Practical advice and personal wisdom from a four-time cancer survivor.

My scar inspired my logo

January 14, 2016 by Julie Negrin

I wake up with my arms wrapped around my belly. There are weird lights shining above my head. My head feels so fuzzy. Where am I?

I’m drugged. I’m in a hospital bed, my hands protectively covering my stomach. As if I could stop the creepy nightmare I just woke from, where people were slicing me, stitching me up.

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This is NOT what my scar looked like right away! This is from July ’14.

Except this isn’t  a bad dream. This is real. They DID cut me open. They did remove organs, several of them. I start whimpering. The drugs, the hospital lights, the surreal realization that I’ve been butchered. It feels like my psyche, some deep part of me remembered the surgery and the only thing my brain can relate to is a Frankenstein movie. They made a hole in my belly, lifted out my baby making organs and my precious colon. Left me with a 7-inch scar. I cry out for my Auntie Janet. But she is no longer sleeping at the hospital. It is my first night alone after surgery.

My roommate on the other side of the curtain hears me moaning in pain, crying, confused from the multiple narcotics creating sludge in my mind. She is an older black woman who had a brain tumor removed a few days earlier. She is healing quickly and gave me hope. She starts to coo, “it’s okay, baby, you’re okay, you’re safe. You’re all right” over and over again until I calm down. My family wanted me to have a private room. But I’m so grateful she is with me during this awful night.

LOOKING BACK

I write this nearly two years later. Twenty-two months exactly and conjuring up this memory leaves me sobbing, I can barely see the words I’m typing. They cut me open. And took pieces of me. They snatched away parts of me that I can never have back.

My surgery was in March 2014 at UCSD. It’s a teaching school. My room was constantly visited by hordes of medical residents. They all wanted a look at my scar. “Oh, it looks so good!” they’d exclaim. As if I was some specimen that had been opened and stitched up according to their teaching manual in anatomy class. I was too subdued from the drugs to yell “I’m a person here! This scar your talking about is MINE. I had to suffer through it and now I have to live with it and everything it represents, the loss of my ovaries, my womb, my ability to digest properly. It may look P-R-E-T-T-Y to you but it’s horrifying to me. So please stop talking about it like it’s some work of art.”

At that time, the scar frightened me – it made me so fragile. I couldn’t walk upright for weeks and had to protect it when I carefully rolled out of bed. But as it healed and the horror of the operation faded, it began to fascinate me. It’s weird little shape and clean pink line.

Many months later, it started to look like art to me. An unintentional magenta tattoo. So much of being a cancer patient leaves us feeling powerless. Any time I can take ownership over something that has happened TO me and transform it into something powerFUL and positive, it helps me heal a little more from the trauma. If this was going to be anyone’s art project, it would be MINE.

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This image came to me one day, laying in bed resting as usual. I sketched the drawing on a post-it and showed it to a designer friend. She took it and ran with it – making it MUCH better than my little drawing!

And that’s how my logo came into existence. That little line that signifies so much. My stomach, my body, my torso would never be the same. I would never be the same.

The scar is the line drawn in the sand. Like many cancer patients, it’s the line that divides my life into two chapters: Before and After.

And now it’s also become a path. A path that’s not a straight line but somehow still leading me to help others. I’m taking the experience that caused me so much pain and transforming it into something that, hopefully, will help others get through theirs.

I can do this.

 

 

BIG HUGE THANK YOUS to Kim Gilory for donating my beautiful banner design and Ruthie Edelson for taking the fantastic photo. Check out their phenomenal services on their sites.

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Categories: Recovery, Side Effects, Spirituality

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  • Hi, my name is Julie Negrin. I’m a nutritionist that’s battled 4 cancers: melanoma, ovarian, colon, and endometrial cancer — the last 3 all at once — due to a genetic disorder called Lynch Syndrome. In the three years since I lost four organs, I've been slowly transforming to "disabled" after living a mostly able-bodied life. I've also had a bunch of other complications including not being able to eat solid foods.... Stick around if you're not afraid of the ugly bits. Much love,

    Much love,

    Julie Negrin

    About Julie & Cancer Teacher

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