i stood in front of the mirror for about twelve minutes this morning. and i held my scars in my hands. which isn’t something i do very often. and i talked to myself in the worst way possible. and this moment in the mirror stuck with me all day. primarily because i owe myself a huge apology but because it got me to thinking about the layers of my life. because i stood there and held my scars and begged for them to be less of what they are. i called them heinous and ugly. disgusting. my own body. my own skin. the body that has held me in all of these absolutely terrible moments. the eighteen inch scar that’s thick and jagged; the one the runs across my whole front. where they split me in half, filleted like a whole tuna. it’s healed and sealed. but it itches like crazy all the time. and it’s uneven and splotchy from poor blood supply. it’s black in some spots and dark purple in others. red and bumps on the edges. it’s flawed. something we didn’t really discuss. it was just always about the cancer and getting rid of it. and at thirty two, i made my choices and i don’t regret them. but this is what’s underneath. what can’t be seen to the outside eyes. underneath is a girl so lost in her scars. so desperate to change them. to make them look more human. to have certainty that if they never change, that she will still be loved. and still be beautiful. and maybe that’s the bigger issue. that what is hidden underneath feels like it hasn’t fully recovered from all the damage and pain. from the outside, everything looks okay. and in just five days from now, my body will be operated on again. and hopefully it will lead me to greener pastures. where my body and my heart and my brain can reunite. and where i don’t feel so beaten and broken.

underneath it all, there’s a lot happening. my body is working overtime to try to reestablish the norms. my heart is still healing from two brutal illnesses in one year and all of the damage that caused. and right now, i feel stuck. in this weird place. the one i mentioned last time we met right here, in my safe space. that place between before and after. and as i prepare for this next surgery, i can’t help but wonder if my heart and brain and body will get through it. and if on the other side, will it be as good as i hope it to be? will i be able to safely sink into this identity that has been laid out for me in survivorship? or will i just be roaming the earth always wondering what could be?

if i could say one thing right now, it would be that underneath all of this, it’s a huge mess. the universe handed me an awful sentence and while i paid my dues, the broken bits and pieces are still a work in progress. and this huge mess- well, it’s a lot. the repair of a lifetime. and because you can’t see the underneath, you might think that the surface is smooth and healed. and maybe that’s what i want you to think. to avoid being called a drama queen or my favorite, an attention seeker. but in all reality, underneath it all, the cracks are thick and rigid. the gaps within myself are massive and multiplying. and underneath it all, some days i feel like i am crumbling. from the weight of a hard year and the loss of myself. the amputation of my femininity and the pauses placed on my marriage and relationships. crumbling under an ongoing pandemic which has shifted how my career looks. returning to work, which is so fulfilling but also exhausting. underneath it all, it feels heavy and overwhelming. it feels tiring and unmanageable. it’s hard for everyone else to see. beating death to the punchline twice. but it’s so much more than you could ever imagine. it’s this disassociation with the body you now inhabit. it’s this lack of connection to the person you were for three decades before battling cancer. and maybe i sound like a broken record; just repeating the same feelings over and over again. but i guess i just want to be seen and heard as this version. i need to be able to safely share what’s underneath. without judgement or qualms. without an analysis of my body or what’s changed. without pointing out flaws. like my weight gain from a year of steroid use. or the changes to my skin. or my energy levels. my body is continuing to actively recover from a brutal year of treatments. and underneath, quite honestly- i am quaking. wanting to fall in love with this survivor version but knowing that when the old version is completely shed; she will be gone forever.

underneath the tough exterior, i am still fragile. still repairing. still grateful but sad. happy but grieving. healing isn’t linear. underneath the warrior is a girl deep in the throes of finding herself. underneath it all, there are bandages and scars, bruises and marks that tell a thousand stories. underneath isn’t always visible so tread lightly.


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