Top Marks

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Natalie Kate Meehan seeks not to fade her scars, but to heighten her memories. Here’s why she wears her wounds with pride.

So, I’ve been in remission from Crohn’s Disease for a couple of years now – minus a few blips here and there – and there aren’t too many reminders now of those previous ‘Not Good’ years. There’s the extra padding around my waist and my thighs, no space in my jeans, no baggy waistlines. There’s the handful of white tablets I throw down with my morning coffee with little thought. I don’t pay much mind to the day-to-day living with a dormant disease – in fact, I forget most of the time that it’s even there.

The one time I do remember that I’m a full-time representative of the NHS is when I go on holiday and put on a bikini, and notice the little shiny beads on my stomach – the four puncture holes from previous surgery. But I like them. They remind me I’m lucky. I’m okay now. I’m able to eat what I want, which is the main thing, of course. But the outward scars remain.

I often hear people talk of their own scars as though they’re a bad thing. And of course, they can be reminders of accidents, or bad times, generally things you might want to forget. I can understand wanting to forget a memory of a bad night out, an evening in hospital. I can understand the frantic rubbing of Bio-Oil into a jagged reminder of a bike accident or a fall down the stairs.

But I find them useful. My scars pinpoint moments I otherwise barely remember; I wish I could recall more of holidaying on the beach as a 14 year old, but at least I have the wriggly white groove down my shin reminding me of the (later hilarious) embarrassment of being in a bikini in A&E, covered in sand like Old Gregg, and of my sister running down the bay spelling out ‘SOS’ in pebbles. Yes, that happened.

And there’s the small chunk gouged out of my knee that, when I touch it, reminds me of playing in our garden when I was very small – the falling onto a chain-link fence is a signpost to the main memory of just being in the grass, singing and getting muddy with friends. The chicken-pox scar on my hand reminds me of primary school, and of being on my first ever trip away from home, to the Isle of Wight. Pick, pick, picking off the scab in the sun before going bowling. My skin is a walking journal of otherwise uneventful times.

Of course, all of my scars are small really, they’re neither severe nor taking up too much space. But there’s room for more; if I’m lucky enough to carry a child one day I might get wide scar-like stretch marks from pregnancy, or even a Caesarean, or I may need surgery if the Crohn’s decides it’s coming back to mess with my life and all important mealtimes. None of us is on a promise. But in the meantime, I’ll keep pulling on my bikini and consider the little marks on my stomach as proof positive that I prevailed, that it’s thanks to them that I can now get on with enjoying my life. While feeling thankful, of course, that I’m not wearing it in A&E.

 

 

 

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