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Published October 19, 2011, 11:30 PM

Mathison: Our scars help tell our stories

Scars … most of us have them. I have four visible scars and countless invisible ones. I’m actually grateful for the visible scars. They are reminders of broken bones healed, joints reborn, stones banished and thankfully benign nodules gone.

By: Dr. Susan Mathison, Areavoices.com, INFORUM

Scars … most of us have them. I have four visible scars and countless invisible ones. I’m actually grateful for the visible scars. They are reminders of broken bones healed, joints reborn, stones banished and thankfully benign nodules gone.

I have stories of adventure, of denial, of pain and of movement regained through these scars. I create scars when I operate on patients, and mindful of their effect, try to minimize them as much as possible.

Sometimes these procedures happily improve function of eyes so that they may see and noses so that they might breathe freely; sometimes the scars are unhappy reminders of cancer. I influence and repair scars with ointments and lasers, but rarely make them invisible.

Scars are areas of fibrous tissue that replace the normal after trauma, disease or surgery. They are the result of the natural healing process. This fibrous tissue is composed of collagen, a normal component of tissue. During wound healing, the collagen is arranged in a line, rather than the supportive basket-weave of normal tissues.

The heart muscle, if injured by lack of blood flow during a heart attack, forms a scar which lessens the heart’s ability to pump. Internal organs can be damaged and scarred by accidents and even our lifestyle choices. These physical scars are visible only under a pathologist’s microscope.

What about the invisible scars of our spirit? We all have a few of these too. How do these shape our personal stories? When I look back childhood memories, most are happy. But there are a few searing moments of not fitting in, of being ditched at the freshman homecoming dance (J L. wherever you are,) of not making the cheerleading squad (this was a good thing!).

Even as an adult, there are scars of times when things didn’t go according to the plan and I failed or have been let down. While these scars are subtle and hidden, they can have profound impact on our behavior and approach to life. Scars, both visible and invisible, can hold you back or inspire you.

Michael Bungay Stanier, a businessman and author of “Do More Great Work” and “I’m Scarred,” was born with a cleft lip and palate. He had many surgeries as a child. His scars can be seen and heard, as he speaks a bit differently due to his condition. He writes that his scars make some people uncomfortable, and it would be easy to stay quiet. This is his disability.

On the other hand, his scars are a source of power. He stands out from the crowd, and people find it easier to connect with him because of his obvious vulnerability. He can be a role model. He states, “I believe that where we’ve been wounded, and the scars we’ve collected along the way, could be the source of our greatness. Whatever the facts. …In the end, you get to regard your scars as sources of strength and wisdom, or as the ties that bind.”

What stories do your scars tell?

Tips for scars:

    Protect fresh scars from sunlight.

  • Gently massage the scar with lotion or oil daily.

  • Vitamin E: Sorry, research doesn’t show that it works, and up to 33% of patients developed a rash while using it.

  • Mederma: Made for an onion extract, research shows minimal benefit.

  • Silicone sheets and ointments: Research shows mild benefit.

  • Laser: Newer fractional lasers show good results.

  • Surgery: Sometimes required to improve the scar.

  • Scars of the spirit: How did it change your perspective?


Dr. Susan Mathison founded Catalyst Medical Center in Fargo and created PositivelyBeautiful.com to share her thoughts on beauty, wellness and life.

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