As anyone who knows me really well will tell you, I am a huge Goo Goo  Dolls fan. Really. I am not a star struck kind of person but, every time I see the lead singer, Johnny Rzeznik, it makes my heart skip a beat. I see them in concert every time they come to New York and I rock out like a teenager.

I wasn’t always a huge fan but, when I was recovering from my various surgeries through these past few years, their lyrics struck a chord with me. They resonated in a way that touched me.

I believe that music can help soothe the soul. I was thinking about this particular subject today when I was undressing to get into the shower. Usually, I just go about my business and don’t pay much attention, always on the go, always rushing around, never taking time to really look.

I looked today. For a moment, I was breathless.

I looked at, really looked at, my medi-port scar. This is about two and a half inches across and a half an inch wide. It looks like I was stabbed with a serrated knife. It’s red, although it has gotten pinker over the years. It is one of my most noticeable scars because it is up high, near my right shoulder, so it is clearly visible when I wear a lot of different clothes.

Then, the ugly pink scar that goes across the center of my right breast. Right across the center. And, the little round red scar at the edge of it, where the saline was injected to stretch the skin so that an implant could be placed inside.

The left side is even worse. I had a failed tram flap surgery (not to get too technical, that is when a portion of your stomach is used to create a breast). I’m sure I’ll be able to “talk” about it at some later time but, honestly, it is still too painful that I’m not sure how to express it in words.  What I can say is that the left breast is surrounded by an ugly scar, all the way around. The doctor used staples, instead of stitches, so it has a Frankenstein-esque look to it. There is scar tissue all around it that scares me at times (oh, no, is is a new tumor?) and hurts me most of the time. On top of it, you can see the “lumps” when I lay down and they are ugly.

There are three tattooed black “dots” that I was got when I was having radiation. They are put there in order for the radiologists to be able to pinpoint exactly where to radiate. Obviously, this is most important. It’s funny, I have had so many surgeries to “fix” the failed reconstruction, my skin has been cut and things moved around and yet, all three of those black dots have survived. I guess a tattoo really is forever.

Underneath my left breast, there are broken blood vessels, bumps that look like they are filled with blood, and various other skin imperfections. This was all caused by a combination of the radiation and the multiple surgeries.

My belly button, for a long time after the failed surgery, was crooked and off-center. My new plastic surgeon (another of my angels) now has given me a beautiful, small, circular belly button right in the middle of my stomach, which she also pulled nice and tight for me. I do, however, have a scar that extends from my belly button down to where it disappears into my undies. In addition, there is a scar that goes from one hip all the way around my stomach to the other hip.

In my most private area is where two drains were placed during one of my most extensive surgeries. I will forever have those two red, round holes there to remind me of that pain. They are about dime shaped and sized and smooth to the touch.

I was cut at the top of each thigh, from my buttocks up about six inches. The scars there have actually healed very nicely.  Because of where they are, however, they are often uncomfortable, and cause me some pain.

Then, there are two small scars on the bottom of my second and third toes on my left foot. They are healing very nicely. Most of the time, they don’t give me any trouble but, they do get sore after a full day on my feet.

Finally, I have a scar on my back that goes from my left shoulder-blade and extends down about eight to ten inches. There is also a hole at the end of that one, too, where the drain was located.

I spent some time in front of the mirror. I really saw. And, I had myself a good cry.

Then, I thought of a beautiful lines from my favorite bands, The Goo Goo Dolls. It goes like this,
“Scars are souvenirs you never lose, the past is never far.”

My medi-port provided the chemotherapy that saved my life. It is also where I received my blood transfusion, also allowing me to grow old with my husband and see my children grow up.

The breast scars are there because there was an ugly tumor that had to be destroyed. Period.

The ugly red circle at the edge of it enabled me to have new breasts. Same with the scar on my back. The muscle there was used to create cleavage on my left side. How amazing. Way back when, when women were diagnosed with my disease, they didn’t have these options. I know that as difficult as it was, I am so fortunate that I did.

The tattoos, and all of the skin damage that went along with the radiation is also an effect that I wouldn’t trade for the world. Thank God there are all of these treatments that allow us to live and survive. I remembered today how kind the radiation technicians were. How they talked to me while the radiation was coursing through my body; about work, my kids, my plans for the future. I will always remember them. The scars help me to do that.

My stomach scars and my new belly button remind me of how lucky I am that the failed flap was able to be repaired, for the most part, by my angel of a plastic surgeon. She spent countless hours and twelve or so surgeries  trying to fix what I was told by other surgeons was a hopeless situation. These scars remind me that there are wonderful people out there who will go the extra mile to help you. There are people who care about others to such an extent that they do everything they can to heal you and make you feel worth the hard work and trouble. I will always be grateful to her for doing that and for being there for me, every step of the way, after the horrible failed reconstruction that almost took my life.

My thigh scars remind me that I now have breasts that look somewhat “normal”.  I no longer feel like a creature from some science fiction movie. True, they are far from perfect but, they have all of the same attributes that “regular breasts”  have.

And, the scars on my toes. Luckily, they are on the underside. They are a good way to remind myself when I am overdoing it. Whenever they become sore, I know it is time to take it easy and rest. This is such an important reminder for me because, I tend to want to do it all. I am so aggravated by what cancer and the failed surgery has taken from me, I almost  try to compensate by overdoing the things that I can.  This is not healthy for me. Now, I have my toes to remind me.

So, you see, my Johnny was right. My scars are my souvenirs. They will help me to always remember what I have gone through and that the past is right there to reflect on.

The key is to make that reflection a positive.  With regard to this, I am a work in progress.