My abdomen is really pretty gruesome, at this point. I will not post, or even take, photos.
I have about a nine-inch scar running down my sternum, a thick, dark pink line edged with similarly-colored dots. The surgery I had in that spot was officially a Total Abdominal Hysterectomy, but it was much more invasive, with a considerably larger area, than a typical TAH because of the need to seek out and remove any necrotic tissue, before the necrotizing fasciitis could spread. The first VAC sponge was the size of a football, perhaps a bit larger, and it allowed for quick healing so that I still have a jalapeño-sized sponge below my navel, but the upper area was closed and held in place by a long row of staples, now removed and leaving behind its dots-and-line signature.
I’m uneven, too, mostly because of the VAC. It stands for “Vacuum Assisted Closure,” so it makes sense: the wound is off-center, lying more to the right of my belly button, so when the VAC is in place and turned on, it is literally vacuuming itself into place, sucking down into my body. When it’s not there, I still have a depression on the right side, but nowhere near as pronounced. They tell me I won’t have much scar tissue there once all is said and done; I have my doubts, considering the size of the wound. Sure, a jalapeño is smaller than a football, but that’s still a hell of a lot bigger than any other wound I’ve ever had in that area.
Then, over above my right hip, I have another nasty-looking wound, once a cantaloupe-sized entrance site to my inner bits and now apparently (I can’t bend properly to see it, and frankly don’t want to), as of the past week, closed to the public and just bearing the same unpleasant-but-comprehensible surface – though a centimeter or more down into the surface, so that you can see my body in layers, like looking at the different-colored rock layers in the walls of a canyon. Perhaps less geologically significant, and certainly more bizarre to me, but still, similar. Much, much more painful.
The VAC sponges are black, and covered with roughly six-inch-square areas of clear tape. Centered over each sponge is a circular plastic vacuum… thing (where the sucking happens, I don’t know the right word), with a long, clear plastic tube extending from it to a smallish (think small purse) plastic box, which I either wear like a handbag or set down near me, depending on how long I’ll be stationary.
My stomach is still quite distended, much less than it was a month ago and continually shrinking, and I have various other bruises and scars and old tape residue which I haven’t entirely removed because it hurts to scrub at it too long or it’s covered with new tape, etc.
So, you get the picture… and it’s not a pretty one. But at the same time, it’s all explainable, and it’s not terrifying. It’s a series of marks that proves I had skilled doctors and good medical care, and that I continue to be watched and cared for.
My question for you is: would you let your family, your husband and mother and children, see this overly-landmarked bit of personal geography? Or would you keep it covered as much as humanly possible? (I could cover it, except for the tubes and the purselike bit, and do so most of the time.)
I gave this a lot of thought when I was still in the hospital. Just how much did I want my children to see and understand? How much was I willing to risk showing my husband, knowing I had already had multiple procedures which would do nothing but threaten our sex life? Where was that line between trust/openness and concealment/protection?
And I decided, as I typically do in these sort of parental conundra, to err on the side of the straightforward, to share rather than to hide. Now, I didn’t walk in the door and flash my bits the moment I got home; first I explained the machine they could see, then I showed just one part of one of the sponges, and so on, and now they’re quite blasé about it all. Likewise Willem; even beyond, he tries hard to convince me that he remains attracted to me and will be no matter what… bless his heart, I want badly to believe him but I’m grossed out by my appearance, so at this point it’s very hard for me to imagine anyone else feeling otherwise. (As a side note, several people have asked: yes, I’m very much considering, even planning, on attending therapy, just as soon as the logistics of it become reasonable. Soon, I think, once the VAC is removed and I’ve been granted restored driving privileges and a handicapped parking permit. Because I know quite well that there are things I need help working through; I might be able to do so on my own but it will be quicker and healthier to reach for help from the start.)
So, really, because I’m curious: what would you have done? God forbid you experience a similar situation, but if you were to come home with an unarguably shocking and potentially scary set of wounds and scars on a part of your body that could be hidden but could also be displayed without breaking laws, how would you handle it?