Submitted by Linda Boehringer
The three best scars I ever received were those of the c-sections I got in 1996, 1997 & 2006, after the birth of my three beautiful children. The best part was, with time, although they never disappeared, they faded ...nicely.... Little did I know that the future held more scars and for not so wonderful reasons.
Two weeks after Marley, my youngest was born, I was getting the staples removed from my c-section and my OB GYN suggested I see my endocrinologist due to a ball he discovered in my neck. I knew it was there but thought it was a swollen lymph node. Never in a million years would I have imagined the devastating news which awaited.
After a biopsy I was told I had papillary carcinoma. At first it was thought to be located in the thyroid. I remember talking with Dr. Colin Webber, one of Emory’s finest surgeons, about all the complications that may come up after the surgery. He explained I should have scar about six inches long and that it was possible to lose nerve sensations in my shoulder, neck and other areas.
I told him the scar didn’t bother me and neither did the other issues. I told him it was imperative that he get all the cancer out because I had three children that needed me and that was my main concern. The thought of not being there for my kids was the biggest fear I have ever felt in my entire life.
I wasn’t worried about the cancer, the scar, any of it. My kids, they are my life. I couldn’t bear leaving them with the emotional turbulence of not having their mother in their lives. Little did I know my journey was just about to begin.
July 18th, I sat at Emory from about 6:00 a.m. till about 6:00 p.m. waiting for my turn on the table. My husband, my father and my aunt were with me. My mother and another aunt were at home with my kids. Everyone came in from Miami, ready to help me deal with whatever came my way. They were my strength, they were my support they were my saving grace.
I wasn’t really scared the first time I went under but when I woke up I knew something was terribly wrong. I saw my Aunt Olga's face as soon as they rolled me out and I knew something was really wrong. She stood strong, holding back the tears, telling me everything was fine. My husband almost passed out after seeing me and there are just no words to describe the sadness in my wonderful father’s eyes.
My fears were confirmed. My six inch incision turned into an ear to ear incision straight across my neck. The cancer had spread from the thyroid to the the lymph nodes and now I was dealing with Stage Three Papillary Carcinoma that had metastasized to my lymph nodes and the most excruciating pain I have ever felt.
My neck was literally glued back in place. I had two drains hanging from my collar I was so scared to go home and Emory was ready for me to go. I had never felt so weak, scared and in so much pain, ever.
The first after surgery, my neck got so swollen it was as big as my thigh. I was so scared to look in the mirror. I didn’t recognize myself and the Doctors couldn’t guarantee that all the swelling would go away. The Doctors couldn’t guarantee anything.
As soon as I walked in the door my son, then 10 asked “Mom, is your head going to fall off of your shoulders?” I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. I too had that same question. I think that’s why I was scared to leave the hospital.
A new, colicky baby who didn’t sleep more than a few hours, if that, and two other children that needed their mother’s attention and feeling fear that my head was going to fall off if I made the wrong move. The Doctors assured me my head would stay in place but I think the shock of it all freaked me out.
When the family left and the support was gone, the reality of my situation started to settle in, and by December I felt another huge ball by my right color bone. December 23rd, more surgery, this time great news, not cancer and now I and now I had another scar, but this one was about the length of my middle finger. I went home the same day.
I can’t explain the fear I live with daily but I do know that after each clear MRI, CAT, PET, I-131 scan I feel more empowered. I do not fear death. I do fear not being there for my kids and what that would do to them. To this day, I don’t have any feeling under my neck and I continue to work out to keep my right shoulder from hanging lower than my left. Sadly, I feel like there’s a noose around my neck ( I am assuming it’s from the scar tissue).
I have since returned to Kennesaw State University to complete a degree in Journalism. I work at the Sentinel, the school paper and was lucky enough to write a preview story for the SCARS R SEXY campaign. I feel so lucky that our paths have crossed.
You and your group, which I feel privileged to be a part of, are so empowering. You have given me some well needed strength to draw off and hope for the future. Life is such an amazing journey when we surround ourselves with positive people that give off positive energy.