Me and my stitches

images-1This post is not for the squeamish – but I thought I’d just explain the background to my fearful mindset around my scars. And it’s not to do with vanity!

As you would expect, my surgery has involved a lot of stitches, both inside and out, to transplant one portion of my body to another. I know most people are not that thrilled about having, or looking at stitches and scars on their body, but I think I am hyper sensitive about them. This is because I had an accident when I was a child, and almost severed my foot in half!

Me - Christmas 1968

Me – Christmas 1968

It was in summer, I was seven and my family was having a barbeque in our back yard with family friends. All of us kids were playing “chasey” with the hose. Those who got squirted with water were “he”. In order to hide from the stream of water being directed my way, I ran behind our cubby house to shelter. Unfortunately, my bare right foot stepped directly on to a broken glass jar which almost sliced my foot cleanly in half. You can imagine the ensuing mayhem! There was a frantic rush to the doctor, my foot wrapped in an increasingly sodden bloody towel, and then on to the children’s hospital. Traumatic to say the least! I was taken straight into surgery, where plastic surgery was relatively new, and they managed to save my foot. I had a stay in hospital, surrounded by children who had been burned in a bushfire. Their daily bandage changes were a major ordeal. And then home on crutches with my foot in plaster to the knee for some weeks. The resulting long scar is still evident on my foot some 45 years later, on the sole, from just below my little toe, across the underside of my foot and up the side of my arch. I still can’t bear anyone touching the sole of my foot (no, I REALLY do not like foot massages!) But my foot works and walks perfectly and I am so grateful for that.

photo[41]

My foot now

It makes me shudder even thinking now about that time, and it’s no wonder that for me, blood, stitches and scars are all associated with extreme fear, pain and trauma! When my kids were little they knew mum was not good with bloody accidents and would tend to their small cuts themselves if they could manage it. When Tom was one he fell and put his tooth through his lip. Not life threatening but I nearly passed out at the doctors! And it’s now making sense to me that no wonder I really could not stand seeing whatever was underneath Martha’s arm bandage in her final months (she had dreadful lymphedema). I had to leave her room whenever one of the nurses wanted to take a look. Bandages/scars/ wounds on people I love are so NOT my thing!

So having all of these scars on my body is freaking me out a bit. I’ve had the dressings removed from my belly button and across my abdomen. The long abdomen scar is really sore on either end (where it is now turning a pale shade of green with bruising!) but I’m not looking too closely at my scars. Yes, they are healing fine but they make me feel so SAD whenever I think about, or look at them. Not because of my lost bikini modeling career (haha!) but because it just brings back all of that feeling of trauma. And the main thing I remember being told around that time is “oh you are SO LUCKY!” because of the medical advances that allowed the surgical team to save my foot. Which was true. But I’m sure a big part of seven year old me was not feeling very lucky at all! (Although perhaps it does explain why I love my plastic surgeon so much – clearly I have a life long feeling of gratitude to that profession!)

stitches & numbness

Rough diagram of my surgery – red lines are the stitches, shaded areas are the numb zones

I am really not looking forward to having the final bandages on each of my breasts removed in a few weeks. I can’t even look when the dressings are changed every other day by the visiting nurses now. More scars to deal with! And in such sensitive places too. I really don’t mind too much about the appearance – I’m really not flashing my naked body to too many people these days! And if anyone does see the scars, well I don’t really mind that either. (Just as well since I’ve lost count of the number of health professionals who have had a close inspection of my breasts and bikini line in recent weeks!) But I am sad for me. Scars and stitches make me sad and upset. Maybe this process is all about healing seven year old me too. And one day I will feel proud when I look at my scars. Proud of me for being brave and going ahead, despite my trauma around all things to do with hospitals, blood, scars, injections, stitches and bandages. Well, that’s what I’m hoping anyway.

So that’s my story. And once again, I KNOW I am lucky to have had this risk reduction surgery. I just don’t feel all that lucky some of the time. But I know I am. Much luckier than my sister Martha, and so many other women who have endured prolonged breast cancer treatment. So I am trying to be even half as brave as them. Feeling the fear and doing it anyway! Bring on the prescribed thrice daily self massages on my scars with Bio Oil (thanks Anna and Shirley for the Bio Oil tip – much nicer than Vitamin E cream). I can handle it.

I am brave. I am healing. All is well.

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6 responses to “Me and my stitches

  1. JLB

    I also vividly remember with horror the day you cut your foot. One of my worst moments.

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    • Hi Dad – yes a traumatic day for all of us! I can remember sitting on your lap in the car on the way in to the hospital, just saying “daddy daddy daddy…”. I think we were ALL in shock! But we came through okay in the end. Much love to you Sarah xx

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  2. Megan

    Yes, I remember too. One of those awful accidents out of a blue sky events. I do recall there was thankfulness that your foot had been saved and you would walk on it again. There was a little embarrassment about having to be on crutches on the first day of being at a new school, but in my memory things healed pretty quickly – no limp even. (Unlike me who still walks with my right foot stuck out at an angle after demonstrating my ‘skill’ at riding a tricycle backwards down our driveway!).

    It must have been very traumatic though (I was scared!) and as a child you would have picked up on the feelings of fear and panic around you (I don’t remember if you actually saw Dad faint at the doctors).

    Do you remember that I made the association with your accident and Martha, her wound and so on while we were at the Noosa Pacific one night? – when it occurred to me it all seemed to make sense. You seemed a bit bewildered at the time, so you might have forgotten.

    I think our little imperfections make us more human, interesting and ‘real – some scars are like badges of life, they are evidence of healing. xoxox

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    • Megan

      P.S. I also remember Tom putting his tooth through his lip as it was at my place. It was pretty yuck, though I think we were more upset than he was. I am not good with blood either – fortunately Tilly has only had a few small bloody accidents, but they have turned my stomach. When I have wounded myself in recent decades I have felt quite faint; something about seeing inside, realising I am not invincible I think. Though we know it rationally, I think we keep the thought at bay most of the time.

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      • Oh the traumas we have shared as a family! All makes for an interesting life at least. I can remember you made me some kind of “hospital newsletter” when I was in there – you always were the writer! Love to you
        Sarah xx

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      • Megan

        I think we’ve all had enough ‘interesting’ stuff to keep us going for decades – surely we are due a boredom break soon! Yes, I have a long habit of writing and reading to understand the world and communicate and connect with others.

        That “daddy daddy daddy” reference made me teary, you poor little girl, how horrifying for both you and Dad; him having to be the strong reassuring father, whilst feeling faint himself. Also you would have had no control over or understanding re what was done to you, terrifying. (I also remembered how you described Holly’s birth, when things went wrong with the epidural – your descriptions of what happened made me very firm about having every drug I could get as early as I could get them with Tilly’s birth! I recall you saying you felt like you were in an abattoir; maybe your early hospital experience influenced that too).

        I recall almost fainting when Tilly cut her head open at LA airport – as I was getting out of the ambulance at the hospital I was quite woozy – and that was just a small cut (the sound of Tilly’s skull hitting the marble floor haunted me for days).

        It is so upsetting to witness those we love in pain; I’m so pleased yours seems to be fading daily, I can’t wait til you are out of it. You are doing so well, keep going xxx

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