I have told my story hundreds of times to hundreds of people. It has gotten to the point that my friends can now tell my story for me because I have told it so many times. Even people that already know the story sometimes want to hear it again. Even if I wanted to, I cannot hide my story for it is written very clearly on the back of my arm. For the first time, however, I want to tell a different side of my story: one that I have very rarely shared.
Almost three years ago I was in a horrific boating accident. I was in a freak inner tubing accident that went horribly wrong. I shattered over 70% of the bones in my left arm and had to have emergency reconstruction surgery (now 2 surgeries overtime). My surgery took almost 6 hours with two surgeons and when I emerged I had a new arm with over 200 stitches.
Although I have a smile on my face in this photo the pain and distress I was in is unimaginable. At this point I had been through trauma, an incredibly intense surgery, horrific pain that made me scream and cry for days, lack of control over my body, and lack of control over my independence. I was confined to a bed for 10 days, with limited mobility. In order for me to do even the most basic things required a team of my family, doctors, and nurses. The trouble never seemed worth it so I almost never left my bed. I couldn’t feed myself, stand by myself, go to the bathroom by myself, change my clothes by myself; I couldn’t sleep, eat, or shower. I was hungry yet couldn’t stomach food, I was always tired but couldn’t sleep, I was swollen yet looked like a skeleton. I felt anything like a human when I was in the hospital. Although I tried to smile and be brave for my family and friends, within my mind I was experiencing a living nightmare in my own personal hell. There was always one thing that was eating at me when I was in the hospital and that was what my future would look like with my new arm.
Prior to my accident I was a recruited D1 athlete at Oregon State University. I spent most of high school career with the sole goal of being recruited to university. I sacrificed a lot to get where I was and I had made it. I had just completed my first year rowing at OSU and was ready to train hard for my future. My momentum was halted in its track when I broke my arm and I couldn’t help sit in my hospital bed and think about how my dreams were shattered. I did not know what this new arm meant for my future in rowing, but I knew that my hope was slim. My doctor realistically gave me a 1 in a million chance that I would ever row again, or have normal function of my arm. I knew that my life would be changed forever at this point and I couldn’t escape that.
No matter how much I tried over and over again to forget what had happened to me, I couldn’t. Even after all my bruises had healed, my arm regained a normal shape, and I could move it like normal, one thing always haunted me every time I passed by a mirror. I had a scar that went down my entire arm, and it was a constant reminder of my pain. Even if I avoided mirrors or reflective windows I couldn’t avoid the people who wanted to know. Everywhere I would go friends, family, or strangers needed to know what had happened to me and it was too much trouble to avoid it so I was forced to relive one of the worst days of my life many times.
In addition, I am a girl who is against showing weakness. When I first broke my arm I refused to cry in front of people. Crying in the hospital was unusual for me, but I couldn’t fight the extreme pain enough to block the tears. I hated doing anything that made me appear weak. For most of my life showing weakness was used against me as a female, so I decided to try my hardest to never show weakness. This is an extremely self destructive idea. When I broke my arm I was furious at my scar because it was a constant reminder and an openly visible sign of weakness. For a very long time I saw my scar this way, as a reminder of my weakness and lack of worth.
When I returned to school I knew I was going to have to face my reality of rowing. I thought that my scar would make things worse. My scar would be a blatant reminder to my coaches that I was weaker and a burden. It would make others on the team view me as weak and unlikely they would have little confidence rowing with me. Above all, it would constantly hold me back, and make me feel weak.
Yet something else happened. As I got back into rowing my opinion towards my arm actually improved. As I started training again and gaining strength back in my arm my scar stopped being a sign of weakness and started to represent my own strength and survival. When I started lifting more than I had before my accident I was proud to know that I did so even with a rehabilitating arm. I use to view my scar as ugly and weak, but now I saw it as bad ass. I was proud to show my scar because when I was working out and broke PR’s people could see that I was doing so even with my arm. Every improvement was a triumph. My scar now became a sign of hope for me, no longer something that scared me.
I am now proud of my scar. I wear it with pride. I don’t mind telling people my story, because now it is apart of my story of survival. My scar is mine, it is apart of me. I cannot change what happened to me, and after learning all the valuable lessons I have learned in this process I wouldn’t want to.
If you have scars on your body remember to love them. Remember our scars remind us that we have survived, that we are are still alive. #scarrednotscared