October 12, 2011

Scars

Another aspect of Friday's mandatory orientation was discussing the different health care coverage plan options. Since we have thirty days from our hire date to make a selection, I already chose mine a few weeks ago, and wasn't quite sure why I still needed to attend the four hour orientation. The only things keeping me from dreading every second of it were a mini cinnamon chip scone and a surprisingly delicious (though lukewarm) cup of mocha-flavored coffee. Some days, I think like that, and I'm okay with it.

The orientation took place in one of the chancellor's conference rooms, so before the meeting got started, the other new hires and I sat around the oblong table, discussing the health care plans. There was a woman seated across from me, likely in her late 20s or early 30s, with a jean jacket and ornately manicured nails; she was talking about how she accepted the position at the university based almost entirely on the fact that we have great health care coverage. The woman next to her asked if she would be going for one of the more expensive plans, since she needed to cover her toddler-age child and husband, too. She fiddled with the diamond on her ring finger, and then said
Oh no, I don't need that plan. I'm not old enough for cancer. I'm not planning for cancer just yet.
You don't plan for it. You don't get a say in it at all. And neither does your husband or your young child, and I hope it works out that none of you know that kind of struggle.

The ignorance just floored me, though. I sat there with my jaw dropped, but surprisingly, no one else batted an eye.

My mind flashed back to a Sunday afternoon in my apartment in Chicago. Bobby and I had walked to the grocery store and got stuff to make chicken tacos for lunch, and I was exceptionally happy at having cooked a healthy meal with someone I deeply cared about. I cleared our plates and as I put them in the sink, he grabbed my arm, twirled me around, and pulled me in for a kiss.
Noooo, don't, I have taco breath.

I do, too. We're delicious, and I like you.
Besides being terribly adorable, I loved it for being such a real moment. This was someone who made me feel comfortable and lovely, whether I was dressed up for our first date to a concert in the park or if I had taco breath in the kitchen of my little apartment.

We went to the living room, put on a movie, and snuggled up on the couch. He kissed my neck and I just smiled, loving the feeling of being held by him and trying to make every moment last as long as possible. His hand slowly reached over and landed on my stomach, and as always, I pulled back.
What's wrong?

I ... um ... well ... it's just, since I lost all that weight and all, I kind of have some loose skin. And it's the worst on my stomach, so I'm just really kind of self conscious about it.

Well, first of all, there isn't a part of you that I don't like. And second, didn't you see my scar?
I admitted that I hadn't noticed it, and he lifted up his shirt to reveal a long scar on his lower abdomen.
Oh my gosh, what is that from?

It's a scar from my surgery.

Well, yeah, but I mean, from what? Are you okay?

Yeah. I, uh ... I had cancer.
The details of his story are his to tell, so my sharing ends there. But it was a very humbling moment for me. At 23, this boy has been cancer-free for nearly six years. He could be upset, mad, bitter about it. But he isn't. He's alive, and that scar is proof that he overcame something, that he has healed.

Sitting there on the couch, I inhaled deeply to feel brave, then lifted up my shirt just enough to show my stomach. He put his hand on it and told me I was beautiful and that he was so proud of me for this incredible achievement. He could see it. But I still struggled.

I keep hitting this wall with my weight loss - 192 seems to be my threshold, and then I panic. Because my body at 192 feels a very particular way ... it feels extra loose. And I get scared and start dreading what 191 might look like, what 190 will feel like, what the 180s will bring, and by the time my mind gets to thinking about my at-goal body, I'm dizzy and raiding the cabinets for anything that I can use to sabotage my efforts.

It's an odd vanity. I put off losing weight for so long because I was afraid of loose skin. I preferred my body bloated, overstuffed, unhealthy, and unattractive. It was more of an excuse to keep making easy-but-terrible choices than a legitimate fear, but still, it prevented me from taking action. My loose skin might not have been so bad if I had committed to getting healthy any of the other times I tried to lose weight.

But talking to Bobby about his experience, I felt selfish. I dislike this thing about my body, even though I really ought to celebrate it. This loose skin is my trophy - I was incredibly unhealthy, but I brought myself back from the edge. This body is soft and wrinkled, but that's far better than solidly packed with excess fat. I overcame something, and this is how my body has been healing itself.


My body has been stretched, mistreated, and malnourished. But now it is exercised, well-fed, hydrated, respected, and loved. My skin is loose, but the body it protects is healthy, and I cannot be anything but grateful.

34 comments:

My Kid's Mom said...

Good post - who cares about some loose skin - you're a lot healthier and you look great.

Weight Wars said...

This is such a beautiful and brave post. I really get what you are saying about being afraid of the loose skin. I'm scared of it, really really scared.

You've earned your stripes remember.

hannah said...

Wanna know what I see? An extremely brave and beautiful young woman with some nifty tattoos and a great rack! :)

Love yourself!!
Hannah

domwillrunforbeer said...

Just remember you're healthy and beautiful!

timothy said...

great post and great insight! xoxoxoxoxoxoxo

Kelliann said...

