I went in for a "small medical procedure" a few days ago that turned out to be a bigger deal than I was expecting. I had a couple basal cell growths that my doctor felt needed to be removed, so off I went, assured by the good doctor that this form of skin cancer is rarely serious, but will cause me nothing but trouble unless I take care of it. The one on my collar bone was no big deal, but the one below my eye was another story. What I didn't anticipate was the size of the incision that I'd be coming home with, right down the side of nose.
I'm sure that once everything is healed it won't be so bad, but, for now, I feel like I've been disfigured in a way that can't easily be hidden or covered up. In the short term, I'll be wearing a large bandage that will only attract attention and questions. In the long term, I'll have a slowly healing wound that will need to be kept clean, so I will not be permitted to cover it up with face makeup for some time.
I'll be going back to work next week with a "battle scar". I expect to feel uncomfortable and embarassed about it. Children are always the first to notice differences and ask for explanations. I'm accustomed to them asking about things like my crooked lower teeth, a run in my stockings or my new hair colour. Somehow, this feels different. However, I see no alternative but to get on with life and hope that the novelty of my new look will soon pass.
Typically, I like to present myself as a strong, confident woman. I do this by bathing each morning, dressing appropriately for whatever is planned for the day and looking people in the eye. In fact, repeatedly throughout the day, I remind my students to show attentive listening by looking at me or whoever is speaking to them during our learning activities/discussions. I don't expect any of that will change, despite the fact that I'd rather nobody had to see the ugly gash I now have on my face. (Yes, I'm feeling a bit sorry for myself.) I'm truly dreading sitting across from my students' parents for parent/teacher interviews in a week's time.
Then I remind myself that this little battle scar is nothing compared to some of the things that others must work around in their daily lives. The black eye I'm currently sporting is a result of a surgery, not a spouse's fist. The "disfigurement" that I'm self-conscious about is nothing compared to the irreparable changes that a burn victim or an amputee must face. The cancer I had was quickly and easily removed and is not likely to ever be a problem for me again, unlike other forms of cancer that so many others battle on a daily basis.
I have great respect for people who face truly challenging circumstances in their lives and continue to go out in public, facing the insensitive looks and comments that come their way. It doesn't hurt any of us to get a little reality check from time to time and remember how very blessed we are.
As we approach Remembrance Day, let's think about the people who have genuine battle scars, acquired in war zones as they fight to bring civil rights and dignity to suffering people. They're the ones who have scars, visible and invisible, that will forever remind them of a time in their lives when we counted on them to show the world what it means to be Canadian. Real battle scars are acquired in the heat of battle where courage must be drawn on in ways that most of us can't even imagine. Show support for our war veterans and never forget what they've done for all of us.