Thursday, March 20, 2014

I Learned to Love my Scars at Phoenix Comic-Con.


         

      Comic-Con is a magical place that allows for both children and adults to release their inner dork and let loose for a long weekend without caring what anyone thinks of them. This is the time when adults get in touch with their inner child, meet some of their favorite actors from years gone by, and spend several days dressing as the characters of their favorite TV shows, movies, or even books. Outsiders look at us and see a freak fest and they may be right, but we don’t care. We live for this weekend; we look forward to it all year. We spend months designing and creating our costumes and planning out our schedules so we can see everyone and everything we want to see. It’s like Halloween but instead of candy you get to get a picture with Leonard Nimoy and have drinks with the cast of Battlestar Galactica!
       
         Last year was a bit difficult for me at the convention. I had just had surgery number five and this added another nasty scar to my body. So now I had three huge scars on my back, several chest tube scars on my sides, a tracheotomy scar and now a huge nasty scar on my belly that went from just under my breasts to my belly button. The scar was also very fresh. My surgery had only been a few months before and I’m pretty sure that the resident they let stitch me up had never threaded a needle before in his life. The scar was gross!

            Now I could keep the scar covered up, but this was summer in Phoenix and if you aren’t familiar with the weather in AZ, it is HOT! I don't usually go showing off my belly anymore, I'm in my 30's, but I do like to wear a bikini to the pool. I had purchased a tankini so that my stomach wouldn’t show at the pool, but my neck and back were still visible, there was nothing to be done about this. But if I kept in the water of near the wall, no one would really see the scars. MY biggest problem was Saturday. Saturday is the day that you pull out your best costume and show it off. This year my costume was the Orion slave woman (the green woman from Star Trek). This costume showed off my stomach, and it showed off my nasty scar.

Photo Taken by Angela Nickell
                Now I was not out to impress anyone, I am happily married and my husband is not bothered by my scars, but I was not yet OK with them, at least not all of them, especially the new one. I felt that they were a reminder of times I wanted to forget. They reminded me of the day the doctors found a tumor on my spine. They reminded me of being in a foreign country, being sick and in pain, and not speaking the language with a nurse telling me that I probably had cancer and was going to die. These scars reminded me of the five surgeries that I have already had trying to get rid of this tumor, the tumor that just didn’t understand it wasn’t wanted. The scars reminded me of the day I woke from surgery, only to be told that they couldn’t get the tumor out and no one knew how to proceed. They reminded me of 8 weeks of radiation and being horribly sick, not being able to eat anything because the radiation was so close to my esophagus that it caused severe heart burn, it was so bad that I had to drink a "magic potion" that contained lidocaine in order to feel better (it did help a little). These scars reminded me of waking up after my three day coma, not knowing where I was, trying to rip out the breathing tube because I didn’t know what it was. These scars reminded me of not recognizing my family after I came out of this coma, and thinking that everyone in the room was trying to kill me. These scars reminded me of having pneumonia while still having an open trach-stoma.  There is nothing quite like coughing up pneumonia goo out of your throat hole! These scars reminded me of how I almost died. I hated my scars and what they represented. I didn't want to show them off but I had chosen a costume that showed off my belly, so what was I to do?

                I didn’t have a backup costume and I was ready to just pack up the costume and forget about Saturday, but fortunately I have a very supportive husband. He tried to tell me that no one would notice. I wasn’t falling for that one, if anyone was looking at me, they would see the scar. So he then reminded me that I would probably never see most of these people again and that if they were that offended by my scars, they had could look away. He told me how much he loved me and that no matter how many scars I had, he thought I was beautiful. And really, isn't that all that matters? The person that matters the most in my life still loved me and wanted to be with me, no matter how many times they cut into me, he still saw me as beautiful. He reminded me that it didn’t matter what anyone else thought; they didn’t know my story and their opinions didn’t matter. Their opinions certainly shouldn’t have any bearing on my self-esteem or my costume choices. This was Comicon and we were there to have fun. We weren’t there to think of my scars, how I got them, or what other people might think. We were there for fun. And if anyone else didn’t like it, they didn’t have to look.

            So we spent the next hour and a half painting my body green (I underestimated how long it would take to get a clean coat of green paint on my body, we missed the first panel of the day), and I put on my costume and it was amazing! There were a ton of people that stopped me. Not because they wanted to ask about my scar or tell me to cover it up, but they wanted to get a picture. They loved my costume and apparently many thought that it was one of the best Orion costumes they had seen in a long time and just like that I forgot about my scars and took a picture with anyone who wanted one!

                That was the day that I accepted that my scars were just part of who I am now. I have put my bikini back into rotation although, I usually wear still wear the tank-ini, but that’s not because I am afraid of what people will say when they see my scar, I’m afraid that I’ll get the scar sunburned and sunburned scars are not fun. My scars are there, they will never go away. I have had people ask if my insurance will cover plastic surgery, or sometimes I’m asked why I don’t cover them all up. My answers are, I don’t know, and because I don’t want to walk around in a burka. I have scars, my back is a mess and my stomach looks like I survived an alien jumping out of it at a space diner, and I look like someone tried to slit my throat at some point.

                It seems appropriate that I came to accept my scars at Comic-con. While most outsiders think of Comic-con as a giant freak fest, it is really a place where you can go and be yourself, your best self, your fun self, the self that you never let anyone else see. This is the place where you can let the "true you" out. Comic-con is a place that if you are walking down the hallway and you see a 5’2” man who weighs 200 pounds in a slave Leia costume, you won’t judge him. Instead you will just cross off that box on your Comicon Bingo card. Comicon is a place of acceptance and while there are always a handful of catty and nasty people, there always will be no matter where you go, but the true spirit of the event is to share your passions with others who are just as much of a nerd and freak as you are! It's showing the world who you really are, scars and all.

                Over the past few years I have grown to accept my scars. The rest of the world doesn’t have to, but they don’t have to live with these scars, I do. I no longer think of my scars as reminders of a tougher time, instead, they are a reminder of the day that I survived. They show the world that I beat the odds. These scars are a reminder that I proved them all wrong. I fought, and I won! These scars remind me just how strong I am and that no matter what life throws at me, I can take it, I am a survivor. The scars aren’t ugly, not to me. These scars are a symbol of hope and strength. I am someone that will fight like hell for what I want.  I should be dead; I was not expected to make it to 31. I was either going to die on the operating table or suffocate to death as my tumor grew so large that it crushed my airway and I could no longer breath. This year I will celebrate my 36th birthday and I will celebrate that birthday because of these scars! These scars remind me that I am stronger than all of the trials that life throws at me! My scars are beautiful and so am I.


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