The Stories Your Scars Tell Are Up To You

By October 5, 2019 Food for thought, Heather

I used to be embarrassed by these two small scars on my left hand. That translates to 24 years of hiding or avoiding a conversation. scars on my hand

“What happened to your hand?” usually occurs at some point or another and I didn’t want to talk about it because admitting how it happened sounded weak to me. I didn’t want to deal with judgments or pity. weak.

So the years progress, and over time I grew from not necessarily hiding my hand to just not acknowledging that someone is looking at it, ready to ask, whether intentions were curious and innocent or not.

I’ve spent the last year – year #25 –   thinking I’m a goofball. I should never be embarrassed again. Silly Heather.

I allowed myself to spend more years of my life feeling embarrassed than the actual age I was when I created the scar (19).

Duh Heather

This whole time I was focused on the wrong part of the story!

<Insert facepalm here>

This is my story, and I can tell whichever part of it I want to, so long as it’s authentic and honest from memory.

I was starting the story off uncomfortably with how I needed to get the scar,  not the process of getting it fixed, which I think is pretty badass, even if I do say so myself.

How I got these scars

So at 19, I was quite the demographic. I was just keeping it together for my three-year-old daughter and I. And I knew I came way too far to give up. I had spent nearly four years looking into ways to fix my hand so the ugly reminder of what I went through was gone.  I couldn’t feel better until it disappeared.

I don’t know why, but finding a dermatologist in the phone book didn’t seem like an option to me. Duh.

A friend in the cage that I got to know on the third shift at the casino told me that idea. As soon as I could, I went into the breakroom, where a phone book was by the payphone. I scribbled the number down on paper. It was the middle of the night, after all.

Sidebar – I’m not old, that was 1995. We’ve just crazy progressed since dial-up happened.

Anyway – there was one in Marshalltown which was about 30 minutes or so from me. I made an appointment because he offered a free consultation.

It was tough back then. Sleep was a rare commodity being a single parent of a three-year-old making like, $9 an hour which back then was just enough to make my Hud rent increase $70 a month in the income-based projects of rural Iowa. Thanks.

I could only afford to pay my neighbor’s teenage daughter to sleepover at my place while I worked let alone another sitter after she went to high school so that I could go to bed. My mom helped when she could. She worked, too and lived not too far away.

I am guessing that’s why Meth became an epidemic within a couple years of the casino. I remember it wasn’t there, and then boom – it was everywhere. I don’t even think many of the people using it knew how bad it was going to be for them. It was new.

I. Never. Tried. It. EVER. I am SO proud. I did a lot of dumb stuff over my life but I’ve seen what drugs do to people. It’s why I challenge laws today. I’m convinced they create the supply-demand problem. Can’t sell drugs if no one wants them.

Anyway, scars. Back to the story.

I was so tired. All the time. I could sleep for 15 minutes and go another hour or two and do that all day, allowing a 2 hour nap with her in the afternoon and putting her to bed at 8-8:30 and sleeping with her until I got up to get ready for work at 10 pm.

Luckily they were four, 10 hour days so I have three in a row to sleep all night long with her and get outside and do stuff. I was also known to put in a Disney VHS tape or two and doze off and on during the day while she danced, played with her dollhouse, etc. It was rough and oh, so worth it.

1995 we got through it girl

Look at my beautiful daughter!

The only appointment was going to require me to give up nap time and drive, tired.

But I didn’t care. I was going to find an answer.

The dermatologist was way past retirement. He was rather small in stature, we stood eye to eye and I’m 5’6. He was thinner than me too. Very kind eyes, warm smile and very curious. I showed him my hand and he asked a lot of questions, to which I answered honestly.

He gave me a couple of options, which I vaguely remember but took repeat visits.

The winner was, “I can remove it now if you’d like. Take about 20 minutes.”

Really? Oh my gosh, I was over the moon! I didn’t even know if I would get a solution, let alone leave with it gone, TODAY!

Ok, maybe I was dreaming? Sleepwalking?

Then, I asked how much. He told me it was $100.

He could’ve told me it was $10,000. I didn’t have that. I usually saved all my gas to get to and from work let alone a trip up to Marshalltown.

I told him I couldn’t pay it. Could we work out a pay plan or something?

He asked if $10 a month is ok? He’ll send me a bill next month to start.

I was so relieved. I thanked God.

He put a metal tray that attached to the side of the chair. It was like a dentist chair with a table arm. Next was that white paper under my hand. He pulled down, adjusted and turned on a movable light on my hand. It was warm.

He then brought over a tray with a scalpel, little scissors, thread and stitching, bandages and a shot with a very long, thin needle and full of a clear liquid.

It was pretty cool what happened from there. He started with the numbing shot under the skin. As that clear liquid Novocain spread, the skin changed color, it was flushing white and fascinating.

It not only numbed it on contact, but it also didn’t bleed. He literally took his cutting tools and sliced around the ink brands, lifting them out like an inverted cookie cutter, and laying them flat on the white paper.

Looking at my hand, with two holes down to what I assume is deep dermis because of the level in and the deep red it is.

While the days of layering liquid foundation on it were over. Just like that. I had it gone. I did it.

I was free. And I wasn’t scared.

He began stitching together the holes. After he handed me a tissue for my tears. They weren’t tears of sadness or joy. It was tears of release. Like I exhaled relief that it was gone.

Could crying be like a brain cleanse?

Ugly brand tat

I hated that thing the minute I got it and that was back when I was 15. I spent all that time, four years, wanting to not see that every time I rose my hand in class or signed a jackpot slip or painted.

And in that 20 minutes, it was gone. Thrown away in a red sack to wherever they throw human stuff away at.

Tears flowed all the way home, too. It felt amazing. Strong. Badass.

See??? Now that’s a story!

I don’t have to talk about all the stupid reasons it was there or feel bad about anything. It is what it is.

I was so energized at work that night after having it cut out. Or slap happy from no sleep. Either way. Probably both. The story could continue because that night at work I was dumping a big sack full of quarters into the slot machine hopper and the weight of it busted out two of the stitches.

Tell your story

Oh well. Still was worth it!

How could I let that story stay hidden under shame for so long? It was awesome. It was life-changing.

It was a reaffirming moment that I can do this and quit letting that voice in my head tell me how ashamed I should be. I should’ve found that doctor years ago. Oh well.

It was yet another monumental step in rebuilding the confidence I had way back when sucky things didn’t happen. I got this talk.

I still had a long way to go, because being free is a state of mind – not logistics.

The dermatologist’s hand wrote his bill slips to me every month for payment. And I paid it off in 4 months. He was my angel. I think we both gave each other a gift that day.

I went on to change a law in Iowa and worked with the county attorney to make it happen the year before. When the grade I was in was graduating high school.

Don’t I have the most beautiful daughter and granddaughter?

Guess there’s a lot of cool stuff that scar represents.

Thanks for reading.




  • Anonymous says:

    Hey Heather, i have a story very similar to yours. I was 18 and got a tattoo on my hand that I regretted very much to where it would make me self conscious, I jumped at the chance to get it removed and felt some of the same emotions you described. It has only been a year and obviously I have a large scar on my hand, but I have learned to not care about it as much and am more confident now. Just wanted to comment to let you know that your story helped me find some
    peace and not feel like a complete idiot. Thank you

    • Heather says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your story and letting me know I’m not alone either and it’s all in how you look at the situation. You rock and I can’t thank you enough.

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