When I was about 21 I had a mole removed, a malignant mole. It wasn’t done by a dermatologist or a plastic surgeon, but just a regular house doctor.
The mole was on my lower shoulder, between my shoulder blade and arm and as it ‘healed’, I could see that something was terribly wrong. It didn’t stay within its borders, the scar made an awful red, swollen and itchy bulge. This was how I became aware of keloids. Literally translated, keloid means ‘crab claw’ – an attempt to illustrate the way the lesions expand laterally from the original scar into normal tissue.
Little did I know that over the next four years, this one little scar would do some deep damage to my self-confidence and the way I would approach life. I would never wear anything without sleeves, because I would be too self-conscious when people stared or asked me what this thing on my shoulder was.
When asked what caused it, people would literally zoom in on my scar, some would even go as far as touching me. It was quite sensitive, so this did not sit well. I would tell them that I was mugged on the streets and I fought back, in the process getting shot through the chest. I have a similar, smaller scar in the exact same spot on my chest. “This was the entry wound, and this big one at the back – that was the exist wound.”
People would freak out. You are so brave, they would say. But eventually I would start laughing and tell them that it was a mole that could have been cancerous. “Oh, just cancer.” Ja, like cancer is no big deal.
It became part of my identity. “You would look great in this dress,” a friend would say. Yes, but what about my scar, I would reply. “Just cover it up.” This scar had such an impact on me that it was the biggest influence in my choice of wedding dress. I wish I had removed it before the wedding, but I was scared – scared that it would come back even more red, angrier, more itchier.
I also became jealous – jealous of pretty girls with pretty backs who could wear anything they fancied. I wanted to wear cute dresses and cute sleeveless tops. I wanted to be like them, a woman comfortable in her own skin. But I wasn’t, so I just kept on covering up. In summer, when a jersey was not plausible, I would actually put a plaster over the scar, in an attempt to hide it. I needed cover.
And with cover also comes disguise. Wearing layers, it was also so much easier to disguise a little wobbliness – which would grow into a big weight gain. My confidence was at an all time low. I really hated my body.
But on December 1 last year, two days before my birthday, I had plastic surgery – nothing serious, just some scar revision. Some, like it was nothing –done in thirty minutes, easy-peasy. But those thirty minutes forever changed my life.
For the first few weeks I had to walk with a plaster on my wound, and I was going nuts about the healing process – was it going well? Or was it a monstrous gross swollen ugly scar?
Now, a month later, the swelling has subsided and I have to go for regular steroids injections to keep it from becoming a keloid again – but it is a smooth, five or six centimeter brown line, which will eventually go white again.
Again today someone asked me, because I am now wearing a fabulous sleeveless dress from Cotton On: “what happened here” and instead of going bright red, feeling ashamed, and covering it up with my hand or a jersey, I just rolled my eyes, shrugged and said: “It’s a scar, no biggie.”