Tonight I tried on four different dresses at the mall. At home I have at least three, but they're all V-neck and or low cut. No, not looking to be modest. Looking to hide the eight inch scar that runs from the middle of my breasts to the top of my neckline. I am Kimberly and I am a member of the 'zipper club'. What is the 'zipper club', well, I survived open heart surgery, and the zipper refers to the long scar that I now wear as a badge of honor. It's been seven, almost eight months, and although I have confidence in my daily wear of clothes that show my scar, this event on Saturday has caused a bit of a self-love crisis. I feel proud that I have survived, and my scar is a testament to that survival and spirit; but there's this part of me that felt broken and un-sexy when I looked at myself in the mirror with my low cut dresses on. My husband and my friends tell me 'The heck with it! You're beautiful no matter what' I love their confidence in me, my cheerleaders are awesome. Now back to the mirror.
Me, September 2016.
Here I am, scar and all. I have been doing pretty good self-esteem wise until the past month and a half preceding the event this Saturday. It's kind of like being in a room full of people you know and feeling all alone. Looking at myself in the mirror this past week in my dresses has really thrown me. Yesterday I spent all morning applying different concealer's to the area, only to achieve a mottled look on my chest that draws even more attention to it. I suddenly felt like the wallflower I used to be so many years ago. The insecure, shy, young woman. I felt broken. Today, when my husband came home from work I had a little fashion show to get his opinion... and got a 'You look beautiful, it's your decision...' I still felt VERY aware of the scar on my chest, never you mind I had finally fit myself into at least two of the hot dresses I owned and have great legs and awesome heels to go with said dresses.
I talked to my best friend two weeks ago about my insecurities about my scar and she lovingly told me I was beautiful and not to worry about the scar. The thing is, it's my scar. It's my damage. I know I sound ungrateful for my encouraging friends and family but if I were bald from chemo wouldn't I want to sport a wig? There are many classes offered at my local medical center for feeling beautiful during and after chemo. What about open heart surgery? Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, and the number of women having to have this life saving surgery is getting bigger and bigger. I was fortunate, I had a small window of time between my last heart attack and the bypass to do my 'homework' on what would lie ahead for me post surgery. On Pinterest of all places I found this article 'Learning to Love Your Open Heart Scar' written by Carolyn Thomas, survivor and advocate for women's heart health. The article gave me a sense of security at the time, yet nothing can prepare you for your own experience. Especially the experience when you see your reflection for the first time. It's a mix of curiosity, fear, sadness and triumph. Triumph that you have come out the other end of the surgery alive. Next to having an early (before menopausal age) hysterectomy, and mastectomy, it's one of the most life changing surgeries a woman can have. Although it's not directly associated with our womanhood, the visibly prominent scar can wreak havoc on our self-esteem. Perhaps this is something I should look into, creating a FB support group, even a local support group for women dealing with their open heart surgery scars.
As women, we seek wholeness on so many levels, and when that wholeness is disrupted, we start to doubt. And we doubt everything. When I looked at myself in the mirror the first time after my surgery it was the first day I was able to get out of bed and walk on my own to the bathroom in my hospital room. Before that I couldn't really see the scar, because of my hospital gown and the fact that it was painful for me to move to see it. That morning when I saw it it was as I said before a mixture of curiosity, fear, and sadness... and then triumph. I smiled at myself and said 'You did it, you survived'. Three weeks ago I started to feel anxious about it, obsessing how I was going to cover it up, conceal it. Every woman's journey is different. It's not bad to want to conceal it or cover it up, it doesn't make you any less brave or strong about your survival. Knowing what I want to do about it, and knowing how I feel about it and owning it has given me strength. I'm usually the jeans and t-shirt gal, but this Saturday I will be sporting a long sleeve, short hem, black lace dress with a neckline that covers my scar. I found my dress, after three different ones, and now I'm finally looking forward to this Saturday. I'm going to look amazing....