Friday, August 29, 2008

An Unwanted Journey: Day 1010 - Scarred and Proud

Advanced colorectal cancer with metastases to the liver. But instead of a 55-year-old man, the diagnosis was for a 22-year-old female graduate student named Erika Kratzer. You can find her story here. She is also in the tasteful photograph accompanying this entry and the cover model for a calendar called 2008 Colondar, a fund-raising venture for The Colon Club.

Friends and acquaintances have suggested to me recently that my shirtless bathing suit days will probably be over now. After all, I have the long vertical scar from the low anterior resection from 2006. And this year I'll have one, possibly two, more scars from liver resections. But as I browsed through the photographs of the models for 2008 Colondar, I'm wondering whether shirtless is the way to go.

True, I don't have the body of these models, but like them I think I will eventually see my scars as a badge of courage and perseverance. Cancer takes so much away from us, not just physically, but emotionally, in lost opportunities and sometimes loss of self-esteem. But for however long one survives, the journey with cancer can also lead to self-awareness, trust in one's own resources, acknowledgement of the goodness and skill of others, and a sense that our scars are better than tatoos can ever hope to be in portraying the person within.

Remember the scene in the original Jaws where the characters played by Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss and Roy Scheider compare scars? It's all about pride and fear, inextricably linked. Something like what colorectal cancer scars tell us...but to do that, you need a storyteller and someone willing to show us their scars. Come see me same time next year. Maybe I'll show you my scars.

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