Beautiful Scars

Isaiah 41:13 “For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”

Letting Go was about loving the uniquely, beautiful story which is your life by letting go of the pain and hurt of the past. Yet the scars will remain. Those scars can be a sign of beauty rather than ugliness. I did say beauty and scars in the same sentence because it tells of our strength, courage, and determination despite the adversary we faced and of Jesus being with us always even in our darkest moments.

Although my physical scars are quite visible all over my body (ok so technically the lower half of my body) I stuffed the emotional scars in the deepest, darkest part of my heart and tried to forget the haunting memories. I have had about six major, multilevel, no choice surgeries from the age of about three to twelve. I say no choice because without these life – improving operations my quality of life would have declined as severe pain would force me to stop walking and thus be bound to a wheelchair and a diet of pain killers. Although I refused to know the details or risks of each surgery, as it didn’t make going through the storms any easier. Time has been kind as I only remember certain memories such as the strong, unmistakable smell of the antiseptic wipes used before the needle was inserted to put me to sleep, my body would tense at the overpowering odour knowing pain would be to follow or the time my Dad lovingly held me in his arms as the medical staff examined the boils on my legs. I remember the last surgery the most, not only because I was older but because in a lot of ways it was the most traumatic.

My left knee was getting a block put into the growth plate to allow my other leg to catch up in length and both of my feet were being reconstructed with my ankles fused (with bone) to allow for improved standing and walking capabilities. Sounds pretty simple on paper right? In reality it was far more difficult; from the start there were setbacks. When the surgery was originally scheduled I was sick with the flu I still had to make the trip to Melbourne to be assessed by the doctor to ensure I wasn’t faking it – I wasn’t and spent the whole night coughing as if to prove the point. The surgery was rescheduled. This time wasn’t ideal either as my surgeon could complete the necessary procedures but had to fly out to speak at a conference interstate the day after for a few days. Despite this, and with many reassurances from our surgeon, it was decided to go ahead anyway due to waiting lists. For the first time in my life I decided to have the mask to be put to sleep rather than the injection in the hand complete with numbing cream (I have a fear of needles). Big mistake. I went into a full blown panic attack; I felt claustrophobic, I wanted out… NOW! But because people were waiting in the queue they held me down and put the mask over my face and I was put to sleep with tears streaming down my face as I struggled against not only their restraint but my circumstances that were beyond my control.

Recovery was also more difficult this time round due to a couple of major setbacks as well as the usual pain and nausea. The first one was a sizeable haematoma. This was discovered on my spine with the potential to paralyse me. It didn’t. The ramifications though meant saying goodbye to the sweetness in pain relief of an epidural. I couldn’t have any more pain relief until the high dosage in my system wore off (yeah overdosing on pain medication is not such a good idea) the hours that followed though were horrendous, I don’t remember much from those hours but when I asked my Mum to reflect she said it was the first time she had prayed I would die, Mum couldn’t bare seeing me in so much pain and powerless to do anything. We all made it through those rocky, painful hours and my doctor was back on deck after the conference and put in place effective pain management. I don’t know how many times I got asked the question “on a scale from one to ten, what is your pain level?” Up there with some of life’s most confusing questions as I struggled to remember what I had answered the day before.

Another setback occurred when I went to weight bare in my plaster casts. It was so painful but they wanted me to persist. Upon looking at my casts it was discovered while the plaster was setting someone put their thumb into the cast which created an indent which would push on my healing foot as I stood. Needless to say the plaster had to be replaced, a procedure I wasn’t counting on aka another panic attack.

It was all getting too much, unfortunately family and friends can only help you so far. There are parts of the storm only you and Jesus can face together. One day I had had enough I screamed at the top of my voice “I don’t want to walk anymore.” This announcement shattered my support network. We had come so far; faced so many challenges only for me to give up not only on them but myself and my life. The determined fighter I thought I was had conceded reasoning one too many punches that forced me to give up the fighting spirit and leave the ring (of life) broken. Mind. Body. Spirit. Heart. But Jesus wasn’t finished. He had another plan – He wasn’t going to leave me broken.

Jesus is your ultimate boxing coach He is with you, boxing gloves ready, whispering “you are mine and I will never let you go.”

Sometimes we don’t know why we go through hard times and raging storms in life until we glance back to see where we have been. You see for years I cried out to the Lord to “please let me walk.”

Did Jesus hear my prayer? Yes. Did He understand my heartache? Yes. My friends, Jesus always answers when you call; sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes the answer is wait and sometimes the answer is no. I don’t know why He chooses the way He does but be assured God has a bigger plan in place. And then sometimes He answers in ways we least expect it.

I wrote a letter to my younger self a part of that read:

You know those surgeries you had no choice but to endure? Well I am enjoying the fruits of that hardship I can still walk, true not like we hoped for but walking none the less. Thank you for going through those surgeries so that I may walk.

Jesus granted me the miracle I had always hoped for in a way I never expected it. What blessing can you see from a difficult period in your life? May be it is simply you survived and no longer have to face that storm. If you are in the midst of a raging storm hold on to Jesus as He guides you to calmer waters.

It has been eleven years since my knee and feet surgery and time has helped to heal and fade my physical scars as well as the emotional. I have been working through the trauma associated with the scars so I am not overcome with terror as I remember the past; as a result my fear of needles is reducing. It has taken me a long time to realise tough calls had to be made and although we may have regrets, we all human, and when life hurts and knocks us down it takes courage to get back up and keep on fighting.

As I run my thumb over each of the scars by turn I am consciously choosing to see that Jesus allowed good to come out of a painful period in my life. If I ever get a tattoo it would read Live Free. I would place it on my rib cage so every time I breathed it would remind me we can live free, despite the scars that remain, and that is a beautiful thing.

Love,

Cathryn

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