Wednesday, November 12, 2014


The human body has a single goal: to stay alive. That is its sole driving force.

Keep the brain working. Keep the heart beating. Keep the oxygen flowing. Stay alive. No matter what.

When the body endures a major injury, its immediate focus is recovery. 

But once the physical systems are stable, the body essentially says, "We didn't like that, don't do it again. In fact, here. Have some intense feelings. This should help you avoid whatever it was you were doing when you nearly killed us."

This is called trauma. 

*     *     *     *     *

I loved my incision, in theory. I viewed it as a badge of honor, a permanent reminder that I was a warrior. 

But I hated looking at it. The swollen skin was unnaturally pink, so puffy and pinched. The black dash-mark stitches cut along its length, with deep, crusty scabs dotting the patches between. It was harsh. 

It was violent. 

I'd face it each morning, examine it closely, trying to familiarize myself with it. I would stare it down.

And then, I would look away.

*     *     *     *     *

"You can wash your hair now," the nurse said the day the stitches were removed.

She kept talking. "You HAVE TO wash your hair. You have to keep the incision clean. Don't be afraid to wash your hair."

My long hair was a braided, matted mess after two weeks of being covered by a turban of gauze and then head scarves. A good deal of it was encrusted with blood. I wanted it clean.

But my head had been screwed into place and cut into, the skin, the muscle, the bone all cut into. They cut my head open. I didn't know how to do this normal thing, I didn't know how to try to wash my hair and be a pretty girl again after my head had been cut open. 

"Don't be afraid to wash your hair," the nurse said. 

*     *     *     *     *

My friend Karen rinses the shampoo from my hair.

I sit in the bathtub. I'm wearing my bathing suit. 

I cry as I watch the rust-colored water flow off my hair, swirl at my feet, and then slip down the drain. 

I cry hard. 

*     *     *     *     *

Incision. June, 2013. Photo by Erin Lockhart

2 weeks post-surgery. June, 2013

Finally with clean hair. July, 2013

1 year + post-surgery. September, 2014