I knew from before my treatment began that there would be scars, both emotional and physical. To be honest, they initially seemed like the least of my problems when it came to surviving or not, compared to the long list of other potential side effects from both the treatment and the cancer itself.
However as my recovery progressed, the issue of scars become more important and one of the most helpful things I discovered was the Japanese art of Kintsugi or Kintsukuroi in which broken pots are mended with gold: so the scars make them more beautiful and valuable than before. Manchester hosts a Passion Art Trail every Easter, and one of the exhibits by Rachel Ho in 2016 literally bought me to tears when I saw it.
The idea that I too could become more valuable by highlighting and valuing the scars of my experiences was a powerful one: that by healing myself not back to how I was before, but a different version that didn’t hide or ignore what had happened to me was a concept that bought me great comfort.
This idea of being more valuable for having been through something that leaves scars also released many of my fears about the future and helped rebuild my self confidence. I stopped aiming for perfection, and the expectation that I could achieve a return to the exact state that I was in before my diagnosis. I also realised that I may have looked fine on the outside then, but I had cancer inside!
This acceptance of change and hence whatever is actually happening in the present moment is an important part of mindfulness. It doesn’t mean that we don’t act, it means that we stop wasting our energy in wishing that things were different, which can give us unrealistic expectations and hence some very unhelpful self induced pressure. In contrast, acceptance reduces our stress levels, calms body and mind, and allows us to heal more quickly as well as think more clearly. Once we can think more clearly, we have the energy to act with focus and clarity, therefore ultimately healing more effectively and transforming our suffering into happiness.
There is much that can be done on an emotional and physical level for scarring of course: and it is impossible to separate the two. I have been supported by art therapy, reiki, reflexology, nutritional therapy, homeopathy, flower essences, essential oils, mindfulness, cranio-sacral osteopathy and chiropractic practitioners over the last three years since my diagnosis and subsequent cure.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy was invaluable in reducing internal scarring and functionality and I am very grateful that we had an MS Therapy Centre here in Manchester as well as an hour away in Leeds: and even more grateful to my amazing friends and family who drove me there every day for 6 weeks once I came out of hospital. Under the care of the wonderful team at Wythenshawe Hospital Burns Unit I learned to spend time daily for many months massaging scar tissue with healing oils so that it became soft and pliable once again, which undoubtedly helped the healing process and allowed me to gain not just visible but also functional repair.
However, I shall leave the last word to my boyfriend Phil. When I expressed concern that he might be put off me by my scars, he just looked at me, smiled and said “To be honest, you’ve always looked a bit funny. I wouldn’t worry about it.”
Thanks, darling man 🙂
Katie Sheen, Founder of Soul Nutrition
Other Mindfulness in the Midst of Cancer blog articles:
Katie has created a one hour online course called ‘Mindfulness for Anxiety’: it consists of multiple short videos that you can watch, pause, rewind and revisit whenever you need them. There are also short text sections of practical suggestions and activities, plus some printed downloads. You can discover more, access 10 minutes of free video previews, and enjoy a 50% discount by clicking here….