I held my breath as the medical assistant cut through the last layer of gauze and began to peel off the bandage. This would be my first view of my left foot since surgery two weeks earlier to correct a bunion and hammer toe.

My big toe and fourth toe were deeply bruised; a jagged, three-inch incision ran atop my bunion onto my big toe; another puckered incision snaked from the top of my foot onto my first toe, which was red and swollen.

Oh, well, more scars to join the myriad others on my body. Collectively, they tell of my passage through life:

• On my right foot, barely visible, is a small scar from stepping on a rusty nail when I was five. I don’t know why I was allowed walk barefooted among loose boards in the garden, but suddenly there was a nail sticking through my foot. Daddy rushed me into the house, and Mama poured peroxide, bubbling and hissing, on my foot. There was no mention of a tetanus shot. Mama just bandaged up the hole, and we carried on.

• Then there’s the oblong scar on my left knee. I was swinging in the hammock, reading comic books, and eating crackers with Cheez Whiz when I heard the phone ring. Knowing Mama was taking a nap, I ran into the house to answer it before it woke her. I slipped on the stairs to the kitchen and fell into the dog’s food bowl. My knee broke the bowl and scattered dog food all over the floor. The ruckus woke Mama, who was annoyed by the mess I’d made. I felt her reaction was unfair, since I’d been trying to help her.

• Can’t forget the inch-long scar on my right thigh, from sitting on a razor in the bathtub in my teens. How foolish I was. When the razor slipped off the edge of the tub into the water, why didn’t I just pick it up right away instead of deciding to get it when I was done with my bath? That one probably should have had stitches, but my parents didn’t think in those terms. 

• The scar from my appendectomy in nursing school is almost faded—it’s more of a memory than a reality.

• The tiny scar below my belly button from my tubal ligation in the late ’70s is also barely visible. That was a hard decision to make. I knew I didn’t want any more children, but I had to grieve for the loss of potential children before I was ready for the operation.          

• I had no hesitation about my hysterectomy several years later. I was eager to have that surgery because of the pain I’d experienced from frequent ruptured ovarian cysts. 

My reverie was broken by the medical assistant saying, “I’m going to take out the stitches now.”

I tensed in anticipation.

Joan Greland-Goldstein
Denver, Colorado


1 thought on “Scars”

  1. Joan,

    I get it! I’m also a nurse, retired, and recently had a hip replacement and removal of hardware from a previous fracture. Imagine my interest in seeing those parallel scars. I ended up complementing the PA on his nice suturing but went home thinking I probably should start wearing a bathing suit with a skirt.

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