STORY OF A SCAR

I shall tell not of only one scar, but rather of four scars that collectively remind me of an event that marked a turning point in my life.

That event was a laparoscopic operation to remove my gallbladder.

Growing up, I had the privilege of getting involved in lots of different sports: swimming, badminton, ice-skating, horse riding, sprints and marathons. I very much relished any activity that encouraged the release of the feel-good hormone.

At the same time, however, it seemed that my body often resisted such a feeling by responding in a way that turned my guts inside out. Every time I exerted myself a bit too much, my limbs go weak, my sight became bright and cloudy at the same time, and I would feel terribly nauseous.

The worst part was I submitted to this apparent illness and did not try harder to fight the unfortunate circumstance. I thought that that was just how my body was made to be like.

As I lived through my early teenage years, my involvement in sports lessened because I knew there was no point attempting to get a dose of euphoria only to be halted by the inevitable pain.

Halfway through adolescence, I found out why I had been feeling perpetually sick. This was after days of being ill, i.e. vomiting every hour or so, and not getting any better. The GP noted my yellow eyes, which I had not quite noticed before, and made hepatitis a preliminary diagnosis. So there was perhaps something wrong with my liver.

The GP referred me to a blood specialist at a hospital and thus began my frequent visits. After some blood tests, X-rays and ultrasound scan, it was diagnosed with a type of blood disorder quite similar to anaemia.

Hereditary spherocytosis.

Basically, instead of bi-concave shaped blood cells, those in my body are spherical. This means that there is less surface area for oxygen to bind. Now that I have a bit more knowledge about protein function, I think that the distorted shape causes the iron component to be somewhat in a different orientation that prevents oxygen to efficiently bind to it.

That would explain why I felt more lethargic than other normal people when doing physical exercises. I simply lacked oxygen when I needed it the most. And there is nothing to be done about it, as it is a genetic disorder.

But why was the operation resulted in the elimination of my gallbladder?

Well, it got a bit more complicated. Apparently, from the X-rays, it was found that there were gallstones in my gallbladder. The doctor hypothesized that they had been forming since I was a little girl, perhaps around 4 or 5 years old, and that they were the deposits from the degradation of my blood cells by my spleen, thinking that those cells were foreign material.

I suppose the presence of gallstones explained the sharp pain I had been feeling around the area between my ribs when I went through moments of physical weakness. So clearly my gallbladder had to go.

And so my skin was punctured at four positions on the right side of my abdomen. Those four sites would eventually become small, permanent scars reminding me of the pain and hardship I went through, not just physically but also emotionally.

All those years knowing I was physically weak caused me to believe that my potential was limited. I did not understand then how much being physically active was crucial to both the body and mind’s development, but I certainly only felt happy and alert when I got on a horse, danced on the ice, or sped through the tracks with my own two feet. To have that taken away from me so quickly was rather devastating.

So not only that those scars on my skin represent the physical pain I endured, they were also a reminder of the emotional and psychological affliction I had to deal with.

But most importantly, they remind me of the strength that was there all along however unacknowledged. That strength kept me going and stubbornly hoping that  I would eventually get better. And I did. Ever since knowing about the illness and having done the necessary steps to eliminate the physical pain, I began to recognise my own strength, and gradually its presence became more prominent.

Of course there will always be moments of weakness, as any kind of moment is transient, but I know that those moments can never be perpetual anymore and that each would only last for a short time, allowing the more positive aspect of my character to dominate in a sustainable manner thus inviting moments of joyfulness.

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