Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Francesca Kaplan-It's My Scar (109)

Francesca writes:

When I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, I felt like my world was tumbling in. I had had a lot of sickness in my life, years of Hypothyroidism and Hashimotos, Crohns Disease and other peripheral ailments. But when I had cancer, things changed. This was something I had to deal with immediately and drastically. They had to remove my thyroid, and it left a short, but obvious, scar across my neck. It looked like I had been in a bar fight. Before I had the surgery I was sure I was going to want to hide the scar under flowing scarves, turtlenecks, and well-placed necklaces, but what I found is that as soon as it healed, I loved my scar. People would stare at it: it was in a particularly conspicuous location, and I would catch people looking down at it, puzzled, before coming back to meet my eye. I would touch it, happy to have a physical reminder of the experience I had just overcome. It has been 11 months that I have been cancer free, and during that time, the scar has faded. It’s still there, and obvious, but as the months go by, it gets lighter, the skin taking back the pigment, smoothing over the jagged edges. As it faded, I started to get sad.

Rachel Murawski and Liz Lessner, some talented and creative artists friends of mine, understood my concern. One afternoon, we were talking about this, and we decided it would be meaningful to memorialize the scar so that it never faded from my every day memory. They pushed me to make the first Scar Necklace. When people ask me what my necklace is, even though it very close to the original scar, both in location and in style, I simply say “It’s my scar.” There is something very powerful about celebrating something that to many is ugly, and should be forgotten. I don’t want to forget. Both because I live with the very real possibility that cancer is not a once in my lifetime possibility, and because I am proud of myself for living, and surviving, with strength and dignity.