I have, in recent years, found myself with an increasing number of scars

I have, in recent years, found myself with an increasing number of scars. I do not mean that in a metaphorical sense. These are honest-to-goodness, flesh-marring scars. But these are not the scars I’m used to; no memories of childhood incidents or accidental self-injury come with these. Each of these scars represent a part of me that has been cut away; an unnatural chasm in my flesh.

It began harmlessly enough. Sitting with friends one day, enjoying the sunny afternoons of late spring. Legs stretched out in idle laziness, minding their own business. And a mole, or birthmark, or whatever you might call it, exposed for the world to see. “You really ought to have that looked at,” a friend of mine said. Why ever would I want to do a thing like that? The mark had been with me for as long as I could remember. And yet, as they mentioned it, a look showed that maybe things had changed. Was it larger now? What was that streak coming off the side of it, branching out into previously untouched skin?

So finally, these questions gnawing at me, I decided to see a dermatologist. He took a look at my mystery spot, and decided that a biopsy was most definitely in order. “If it’s all clear,” he said, “you won’t be hearing from me.” It’s one of those rare times in life when you are really hoping that the phone doesn’t ring. But ring it did, and the word came down: the margins weren’t clear. To many of you, that phrase may mean nothing, but for many more of you, I’m sure it has a more ominous ring.

My mystery spot was no longer a mystery; it had a name. Bowen’s Disease, they called it. Of course, whenever you hear anything with the suffix “disease” tacked on the end, your mind starts to race in unpleasant directions. Fortunately, however, Mr. Bowen’s disease was benign. For now. Ignored, however, and that mystery spot could’ve turned into something far less mysterious and far more forboding. But, with a few slices and some treatment later, where once a spot lived, there is now scar.

It is no surprise, I’d say, that my level of self-awareness took a great surge upward after this experience. Constant vigilance was they key, they told me, to keeping things from going out of hand. And so my skin, which had done such an excellent job keeping my insides in for all these years, was suddenly no longer above suspicion. It is a strange feeling, realizing that your body can turn against you at any time; that the very cells of your being may decide that they have something more interesting they’d rather do with their time than stick to the plan at hand.

So I watch. I monitor. I question…

There have been other spots since. None, it turns out, have been as potentially menacing as the first. But this is a time of better safe than sorry, and my scars are there to prove it. So I lay on the doctor’s table every so often, feeling a gentle push against numbness, knowing that a part of me is being cut away, though I dare not look.

Another piece of me gone, with only a discolored echo to remind me.

Article © 2005 by Joel Haddock