I have been silent here for a while. Only posting the safe things, but not the ugly things that lie just beneath the surface. I'd much rather put on a pretty smile, tell you that everything is fine. That I'm fine, even when I know that I'm not. That's just pretty much how I roll with things until they go so deep that I feel that they are capable of drowning me. I think it's odd that I can see this in myself, but it always surprises me when I see it in other people. It surprises me even when I know that it's there, but then it makes a stand and is out where everyone can see it.
Having survived childhood and cancer, I have a lot of scars on my body. Some of them are in places that can be seen but time has made them so thin they are barely noticeable. There is one on the palm of my hand that I got when I was eight and I tripped on a tree root and landed on a tent stake. It is so well healed now that I have to flex my fingers to make it visible at all. A serendipity about that scar was that my ex husband had a matching scar on his hand that he got falling out of a tree when he was eight years old. In my youthful nietivity I saw it as a sign that we were meant to be together. Well, I guess that theory didn't pan out. And there is a scar on my forearm that when it first healed was large and purple, but the years since I was 14 have turned it just slightly more white than the skin surrounding it and it has shrunk in size. If you were a med-tech studying my arm to find a vein you might notice it,but no one else ever does. The scars on the surface shrink and fade with time and age. Even the scars from my surgeries for cancer are fading away, looking like a fine white line circling my left nipple and extending toward my arm pit. The scar where my port-a-cath was now resembles wrinkles near my shoulder than it does the wounds that the two surgeries left. Even when people see them as I'm changing bras at the gym locker room, they don't notice them.
The deeper scars that cancer caused, the ones that reach into my soul, have not fared so well. It's the same for many of the deep scars left there by things like being an Army brat who didn't know her father as a young child because he was so often away for years at a time. Scars left by the rejection of family and friends who didn't have the wisdom to accept me for me, instead of trying to force into the mold of who they thought I should be. And definitely the scars of being abandoned by the man who made a covenant to love me and then didn't. Those scars reach up from inside and shake me to the core sometimes. I have been dealing with that a lot lately. Watching my grandson's trying to interact with their father makes me want to weep. Seeing a soldier hug his wife and a young child when he returns home brings tears to my eyes. Watching friends who are picking apart their marriages with judgemental condemnation of their spouse makes me want to confront them with the reality of what they are doing. But every time I talk to them it is through a veil of tears. I can't make them hear or understand the gravity of what their attitudes and actions is causing. Scars left on the surface of the soul don't turn into fine white lines that shrink away with time. They remain and color actions and reactions, attitudes and abilities for the rest of your life. Two things lately have highlighted this for me in dramatic ways.
The first happened late last week while I was at work. A co-worker, one of the manager's that I support sent me an e-mail. She had gotten a request and wanted to follow through with it. A friend of a child with Down's syndrome had written her and told her that this little boy had recently been diagnosed with leukemia. He loves tee shirts and this person was organizing a campaign to get as many tee shirts for the boy as possible. He was writing companies and asking for us to send a tee shirt directly to the child. He uncannily sent the request to the one person in our company that would be shaken by the circumstance. Peggy had a brother with Down's syndrome who died of leukemia. Her brother's death left a deep scar in Peggy's soul. I know this because Peggy and I had discussed it one time when she came to visit me on the oncology ward at St. Joe's. Of course we would send the child a tee shirt and I threw in a backpack too. But this simple request, that we were honored to fulfill touched the deep scars that cancer has left on both of our souls. Like the matching scars on our hands that my ex husband and I had, Peggy and I shared this scar. We were both a bit weepy that day.
The second thing that happened was that Lizzie called me one evening upset by something that had happened at work that day. She had been waiting on a table that was occupied by a man and his two sons and a toddler aged daughter. The man and his oldest son had been having an argument when the son got up and ran out of the restaurant. The man ran out after him and the middle son followed him leaving the daughter at the table alone. Lizzie sat with the toddler as she waited for the father to return. The situation touched deep into her soul, not only because it is sad and wrong for the family to leave the little girl alone, but because she saw the deepest hurts in her soul revealed by the scene. God gives us those moments to clarify and get us to confront our pain and our fears. When Lizzie was seven, my oldest son left for college. Shortly after that my ex husband moved out of our house and in with his girl friend. Quickly following this, my middle son joined the Army and went away to basic training. In her mind, she had been abandoned by them in the same order this little girl had just been abandoned by her family. This scene had ripped through the surface appearance of "everything is great" that she had portrayed and revealed the scar that was lying beneath. When she told me the story my twin scar of abandonment was brought to the surface too. The sadness of that time and the frustration that I will never get her to see that she wasn't truly abandoned, because her reality is that she was left behind. It showed another soul scar in me too, that I don't think Lizzie truly understands. I could never get her to see that I stayed with her. I was there and I was not enough. It really hurts that I was not enough. The image of her curled into a fetal position wailing "why does everybody leave me!" will never leave my soul, or her's either. The scar will never get smaller or blend in with the surrounding skin. It will only lurk beneath the surface until something comes up to bring it back out into the open.
The scars that cancer left on my skin are nothing compared to the scars that it left on my soul. When people see me, they don't even see the physical scars. The scars on my torso are covered by reconstructive surgery and well hidden by clothes. My left arm is swollen with lymphedema, but you'd have to be comparing it to my right arm to even notice. The scars that are left on my soul are monsters that lie beneath. They are brought up to the surface at times like now when I am waiting to see my oncologist to see if the ominous burning pain and thickening of my lower fibula is a metastasis. It shakes me so deeply that I have difficulty articulating it. Other than what I've written here and spoken about with my doctors, I have not mentioned it to anyone. As if voicing it will make it real. Even with my doctors, I have not said "can we see what this is because I'm afraid it might be breast cancer."
Waiting to see a dermatologist to determine what is causing my hair to fall out is equally as frightening. On the surface of my soul are scars from every time I have been given a bad diagnosis, heard a doctor tell me that this is potentially fatal. It is why it is still shocking for me to see the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes on my PHR anew after follow up visits with my doctor. I don't want another pill or diagnosis. I don't want to have to put one more thing on that all too long of a list of past medical history. It is embarrassing when I have to share it with another medical professional. And worse, when they roll their eyes and don't believe that I have these things it cuts a little deeper into my scarred up soul. I don't put anything on the list unless it has a measurable test and can be verified by something other than a diagnosis by elimination. But I don't want to be bald either. I'm rather tired of constantly having to clean up my hair and leaving hundreds upon hundreds on DNA markers everywhere. So my fearful soul consults Dr. Google, even though I know that he is always wrong and can't be trusted. He is only a good source of information after a definitive diagnosis has already been made by someone who actually went to medical school. The things I read frighten me and make me angry at my body for failing one more time. I go around with a smile and tell everyone that I'm fine and that everything is good because I just can't bear the shame of one more health problem. Sometimes it seems like all I am is a health problem. I would love to go back to that time when I was the lady that ran the video ministry and sang real bad in karaoke. Who went to field trips and drill meets and organized class reunions. Because even though I still can do those things, I'm still that lady who is sick all the time. It stinks.
So now it's time to paste on a smile and cover all those scars one more time. Try to remain a part of this life and not be a medical statistic. I have to remember that everyone has scars. It's just part of living. Sometimes I'd just like to live it a bit more transparently.