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Scars, Steroids and Self-Esteem

Surgeon in Toronto, Canada:

“Your scar might show because scars tend to be more prominent on darker skinned individuals and you have darker skin.”

Surgeon in Colombo, Sri Lanka:

“You are very fair and light so don’t worry, the scar shouldn’t show much.”


September 30, 2014

Today I got most of my stitches removed. The rest will probably come out this Friday.

Ever since we found out that I would need a thyroidectomy, people seem to be concerned about the scar. Yes, the thyroid is in a prominent place. I was constantly reassured that the scar could be along the neck skin fold line which would reduce visibility. Some people don’t want their scars to be visible. It can sometimes serve as a reminder of the experience, one that an individual may just want to forget. To be honest, I was never that worried about the scar, I was too busy worrying about the cancer. Now that surgery is over, I am thinking about the visual appearance of my scar. And you know what, I am okay with it. I really think I am. It is now a part of me and a part of my journey. My scar has a story. I’ll make it a conversation starter. No more of that small talk. I’ll jump straight to –

“No, my neck wasn’t slashed, I actually had cancer in my thyroid. Did you know that was a thing?”

I’ll raise awareness of thyroid cancer. I’ll make myself believe that I look more bada**. I’ll smirk when I see people silently wonder what happened to that girl’s neck. It has been an interesting experience going out into the world. People’s eyes will dart to the bandage and steri strips on my neck, then for a fleeting second to my eyes before looking away. I have never drawn this much attention in public before.

From a previous surgery, I know that I tend to get keloid scarring, which aside from looking oddly worm-like, was itchy and painful and interestingly enough, changed colour with the temperature. To get rid of it, I had to undergo several painful steroid injections into the scar site. This time we tried to be proactive and to reduce any keloid scarring, the surgeon gave me a steroid injection right after he was done, while I was still under anesthesia.

i_am_what_a_person_with_an_invisible_illness_looks_buttonI am almost glad that there is a physical, visible sign of what I am going through at the moment. It is the invisible illnesses, including mental health, that are the worst because in my mind, there is no outlet. I can look at my neck in the mirror and know that there is a reason why I feel the way I do. When I was younger, I remember considering cutting myself because I thought that would be a cathartic, physical manifestation of my emotional state of mind. I was reminded of that time today when we were discussing the aesthetic appeal of my scar. It is actually a beautiful scar and the surgeon was quite impressed with himself. He managed to cut all the way along my neck fold. The stitches are dainty, as far as stitches go. Perhaps, with time, this scar too may become invisible.

“Good job,” I complimented him as I looked into the little mirror he was holding up for me.

“Not bad, eh?” He was beaming proudly.

So far, there is no sign of keloid formation, hardly any scabbing and no “oozing”, which the pamphlets keep telling me to watch out for. I had the option of getting another steroid injection today but opted out. At the moment, I do not want to deal with any more pain and the scar looks fine, good enough.

Never Be Ashamed of a Scar

We are constantly bombarded with messages and images about how we should look and defining what beauty is, often highly unattainable, not healthy and just not real. We know that damages people’s self esteem. The phenomenon is well-documented. Real people have real lives and real stories. Scars are a part of that. If I choose to get the steroid injections, it will be for a practical reason like pain or discomfort. If my scar simply looks “ugly”, I hope I won’t put myself through the process of getting more needles stuck into me for the sake of fitting an arbitrary idea of beauty. I need to start accepting myself for me and this is one little step towards doing that. The reality is that I might go back on this promise to myself, but that will just mean I’m human and vulnerable to what society thinks of me, but at least for now, I hope I am stronger than that.


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Thank you everyone for the wonderful show of support – I am deeply grateful for the words of encouragement, the prayers and the positive thoughts.