Have you ever walked past a mirror, looked at your body full of scars, and thought, what the heck?! If you have not, then God bless you! However, if you have, then this article is for you.
At the tender age of twelve, my HS journey began. I had noticed small boils along my groin area that I naively thought was a puberty phase that would eventually go away. By the age of 15, I started to experience significant, chronic abscesses and crippling pain. It was not until I was 17 and in so much despair, I realized that this was something much more significant than puberty woes.
By this time, I was missing numerous days of school, and my body was ridden with significant dark marks left behind from the sores. It was then I knew that I needed medical attention. My first initial visit to a dermatologist for an opinion left me with unanswered questions, horrible pain, and stitches. It was this day that I would finally have a name for the culprit that had been causing so much damage on my body.
I was officially diagnosed with a rare skin disease called Hidradenitis Suppurativa, also referred to as “HS.” I was devastated. HS is an incurable autoimmune skin disease. It produces painful skin abscesses on the body from infected and overactive sweat glands, resulting in unsightly woads and scars. Not only did this disease affect me physically, but it affected me emotionally and mentally as well.
I have clear and vivid memories of that first doctor’s visit. I remember faintly hearing her mention to my mom that there were concerns of cancer due to the appearance of one of the lumps along my right groin area. Consequently, an emergency procedure would need to be done that left me traumatized and weary of continuing to seek help. This was the first of four painful procedures to follow in 3 weeks. Yes, you read this correctly, I said 4. The scars that were left behind looked horrific, and I experienced severe depression and anxiety. I remember just looking at my body in the mirror, staring at my dark, almost black scars. I no longer recognized myself, and this was all just too hard to accept. From then on, I decided to hide my scars as if nothing was wrong, but internally, I mourned my old life.
My HS had taken over, and it had won!
At least that’s what I thought then.
Ten years later, I am 27, and I have accumulated many scars from surgeries, procedures, and active sites. For ten years, I have not only hidden my story, but I have also hidden my body out of embarrassment and shame. For years, I have allowed my scars to define me and label me as damaged. Sadly, for a long time, I couldn’t look at my body and call it beautiful. I would stare through tears and think about what my future husband would say about my marks. Would he see my imperfect body and still love all of me? Would he see my leaking wounds or walk away in disgust? What would my future children ask about their mom? Would they be afraid of her bandages and scars left behind? Would they be diagnosed with this disease and live out my reality as well?
There have been many pitiful breakdowns and thoughts racing throughout my head of the potential damage my HS scars would cause if anyone knew about them. My thoughts and past trauma have haunted me. However, it was not until recently that I decided to change my perspective. This is my body. I could either spend all of my life hiding or be honest and bold with my truth. Is my body model or social media ready? No. But the truth is even with my scars and the pain that they hold physically and emotionally, my body is beautiful.
These days, I spend more time showing my body the self-care and self-love that I deserve, even with my scars. I choose to treat my wounds with love rather than treating them with sorrow. My advice is to focus on changing your perspective of the scars HS has left behind and see the power of what I like to call your “scar story.”
My “scar story” tells an ongoing dialogue of my strength, resilience, and faith. Your perspective is what will make the difference between HS owning you or you owning your HS. I still have my good days and bad days, but I choose to intentionally see the power and impact of each mark. I recommend daily words of affirmation, scripture, digging into your faith, and loving who God created. This has helped me tremendously. My prayer for anyone living with HS is that you know and believe that your scars do not define you. Please look at your body and see each scar, leaking wound, dark or red mark as a victory.
Friend, your story impacts — take that freedom and walk in it confidently because your scars from HS do not define you.