Finding Beauty in Our Scars

While looking at pictures from this past weekend, I finally figured out what was different about myself, what I no longer recognized. Throughout my life, one of my favorite parts of my body – despite having scoliosis – was my back. I loved the beauty marks that adorned it, especially one in particular. There’s a photograph of me taken at a charity event three years ago. In it, I’m wearing a backless Chanel dress, my head turned over my shoulder so you can see the dress in all its resplendent. My skin is glowing from a recent trip to the beach, and I’m confident, happy and carefree. That night didn’t turn out the way I had expected. I remember being stood up and leaving the event later (earlier?) than I had intended, but at that moment I felt beautiful.

Early last year, after a trip to the dermatologist office where they removed my beloved beauty mark for a biopsy, the results were not good. Not only had it been a necessity to get the biopsy, but it became a life and death matter to have the rest of it removed completely. The beauty mark that I had had all of my life had turned on me. Not only was it cancer, but it was the most dangerous kind. Me, the girl who, at twenty-eight (nearly twenty-nine) had never broken a bone, never had stitches, never had a cavity, was about to experience one of those three (more than once), immediately scheduling surgery for the following day. After excruciating pain, a frustratingly slow recovery and many trips to the dermatologist office since, my body has never been the same.

In place of my beauty mark is a two-plus-inch long scar, and this past weekend was the first time that I had a picture taken of me showing off my back since the surgery. It’s not that it was hard to look at the scar, as I’ve been acquainted with it for over a year now, but it was more that the absence of the beauty mark made my back look foreign, as if it belonged to a different person entirely.

In some ways, my scar does belong to someone else. I’m not the same person that I was three years ago or even fifteen months ago. Things have happened in my life that have changed me, as it does all of us. Some scars – like the one on my back – we can see, while others are less visible but can still cause us the same amount of pain or greater. It is the culmination of all of those scars that make us who we are today. Without them, we would be lost in a sea. So, the next time you think that your scars are ugly, remember the opposite. Our scars are beautiful because they remind us that we are alive and show us our hidden strengths, that if we can overcome that, we can get through anything.

Our scars are beautiful; they are unique, as we all are.


Protect Your Skin

Normally, I’m ecstatic when it comes to the beginning of summer, and though I do find myself overjoyed at the prospect of not having to wear a jacket for the next few months, among other things, this year I also am finding myself a bit cautious.  Yes, the sun is good for you in some ways – it uplifts your mood and provides you with a natural dose of vitamin D – but it is bad for you as well – sun spots, wrinkles, skin cancer.  Skin cancer is more common than you think; I recently read an article that stated that it is the most common form of cancer in the United States.  So, other than hiding away from the sun, which seems a bit dramatic and saddening (although I have considered it this year), investing in a good sunscreen is important.

My favorite thing about summer has always been the sun (I loathe the humidity), the warmth of it against my skin, the golden glow it leaves on me.  I lived for those beautiful sunny days that boasted the perfect temperature for a beach adventure – carefully following the weather forecast so I would not miss a day.  I would take off during the week on one of those “perfect days,” travel to the beach and spend hours laying in the sun.  The beach was my meditation.  I would be sure to pack water and something to eat along with my towel and magazines (to read on the train-ride there and back), and of course sunscreen.  Years ago, I was at the beach on a cloudy day and ended up severely burned (my ears blistered).  I hadn’t put on any sunscreen because I thought I would be safe…but I had been wrong.  Aside from the bright red shade that I was, and the obvious damage that I had done to my skin, I remember how painful it was, how I couldn’t sleep because literally my whole body was burned, and how I could barely move.  Since then, I’ve been careful, always bringing spf (I used mostly 8 or 15) with me to the beach.  I thought that I was doing good, but as it turns out, it wasn’t that much better than not wearing sunscreen at all.

Last year, the FDA regulations on sunscreen changed, and one of the things was the addition of the words “broad spectrum” on some bottles.  Sunscreens protect against UVB rays – the ones that give you a sunburn – but most don’t protect against UVA rays – the ones that cause skin cancer.  Sunscreens with the label “broad spectrum” protect against both UVA and UVB rays, and therefore should be the only one that you are using.  Also, sunscreens over a spf of 30 do not do much more to protect you than 30 – so little so that it really does not make a difference. 

This year, before the summer started, I threw out all of my sunscreens and replaced them with ones labeled “broad spectrum” with a spf of 30, and so should you.