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Scar: My Survivor Badge

Joined: 10/4/2014
Posts: 1
Scar: My Survivor Badge
It’s not pretty, even with recent scar revision by an excellent plastic surgeon. But it’s my daily reminder that I survived my battle with breast cancer 13 years ago. Other tokens strike me occasionally—partial toenails (a souvenir of a particularly virulent chemo drug), an irregular cardiac rhythm, a still-challenged immune system. But my big, beautiful seven-inch chest scar greets me as I slip my prosthesis over it every day. In the shower, I lovingly lather the folded, still-lumpy skin.

My scar reveals my vulnerability. I was a 54-year-old, vibrant, active, working woman who followed a healthy diet, exercised regularly, and never missed a yearly mammogram or GYN exam. Apparently, following the rules for good health does not preclude you from dealing with the horrors of a three-centimeter tumor nestled way back against your chest wall.

An excellent ultrasonographer and radiologist combined intellect and skill at their craft to investigate what my GYN doc saw as a problem at 12 o’clock on the circle that was my right breast. That shadow proved benign, but a little bugger at 6 o’clock was problematic.

A small biopsy scar previewed the body trauma to come. That puny mark was laughable, but disappeared with my right breast a month later. My decision for a disfiguring mastectomy rather than a lumpectomy was well thought out. I had been a research editor for a leading health magazine and knew the score. I wanted nothing but a full-on assault on my cancer, including the toughest chemotherapy available. And that’s what I got.

My drive-through surgery entailed less than a 24-hour stay in the hospital, including a brief detour to the Cardiac wing. My blood pressure had plummeted to dangerous levels post-op and I lost consciousness. Two inept technicians were no help; but my daughter and sister—both health care professionals—saved the day (and me!) by leaping into action.

Safely home the next morning with dangling chest drains and big, bulky bandages, I began the slow road to recovery. But it was not a smooth highway. During my follow up visit to the surgeon he dropped a bomb . . . the axillary nodes he previously stated were negative proved otherwise. Final pathology showed two out of seven were positive. Back to the O.R. where he biopsied lymph nodes at the first and second levels under my arm, removing those that were positive. Another scar, another reminder of my cancer journey.

Internally or externally, cancer leaves its mark. Twinges from inward scars sometimes cause more pain than lumpy skin or tightness in the chest. I have thin hair, misshapen toenails, a cranky heart rhythm, and a shaky immune system. But I am a proud survivor with a tremendous support system, moving forward with my life. . . . not quite at warp speed, but with purpose and strength and thanks.

[email protected]
Lois Guarino Hazel
481 words
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Comment by warren

Joined: 6/22/2011
Posts: 293
Congratulations to the winner! Thank you for writing.
Posted: Sunday, October 12, 2014 1:27:58 PM
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Comment by Explorer

Joined: 9/16/2014
Posts: 33
Thank you for your courageous depiction of the battle so many women have to fight. Excellent piece of work.
Posted: Monday, October 13, 2014 3:19:34 PM
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Comment by Silver Fox

Joined: 8/7/2013
Posts: 8
Congratulations on winning your battle against this terrible disease. You told your scar story in an honest, but upbeat fashion - despite the tremendous challenge you faced. Thank you for sharing your story. SF
Posted: Friday, October 17, 2014 9:24:41 PM
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Comment by thiegsr

Joined: 11/6/2008
Posts: 702
On behalf of the entire editorial board, I would like to congratulate you for your Scar essay being selected as our first place Adult Essay for October 2014.

To view all the results of our October 2014 contest, please check our winners page on or after November 30th:

We will be contacting you via your registration email with more information and prize details.

Thanks for adding your voice to our mission “Changing the World . . . One Story at a Time” and feel free to share your accomplishment with the world.

Rebecca Thiegs Co-Founder and Education Consultant
Posted: Sunday, November 23, 2014 4:33:30 PM
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Comment by jenpen

Joined: 9/22/2014
Posts: 11
Congrats on winning the article and beating cancer!
Posted: Monday, December 1, 2014 2:38:28 PM
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