DEAR KELLY: I’m 15 and had a liver transplant at age 9. I have a really terrible scar on my stomach that I’m so embarrassed by. Anytime I change at PE someone has to ask me what happened or whose liver I have in me now or what happened to my own liver or if I’m going to die because of this.
Sometimes I’m OK with all the questions and sometimes I get annoyed and snappy with my responses because I’m so sick of having to tell the story. It’s not like my scar is small. It really is noticeable and I hate it. I refuse to wear a two-piece bathing suit in the summer so I look like a prude in a one-piece because no one my age still wears a one-piece, but all the other girls have perfect stomachs and nothing to hide. So I don’t know what’s worse – wearing a one-piece and covering my scar or wearing a bikini and having everyone see my lovely scar.
What do I say or do so people stop asking me stupid questions about my scar. I don’t want to be mean, but I’m also sick and tired of always having to tell people about it plus I worry that people will think it’s gross because I think it looks pretty gross and it’s on my body.
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DEAR TRANSPLANT GIRL: Everyone has scars, inside and out. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t have a scar. They are a part of life and a part of what makes each of us individuals. Is there a chance when people ask you about your scar they are genuinely interested in what happened to you or want to get to know you better and it’s just a conversation starter? What you see as embarrassing or gross others might find fascinating and interesting. There are always two ways to look at an issue and you are choosing to see the negative instead of focusing on the good that the scar represents.
Sometimes all it takes for your life to change is a shift in perspective. Without the scar, where would you be? Without the transplant what would your life look like now? You view the scar as making your life harder when in reality I’m guessing the scar represents the moment when your life turned for the better. It reminds me to the quote “Pain in inevitable. Suffering is optional.” Sometimes we choose to suffer instead of healing. You are not allowing yourself to fully heal from your surgery because you have not embraced your scar as part of your journey to being a survivor.
You are allowing your life experience – your liver transplant – to bring you down and make you angry with people. If you didn’t act snappy or offended when people asked you about your scar you might be surprised at how supportive and caring people can be. You don’t give them a chance to tell you that it’s cool you have that scar or perhaps tell you something personal about them or someone in their family that relates to what you have been through. You are shutting the door on people instead of inviting them into your life and your history and letting them get to know you better.
Imperfections are beautiful. Scars are badges of courage. They tell your life story. You battled through a liver transplant and came out a survivor. Isn’t that something to celebrate instead of resenting it and trying to hide it?
Change your outlook on the scar. Stop hating it and start being appreciative the opportunity you were given to continue to live your life the way you want it. You see the scar as an anchor that holds you down, but isn’t there something wonderful and beautiful that the scar represents – you were stronger than your illness and you are alive. Your scar signifies the strength and the courage it took to fight when you had your liver illness.
You can’t take your scar away. It is a part of you, your history and your life story. Be proud of your scar – it identifies you as a survivor. Tell people your amazing story (and I’m sure it’s pretty awesome) and let them learn about what you have been through. This makes you special and different. Don’t see it as stupid questions but rather a chance to share your life with others. If you give off positive and warm vibes to the world, odds are you get the same response back.
A scar isn’t a bad or negative thing. It tells where you have been and lets us appreciate where we are today.
Kelly Richardson, a Folsom therapist, works with adolescents.