I left the hospital yesterday in tears.

I thought this mess was over.

I thought that I was finally on the road to recovery.

I thought that I could finally move forward.

I thought that all I cared about was being healthy, and getting back to my normal: work, home, training.

I thought that I didn’t care about how the scar looked.

I thought wrong.

It blows my mind that after everything that has happened in the past 28 days that it was seeing an ugly scar forming that has reduced me to a blubbering mess.

And this post is by far the toughest one to write.

But it needs to be written.

There are things that need to be said.

For the past four years, I have worked hard at shaping my body to be an external reflection of who I believe I am.

I have become a strong, fast, and powerful triathlete.

I know that my healthy race body mass means aiming for 12.5% body fat. I have never really been tempted to aim for “skinny” although I’m fully aware that I run faster when I am lighter. And I know that dropping below that makes me susceptible to injury.

I believe that I am more than what the world sees, but I also recognize that as a small, blonde, female, people I meet have certain perceptions of me.

And in the bowels of my soul, in the parts that never see daylight, I admit that I like it when people find me attractive.

There. I said it.

I thought that I was past vanity about my appearance.

karmen headshot 2008
Karmen, April 2008

I truly believed that I didn’t give a damn what anyone thought.

In the past 10 years, I have gone from the flight attendant who had gel nails, highlighted layers and perfect makeup to the hippie that feels more herself in sweatpants and who when dressing for a Christmas party had to run out to the drugstore at 6:30pm because she didn’t own a tube of mascara.

I felt like I’d come a long way in accepting who I am – inside and out.

Clearly I was wrong.

And I think it says something about the society that we live in.

Let’s back it up.

I had a meeting yesterday with the wound care specialist who has been working with me for 2.5 weeks. Ly was the one who fought for me to get a KCI Vac instead of surgery. Thanks to her, my wound went from being 3cm wide open / 3 cm deep to 1cm open / 1 cm deep in 2 weeks – without surgery.

She is pleased with what she sees, says that there is no sign of serious infection, and that my body appears to be healing itself.

Medically, I am doing well.

I should be able to return to work mid-April.

She wants me to start walking 20 minutes, 3 times a day.

And that a year from now, I will need plastic surgery.


The nurses told me from the beginning that I would have a huge scar.

What I thought this meant was that I would have a long red line across my lower abdomen that would slowly fade to white.

Karmen and Jim, Fall 2015

That I would have to wear sunscreen to protect it.

I thought I’d be okay with that.

It didn’t really bother me until today when I finally realized what she meant by huge scar.

The incision is healing itself by “puckering” – literally folded over skin that creates 2×3 inch rolls, held together by a ½ inch thick red scar line.

And while I know in my head that the swelling will fade – I am horrified by what I see.

And I am ashamed to admit that I give a damn.

That the thought of anyone seeing it disgusts me.

And that thinking this really upsets me.

That I feel broken, ugly, disfigured, gross.

And whether other people have worse scars or disfigurements isn’t really the point here.

How is it that as a society we place so much value on our appearance that I am more upset about a puckered scar than I was about an infection?

February was Eating Disorder Month. Last month. 3 of my friends came out. Publicly admitting that they have struggled with eating disorders. These are strong, smart, talented, professional women. Women that can stand on their feet. Women who are more than what they look like.

And yet – these women believed that they would never be enough, until they were thin enough.

And – for perhaps the first time – I understand how this happens. Why they believe this lie.

Repeatedly, we tell women that they will be loved – if only they are beautiful.

That they will be successful – if only they are thin.

That they will be welcome – if only they have enough sex appeal.

On my Facebook feed, every day, I see ads promising me a flat belly and sculpted ass if only I take a pill or do stomach crunches. That all I need is a flat stomach to make my dreams come true.

And yet, for me, and for millions of women who have undergone caesarean sections, hysterectomies, and myomectomies – a fucking flat stomach is a medical impossibility.

And yet I will not stand by and let the corporate media tell me that my scar makes me less of a woman. That it makes me less worthy. That it makes me unattractive.

It is part of what makes me, me.

In my darkest moments, I feel the unworthiness of my scar.

I actually apologized to Jim for being “ugly.”

You know what he said?

“You are beautiful. Stunning…”

wound march 3
The Wound, March 2, 2016

You know what? I am the same person whether I am covered in scars, or if I have smooth skin.

I am including a picture of my scar because it causes me shame. And because the best way that I know of to combat shame is to say “Here it is, world! See it! Mock it! I am more than my scars!”

I have the same skills whether I weigh 210 lbs or 110.

I can have the same impact on the people around me – regardless of what I look like.

I have the same inner strength whether I have a tight ass or not.

Let’s stop judging people based on what they look like.

In fact, let’s stop judging people, period.

This is my journey.

And all I have the right to speak on is what I know.

I have no clue what anyone else is going through.

All I can say is:

You are stronger than you believe you are.

You are more beautiful than the world tells you that you are.

You are worthy of respect.

Go do something. You are here for a reason.

Go fucking do it.


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