I stood tall as I felt the cold tape measure run down the center of my spine. Mom said, “15 inches.” This was definitely not something I would wish another Mom to have to do. I had asked my Mom if she would measure all of my scars.
She started with my first major scar: The one that runs down the entire center of my back as a result of scoliosis back surgery performed when I was in 8th grade. It is ironic that the scar I don’t see on a daily basis always bothered me the most. I dreaded bathing suit season and gym class when I would have to change in front of others. I very rarely wore outfits that would expose my back. If I did, I always wore my hair long to hide it. To this day, when I see someone’s scar-less back, I wonder what that would feel like.
Next we measured the scar from my bilateral nephrectomy. This one runs horizontally across my entire rib cage, but not in a completely straight line. This incision was re-opened two weeks after my kidneys were removed for emergency stomach surgery. Several years later it was re-opened again for the third time due to all of my sutures popping through my skin.
Then we moved onto the smaller scars from my dialysis catheter and several spots on my stomach where I had draining tubes. Lastly, we measured the length of my kidney transplant incision. Mom calculated that over 40 inches of scars criss-cross my body.
With each additional scar, I learned not only more about life, but also more about myself. In high school, I was ashamed to have others see my scar. I focused incessantly on the scar on my back. Today when I look in the mirror, I do not concentrate on them. They are just a part of me; the reason I am still alive. I look at them proudly. It is a reminder of how strong I am and how far I have come. If I ever have doubts of being able to get through something, they remind me that I can overcome anything. I was an insecure high school girl and have grown into a confident woman who is ready to fight whatever the future has in store for me.
I have learned that the scars from our past are the lifelines to our future. I smile and feel comforted when I think of what my Mom told me that day after measuring the scar down my back and the one across my rib cage. With her loving eyes, she looked at me and said, “Valen, you have a permanent cross on you.”