For four weeks I had a PICC line in my left arm, and another PICC line in my right arm for one week (and then for one glorious hour, two PICC lines in both arms). Each PICC line left a little dot-scar on each of my arms. After my PICC lines were removed because of blood clots, I had a medi-port for about four months. Then they ripped that one out and put in a Hickman Line, which I constantly referred to as my Tubes.
"Your tubes?" my nurses would ask, looking around for some bladder catheter that I forgot to mention.
"Yeah, my Tubes." And I'd swing them around like nipple tassels. (Don't get excited, I'm not drawing a picture of that, you pervs.)
My Hickman Line was more like a PICC line, in that it was a tube (hence its nickname) that, instead of jabbing into my arm, they jabbed directly into my chest. It left a little triangle star, which kind of looks like a fleur-de-les, which I think makes me royalty now.
My medi-port was by far my favorite chemo receptacle. Getting it installed, however, was the most painful, especially when the pain meds wore off during the procedure. They told me after the procedure that they had given me, a 5'2" 120 lb girl-child, the same amount of sedation they would give a 6-foot, 250-pound man-ape. "You could drink all of us under the table!" they said, laughing doctorally. All I said was, "Quit yapping and crank up the juice! I'm starting to feel lucid!"
See, what they do is slice open your chest/boob area, jam the thing into a nest of pectoral muscles, and then yank a layer of skin over it. They tucked it away nicely and as long as no one looks in your general direction, they won't notice the two inch scar on your chest. The scar is just high enough that it peeks out of most shirts, but low enough that it's technically on my boob. (Although I may just have weird-shaped boobs...)
I figured posting a picture of by bare chest would really change the tone of this blog, so I drew a picture of what my scar looks like.
It looks like a one-eyed smirky face. I'd been thinking of tattooing another dot to make it a two-eyed smirky face. Or I could add glasses and make it a four-eyed nerd smirky face. Or go all out and add seven eyes and make it a spider smirky face. Haven't decided yet.
So, that's what my scar looks like. And here's the encounter I had involving my scar:
A male co-worker (a notoriously sexist co-worker) had heard about my cancer cruise through the grapevine of work-gossip. He and I were conversing, as you do during conversations, and I don't know how we got into it, but I said something along the lines of: "Blah blah blah my leukemia blah blah blah."
"You had leukemia?" he asked, surprised.
"Yup," I answered, instantly regretting I had brought up my cancer.
But I have verbal vomit when it comes to my cancer. I'm like that kid who's always really excited to show her babysitter her room. "WANT TO SEE MY ROOM? YOU CAN PLAY WITH MY DOLLS!" In may case it's more like, "WANT TO SEE MY CANCER? YOU CAN RATTLE MY PILL BOTTLES!"
Anyway, he answered: "Oh, I just assumed from your scar that you had breast cancer."
First of all, I was really grossed out that he said "breast." I mean, isn't it inappropriate for a male co-worker to say "breast" to a female co-worker? Had I just been sexually harassed? Ew. And he's an older guy. If he was a younger, hotter guy I would have been into it. "Sure, hot stuff, let's talk about my chest scar." But, no, he's like in his forties, married and probably has kids that he takes out for ice cream because he's a great dad. Gross. I kept hearing him say "breast" over and over in my head, all echoey-like.
And then I thought, "My scar is on my chest. Ew, was he looking at my chest? Is that sexual harassment? Or was he looking at my scar, and just happened to look at my chest? Either way, he was looking at my chest! My chest is where my boobs are. Gross. He was looking at my boobs! He's such a perv!" I felt like running home to take a shame shower.
I had the urge to say, "Hey, buddy. My cancer is up here," pointing forcefully at my bloodstream. However, I cordially explained to him that, nope, I had leukemia. He found this interesting, "because, you know, when you hear when a woman has cancer it's usually breast cancer."
I wanted to say, "What is this the 1920s? Look, pal, women can vote, marry whoever she wants, and get whatever the hell kind of cancer she wants!" But instead I quickly ended the conversation before I got arrested for aggravated assault.
Look, just because I'm a woman and I had cancer, doesn't mean I had breast cancer, or even cervical or uterine cancer. You know, this may surprise you, but women can get other cancers too. Cancer doesn't discriminate (unlike YOU!), and all cancers are awful. If you're going to assume anything (which as we all know makes an ASS out of U and ME), assume that you don't know what kind of cancer I had. There are hundreds of types of cancers out there. Some cancers just get more press than others. I don't expect you to know them all, but come on. Read a freaking book. Preferably a book about cancer.
And you know what? The scars on my body aren't there for your twisted Guess That Cancer game. If you see a scar on someone, don't address it. Just ignore it. There are only two times when you can address my scar: (1), if you're lucky, I'll bring it up by daring you to guess where it came from (Mexican stand-off), or (2), we're having a scar-off: "Check out this one I got cleaning out my lawn mower." "Oh yeah, well, I got this one trying to shave my back while standing on my head." Only toddlers get a pass for ogling scars, but that's because they haven't been civilized, much less potty trained. You, sir, are a grown ass man. And a perv.
1) Don't assume anything. It makes you an ass.
2) There are many cancers out there, and they all leave scars.
3) Don't look or talk about my scars like we're buddies. We're not. I don't like you.
4) You're kind of a perv.
But you know what? I'm not self-conscious of my scar. Never have been. Never will be. In fact, I think its pretty bad-ass. You don't go through life without a few scars, and I wear mine like a badge of honor.
... Just don't look at them. You'll go blind by its awesomeness.