Choose You Blog

The Secrets My Abdomen Shares

June 2nd, 2010 by - comments (3)

It was about the size of a fingertip, and made no notice of itself in any alarming way until a professional saw it and said, "This is not good." So now, it is a raw sutured area, and the spot is under a microscope.

My abdomen, if it’s revealed–and, although I prefer tankinis, it is, at times, revealed in public in a two-piece–spills my secrets if you look closely. Spattered across it like stars are scars of varying size and brightness.

There is the one over my right rib, a leftover from the terrible case of chicken pox I had in early elementary. I had them so badly they were down my throat and in my stomach. “On the upside,” the pediatrician told my mother, “She’s probably completely immune and will never have them again.”

There are the light web-like stretch marks under my belly button, illustrations of the two times my belly hosted my children, before they leapt, fully-formed, from me, taking my heart with them. These distract the eye from the surgically perfect laparoscopic scar that resides out of my navel, a small remnant of the journey I took to carry these children. And a reminder of how confused my female organs remain to this day, a state of shock they adopted when I was thirteen and they were called into service. Sometimes when I twist or sneeze I feel the pained pull of scars on the inside, the ones you can’t see.

Now there is a new wound, a scar-to-be, dead center of my belly, right between the arched edges of my ribs, over my stomach. There used to be what I thought was a mole there. But the doctor said it was dysplastic, which could be pre-melanoma, and she wanted to remove it. I had two options: the hesitant caution one that took a small sample for biopsy or the route the doctor advocated, which was full removal because she was positive it would be positive and would need to be fully removed anyway. I chose the latter, having decided to leave pointless vanity behind in my 30s. Now pieces of me have been sent to a lab named after a star system to discover if I have turned against myself in the form of dangerous cells.

This news would not surprise me. I am used to this news, actually. My body has a habit of turning on itself, suffering itself not gladly. Each scar on my belly signifies a time in life when my body became confused, then faltered, shuddering into dysfunction. There are more under the skin that tell the same story. Because I have so often ended up under the care of a doctor who is fixing me, I feel ambivalent about this time.

Plus the skin cancer — it doesn’t hurt the way my lungs do when they fail to pull in air, or the way my head goes light from the sharp pain when I twist too fast in a certain direction. The treatment, the epinephrin shot made me a bit jittery and I feel nauseated by the smell of my own burning flesh as the doctor cauterized. But that is nothing compared to the reconstruction of a foot or the scraping of an abdomen by a surgeon’s knife. It is hard to take it as seriously.

So I am being considerate of it, this skin cancer and other skin things whatever they all are, and hoping it will be similarly considerate of me. After all, my ovaries and uterus got the clue twice, my lungs inhale and exhale with reliability now, and I am able to walk fine again.

I think this is my own sort of hope. Of faith.

“On the upside,” the doctor told the nurse, “We got it all and it should heal nicely.”

In an hour I will be laughing at myself and this bit of a maudlin moment, but I think it’s important to share both the “I’m cool, I’ve got this” moments and the maudlin reflective “I have lived a life and it shows, and now there is a new unscheduled stop on my journey, what is this?” moments.

How about you?


3 Responses to “The Secrets My Abdomen Shares”

  1. Bon says:

    i think it is a good sort of hope and faith. healing and health to you, Julie.

    and for me? i do not love my stretch marks or my appendix scar or the sag that is my middle, but neither do i loathe it. it is testimony. in fact, when after Finn was born i had NO stretch marks i found it sad and strange that he could have passed through me with no visible mark, because i felt so marked inside. when at 34 weeks with Oscar, i turned into a cat scratch heaven, i thought, “well. that’s good. at least it shows.”

  2. Bon, that is so much of it, the oddness to what marks on us show and those that do not. Yes, at least it shows, but either way, it’s there, a stamp on a passport, as it were. Thanks, Bon, for the good wishes and for the lovely, honest comment.

  3. Amy Swygert says:

    Catching up on old posts. Just love your writing style!

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