and while I was anxious to get the cancer out of me, I was also extremely concerned about how I was going to look afterwards. My dermatologist, a woman, helped me find the best plastic surgeon around and although I looked like a post-apocalypic monster immediately afterwards, within 3 months I looked much, much more normal. It’s been 7 months and most people don’t even notice and are surprised if I show them the scars, which are quite extensive but very artfully done and not terribly visible. I must say, though, that my insurance wouldn’t cover the added cost of the plastic surgeon and so all told I spent over $14,000 out of pocket for uncovered treatments, copays, and percentage costs. Although I hope this never happens to me again, I know that this beastly cancer can easily recur so I’m extremely vigilant. If it’s on my face again, I will fight hard to get a talented plastic surgeon. It was dreadful having an enormous hole in half of my face! My grandchildren were terrified of my appearance and neighbors wouldn’t even look at me. Honestly, I don’t care about scars on other parts of my body but my face is a different story. I carry around a picture of the giant hole to show people who says stupid things like “it’s “only” skin cancer – not real cancer”. It keeps me from hitting them.

  • redferng
    7 months ago

    Scars are evidence of a lived life. At this point I’ve had 3 Mohs on my face, two scar revisions, and about 300 stitches. Most people cant tell. While I don’t like them, they’re ok and I can deal.
    I had the most wonderful surgeon, talented, kind, he even stopped me when he saw me elsewhere, outside of his office.

  • redferng
    7 months ago

    ^And asked how I was doing

  • Nina M moderator
    7 months ago

    That’s an excellent statement, @redferng, “scars are evidence of a lived life.” These are great aspects of a healthcare professional, emphasis on asking you how you are. This doesn’t always happen in appointments, let alone out in the world. Very glad you found him! – Nina, SkinCancer.net Team

  • ShelliAS
    7 months ago

    I think we all look at scarring differently. This is my first post on this site, but not my first go round with skin cancer. I have scars on my arm and chest, which do not bother me too much. But facial scarring does bother me. I am human. I was recently diagnosed with two SCCs on my face, and I interviewed a derm surgeon about my options. I had many questions and concerns, and wanted to collect as much data as I could. When I brought up the issue of facial scarring (should I select surgery as an option) the guy was very belittling; he said that it was ridiculous of me to be concerned about “vanity” and that I should just “suck it up.” When I directed the conversation to involving a cosmetic surgeon, he threw shade at the cosmetic surgery industry and said that they were only good for doing breast enlargements. Of course I know that this is untrue, and I walked; I won’t be hiring this guy. But as I pondered this strange interaction later, I just wondered if this is what I am going to have to deal with moving forward? Having to deal with a belittling attitude toward scarring concerns, and having to always advocate for my needs? My skin is pretty bad, and after not having any new skin cancers turn up for a number of years, there is a sort of “new Wave” of them occurring on me again. Is it normal that surgeons be sensitive toward impacts from facial scarring? I feel dismissed and I hope it isn’t a trend.

    Thanks,

    Shelli

  • Nina M moderator
    7 months ago

    Dear @ShelliAS, I am sorry you had this awful experience. No doctor, and for that matter, no person, should tell you your fears aren’t valid, especially when it comes to such a common skin cancer fear like this. I’m glad you knew that truth, that you were not being vain in asking questions. I can tell you that we have heard from people with wonderful relationships with their docs. And we’ve heard of people who’ve been dismissive too. There aren’t always a lot of options in one’s area, but I hope you’re able to find a better fit! Judy here talks about the relationship she had with her doc, a plastic surgeon, before he retired: https://skincancer.net/life-with-skin-cancer/a-great-doctor-patient-relationship-it-can-be-a-beautiful-thing/. Thinking of you and please do let us know how your search progresses. – Nina, SkinCancer.net Team

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