You are awesome. I have lots of excess skin too, so I understand your struggle. Your attitude about it is amazing!

fatboy kris said...

Great post. Congrats on the mental & physical progress you are making!

Bluezy said...

Deep and feeling and personal. Thanks for being honest. Great knockers, dear. LOL

Christina @ Just Running said...

Yea, I definitely notice the nice rack before I notice the extra skin. :) Thank you so much for posting that picture. You look great, and you've come such a long way.

Misty said...

Great post

If you are like me that stupid line that forms on your upper stomach where the top roll used to be from the extra skin drives you crazy

Shannon said...

This post really touched me in so many anyways. You are honest and brave and so inspiring, Mary. One of the reasons I put off weight is because I was afraid of loose skin, and, yes, my arms are getting flabbier, and my boobs are deflating, and my tummy is getting wrinkly, but I'm okay with it now because I know I'm getting healthier. Anyway, you should be so proud of yourself!!

Jill said...

What a brave, beautiful post. I hope you are really, really proud of yourself!!! I appreciated your honesty and feel very inspired to love ALL of me!

Kelly said...

This post brought out huge emotions in me...my extra skin is what I hate most about this journey--but you're absolutely right. It's 100 times better than when it was all filled out with fat and shit. I'm trying to be proud of my loose soft skin...and your post definitely helped me. Thank you so much for posting this. Thanks a million times.

Amy said...

Wonderful post! It's all about self-love as much as it's about anything else!!

I know you've been struggling with this for awhile... have you ever considered hiring a personal trainer, now that your budget may permit for the cost? They could probably teach you some great exercises that might help with toning... I know I don't understand the loose skin, but I'm sure there are ways exercise can help! A personal trainer usually pushes you way harder than you push yourself too :) Just a suggestion!

Rusti said...

I noticed your great ta-tas before I noticed the skin.
Congrats on embracing your "scars"
~RustiAnn

Tim said...

I'm so pleased Bobby has overcome the cancer. What a shocking and scary thing to go through at such a young age.

Great post, Mary. I love your last paragraph, it's so honest about your past yet so positive too about the present and the future.

LoriV. said...

You are brave, Girl, and you look spectacular.

Poison said...

Thank you so much for sharing this post with us. It really hits home with me because this is exactly where I'm at right now. I love being healthier and thinner but the loose skin is really bringing me down and I hold myself back from so much I feel like. But no one else wants to share pictures like this either and so I don't have that comparison that I do with all the other like beginning photos I can connect with so its nice to see someone who looks like me now not just like me then. <3<3<3 You're beautiful Mary, by the way.

Charlotte said...

Very brave and honest of you to post this picture. You are so right about the fact that your loose skin protects a strong, healthy body..And btw, I join the others in saying nice chest...

He Took MY Last Name said...

When you put it in perspective, loose skin is something to not even care about. I'd much rather be saggy skinned than have to conquer cancer any day.

fatgirlinaskinnyworld said...

You. Are. Beautiful.

Hungry Girl Fan said...

Pregnancy and my excess weight gain from it has left me with some loose skin around my stomach, too. It only gets worse as I lose more and more weight. I have really had to work to feel comfortable with my husband seeing my body the way it is now. Thanks so much for this post! Glad to know I'm not the only one dealing with this!

Kay Bee said...

Great post! That picture is a wonderful reminder of how far you've come in taking charge of your health. Be proud!

Caron said...

I loved this post. It brought tears to my eyes. You are so good at putting things into words and relaying them to us. You are, in short, a beautiful person. :)

Stacy said...

Thank you, Mary. This is part of what has been holding me back. I've been using it as my excuse for so long. You are so amazing to me. You are where I hope to be in a year or two. You're incredible.

Paul said...

Great post!! I think you are brave and should feel very proud!!

Dani said...

What a brave post! You are doing so well!

Krista said...

I'm so glad you posted this. Like you, I'm incredibly self-conscious about all of the lose skin on my stomach and for a second I thought that was a picture of myself that you posted. My abdomen looks exactly the same, and whenever I get upset about it, I try to do the same thing you do and think about all of the good that I've done. Bobby sounds wonderful, and I'm so happy for you.

marisol said...

This is why I love reading your blog & I admire you. You have a way of expressing how many of us feel in such a beautiful way. Thank you for putting yourself out there.

I am glad to hear that Bobby is better. We all have scars. Just some of them are more visible than others.

PS_Iloveyou said...

That's your proof that you overcame something too. It wasn't cancer but it was still a sickness.

Awesome post, you are as always inspiring.

See you soon!

Lorrie B. said...

This blog is just so down to earth. I love it! My stomach is the worst part of loose skin for me as well. The only person that's really gonna see it you and a lover. If they can't deal with it than they aren't keepers anyway. But it looks like you found a keeper that loves you!

Tammy said...

Looking awesome!!

Hyla said...

You look great!

People Watcher said...

You look amazing. I love you elder sister. I'm beyond proud of you. P.s. we have twins bras.