By Clare Almand
26 Jan

Learning to Love the Scar

Thursday, January 26, 2017

I wrote about body image five years ago, where I mentioned how proud I am of my scars and how I don’t have a problem wearing clothes that show them. While I feel that way now, that wasn’t always the case. There is very little CHD representation in TV and film (“Rosewood” on Fox is the only example I can think of) and there was none when I was growing up. Being a teenager is hard enough without having to deal with the additional isolation that comes with having a chronic illness and very prominent surgical scars. It would have been nice 15 years ago to turn on the TV and see someone who looked like me: someone who wasn’t ashamed of their scar, or who struggled with it initially, but then gradually accepted and learned to appreciate their physical imperfections.  When I was younger, I used to get upset when I would try on clothes that didn’t look right because my scar isn’t perfectly symmetrical and my sternum is uneven and bulges on one side. Bra shopping has also been a challenge. One of the stores I buy brashas me down as 3 different sizes because it changes every time I get a new bi-ventricular ICD. It can be discouraging seeing all the dresses with plunging necklines on the red carpet and knowing that none of them would work on me.

One thing that has helped me feel more confident is joining an organization for people with CHD. As a teenager, I didn’t know about the Adult Congenital Heart Association. Having a community of people who’ve had experiences and scars just like mine would’ve helped so much when I was 16 and feeling so different and alone. I feel fortunate to have found the community now where I can learn more about my own condition as well as others. It’s not so isolating when you read other people’s stories and have a place to go when you need to connect with people like you.

The other thing is time and perspective. Knowing that I have these scars because I survived something that has taken so many, has helped me to not see them as ugly or embarrassing. They make me special and awesome. A plunging neckline might not be the most flattering, but I have found styles of dresses and bathing suits and everything else that work for me. Sometimes I like to show a little scar-- I like letting people know that I’m amazing without having to say it.

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