So. I've mentioned before that I occasionally check my stat counter to see what keywords are bringing people to this blog. This little exercise can be great fun (when I see a key word such as "gazongas") and troubling (when I see something like the title of this post). Sometimes, as with this combo of keywords, it's obvious why the person landed on my site. I probably used that exact phrase once or twice in my writings. So it makes sense. But I wonder if the person left feeling comforted or confused. Maybe a little of both.
My first thought when I saw that search was: well, crap … because I know that feeling and dang it all, it stinks. But then I have to be honest and say - maybe I'm projecting. The more I think about this, it could be taken more than one way. Is this person "insecure" as in feeling self-conscious and unattractive because of the scar left behind? Or is this person insecure as in worried about the scar because it has changed or maybe looks infected? Could be either. Has this person undergone chemo and had the port removed and is now staring at an ugly scar in the mirror or are they looking ahead wondering whether or not to even get a port because it might leave behind an ugly scar? Or maybe it is none of those. Maybe it is a spouse or friend of a patient trying to comfort them. Maybe it is an in-touch, extremely empathic doctor trying to learn more about why his or her patients hate the scar the port leaves behind or maybe, just maybe, it is a captain of a freighter who, while docking, crashed into the shore line and is concerned about the damage.
We may never know.
But we can guess. And my guess is there is someone out there looking in the mirror after putting on a new top with a v-neckline wanting and hoping to feel downright pretty and instead is gazing at a healed wound with an unhealed heart.
As those of you who were with me during the chemo months know, a port is a nifty little device that is placed underneath the skin so a patient can receive chemo without having to start an IV each time. There are many things to like about having a port. And honestly, when I first got mine, I loved that thing. It made me feel all bionic. I thought it more than nifty, I thought it downright neato. I liked the idea of it. I liked knowing I wouldn't have to endure having an IV started all the time. I liked the uniqueness of it and I even sort of liked the feel of it beneath my skin.
However, I grew to hate it. There were lots of reasons for that. Some I posted. Some I didn't. Let's just say the honeymoon period for Jenne + Port didn't last very long and I yearned for the day that little device would be removed from my chest.
The procedure to put the port in isn't too terribly long or difficult - the surgeon simply opens up a small "pocket" in your chest underneath the skin and slips the port in. After that he or she places the line from the port (the tube that will carry the chemo) into a vein and makes sure the line goes directly into the heart. Then he or she stitches the incision closed and blingo-blango, you're all done. The procedure to remove it is even less of a hassle. In fact, it is much like pulling open a Fed Ex box ... just sort of get a hold and yaaannnnnnnk. Under local anesthetic, the surgeon opens up the skin, grabs the port, and puuuuuuuuuuuulls (and yes, I could feel it). Out comes the port, out comes the line, in go a couple of stitches. That's it. The only problem with both procedures is the surgeon has to cut into the patient to do both. That's two incisions pretty much in the same place. And a scar on top of scar tissue can be downright - well, ugly. It doesn't heal very well. Which makes sense - a hurt on top of another hurt somehow equals more than two hurts. Wounds like that just don't heal up without some sort of significant mark left behind. As anyone who has gotten their heart broken by the same person more than once can tell you.
So there is a scar. And it is ... well ... nasty. Red. Puffy. Fat. That's how I'd describe my scar for the first year after my port was removed. And anything ... a n y t h i n g described as "Red. Puffy. Fat." is going to make a person feel insecure. Unless you've got the hots for the Kool-Aid guy. Today my scar isn't so much puffy and fat ... but it is still red. And it is noticeable. The scar from my biopsy has all but disappeared but the port scar shines on ... some 2 ½ years later. And I see it. Every day. I notice it. I sigh when I put on something that reveals it. I make the defeated pffffft sound with my lips whenever I catch its reflection in the mirror. I tug neck lines of new outfits up and down, left and right, and up again while in dressing rooms trying to figure out if that scar will be exposed.
I guess all I'm saying is, I get it. I really do.
And I know what you're probably thinking - those of you who aren't insecure about your port scar and those of you who don't think the port scar is a big deal. I know what you are thinking. You are thinking "Hey! It's not that bad!" and you're thinking "But gosh, wasn't it worth it?" and you're thinking "I'm sure no one but you really notices it" and you're thinking "Look here, in the grand scheme of things, does it really matter?" I know you are thinking all those things because I have thought those things myself. But this post really isn't about you. So maybe just hush it for a bit, okay?
Once, a while ago, an oncology nurse patted me tenderly on my port scar and told me it was my badge of honor. And then she called me "angel". It touched me. Deeply. And after that, I didn't mind my port scar so much. But that seems a long time ago now and every time I dress I see that scar. Every time I wash, I feel it. Every time I put on make-up, I contemplate covering up the scar with concealer. Not necessarily because it is ugly ... but because it labels me.
Port scar = Cancer patient.
Remember that scene in Jaws where Hooper and Quint are comparing scars? Remember how they share how and when they were wounded? They are laughing and sharing and loving the memories. And then Quint is asked about a scar on his forearm and he responds, "Oh that? That was a tattoo. I had that removed." And Quint goes on to tell the story of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and what happened to him. Do you remember how the jovial atmosphere of the room changes in an instant? Remember how he looked as he recalled those moments? Remember how he spoke of that time? How he didn't just share, but relived those moments when he looked at that scar? How when he spoke of it, he folded inside himself a little bit and stopped singing and stopped smiling as if that scar reminded him of an experience so painful, so difficult, so life-changing, so significant that no matter how far he was from it, it was still etching scars into his soul?
Remember? It is one of the most beautifully raw scenes I've ever watched.
I started this post hoping to answer a question. Hoping to provide comfort. Hoping to convince and cajole and to give confidence. And I just realized I can't do that. I can't do any of it. All I can do is say to you - you who typed "insecure about a port scar" into a search engine and fumbled onto this blog - I get it.
And maybe, when you get a chance, watch that scene from Jaws and think not how YOU feel about YOUR scar, but how you feel about Quint when he shares his.