I Never Thought There Would Be Scars

I never thought there would be scars.

As I stood in the damp fitting room, surrounded by peeling posters of wig clad women in gay colored bathing suits, my mother slowly pulled her shirt over her head and turned slowly to face me. I stood staring at my mother’s violated chest, at the angry red gashes like gaudily made up lips. I was frozen with indecision. I wanted to hug her, to hold her. I wanted to scream and cry. But instead I just stood, staring at her irritated scars.

I should have been prepared. I knew that she would have to wait for her reconstructive surgery due to the extent of her cancer. But I imagined that the double mastectomy would return her to her pre-pubescent state, simply removing the breasts that had swelled with each of her pregnancies, as she gave life to me and my sisters. I had pictured the smooth chest of a young male swimmer.

Instead I stared at her ravaged chest, shocked by the violence of her mutilation, by the theft of her womanhood. I couldn’t imagine how she would have the strength to face the year to come – not only the chemo and the radiation – but also waking up every morning, knowing that such an essential part of her identity had been stolen from her.

My awakening to the harsh reality of breast cancer took place two years ago. I’m incredibly happy to say that my mother is healthy and in recovery, back to gardening and golfing in her house in France. Although she’s had her reconstructive surgery and no longer has to see those ugly scars as she gets dressed every morning, that vision still haunts my nightmares. I live in fear that one day they will mar my chest or my daughters’ chest too.

This blog past is part of the American Cancer Society More Birthdays Blog Chain. It is dedicated to my mother, my source of strength and inspiration.

9 Responses to I Never Thought There Would Be Scars

  1. >Wow, very moving post. You created a visual that I did not think was possible from words alone. Definitely created a lump in my throat sitting here reading at my desk at work. Please send my love to your mom.

  2. >Today was Denim Day. The only day I'm allowed to wear jeans to work. I gladly pay my $5 every year hoping that someday, events like Denim Day won't be needed and breast cancer won't effect my friends and family. Wonderful post.

  3. >This brought a tear to my eye as this horrible cancer is still a fresh wound as my best friend just got a mastectomy this past year at the age of only 32. This past year has really made me realize how much my friend means to me and how anyone of us can be affected by this horrible disease. This is the very reason I think it is great thing for not only those that have survived cancer but family and friends of the survivors to do these Cancer walks. It effects so many….

  4. >Hi Vanessa,
    Got chills as I was reading this, cause even though it's been a loooooong time since I've seen any of you, i still remember your mother well. I hopr she's doing better now as your post is old. Hope all is wel with you and your family.

    Helene (Jurgensen) Wallace

  5. […] Twenty years later, the cancer struck again, burrowing deep in the breasts of my mother and two of her sisters, all in one year. With varying degrees of mutilation, chemo, and radiation, all three sisters survived their bout with breast cancer, but a double mastectomy is nothing like a breast augmentation. Breast cancer is a disease that left scars worse than I ever imagined. […]

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