Love what you like the least.
I take pride in encouraging my daughter to be confident and self- loving. Unfortunately, she wasn’t learning from my example. There was so much I didn’t like about myself physically and I would often speak of my flaws. “My legs are not feminine”, “my boobs are too big”, “I need to lose weight”, “nothing fits right”, extra chins, a small scar from a pacemaker/defibrillator implant, blah, blah, blah. I did, however, have very nice skin. I was never a sun person so I had very few wrinkles and I don’t recall any issues with blemishes. After 40 years, what I really began to love was my hair. I had grown it out and my hair was now long, thick and incredibly soft; I received a lot of compliments.
Then my life changed.
In January, I went to have a “routine” test done. I was seeing new doctors for heart issues. “No big deal,” they said, “just part of the process.” I ended up admitted to the hospital and told I wasn’t leaving until I had a new heart. I became a resident of “7.34” at Strong URMC in Rochester, NY. Away from my family, left alone with my own thoughts a lot of the time. Every few weeks the catheter that was placed
in my neck had to be moved, leaving some small scarring on both sides of my neck. One hundred days later I received the wonderful news that I was getting a new heart, the heart of a young man. I know nothing else about him or his family, but I love and respect them very much. Thirty days after the surgery I was released to finish recovery at home.
After three weeks of being home I decided to make a trip to my home-church. As I dressed, my Emma, who is nine, said to me, “Mommy is that appropriate?” I wasn’t really sure what she was talking about, it couldn’t be my outfit because I had worn this in the past, but it was! When I inquired further she said some people might not like seeing my scar. At that moment a light bulb came on for me, I need to be an example to her in every way that I can. I asked her if my scar bothered her and she replied, “no.” With that I told her, “Well, my scars don’t bother me at all. If someone doesn’t like my scars they can look away. I am here with you and get to continue to be your Mama because of this scar.” That is when I decided to embrace my scars rather than just accept them.
One of my favorite humans was visiting me from New Mexico and I asked her to take a picture of me from neck to belly, naked. That photo is truly one of my favorites. You can see every one of my scars. There are scars from defibrillators implanted and removed, drainage sites, and of course the Sternectomy (“The Zipper” some call it).
My beautiful, thick hair also became dry, brittle and started falling out from medications. So, the two things I had going for me…..were gone.
There is way more going for me and these new “flaws” are beautiful reminders. I didn’t know how sick I was, the rest of my body was compensating for my failing heart. Only a small por
tion was functioning, and not very well. I needed help or I was going to die. So, I fought. I fought hard. Though I had family, friends, and my church praying for me and supporting me, there was only one person whose fight mattered….mine. I chose faith in my God and myself over the fear of dying and leaving my loved ones. Recovery was brutal. I went into kidney failure right after the surgery and had trouble breathing on my own. I ended up being intubated for 12 days and unable to move myself other than my arms. It was about three weeks after surgery when I took my first steps with the help of two nurses. I had also lost all of my muscles and was very underweight.
When I came home I was completely dependent on Nate. I couldn’t even sit up from a lying position by myself, let alone get dressed, tuck my daughter in bed. I couldn’t even get off the toilet by myself. I had to have a bed in the living room downstairs for a few months. Nate slept on the floor next to my bed, or on the couch in the next room every night. On weekends, Emma slept downstairs too. This is what I had fought for. My family. The pain from procedures before the transplant, pain from the transplant, healing afterward, constant biopsies….all for the love of my family. I am in love with my family and I love myself for fighting so hard, and I love my scars as well. My scars remind me of my fight, my passion, my refusal to quit.
I will gladly tell anyone about them who asks, and I am proud to let them show. If I could go back to the day Kelli took the photo of my scars I would have had her take one complete from the waist- up, including my face. Show all my scars, my broken off, thin hair, and a look of pride on my face. All because I have learned to love what I like the least.