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Shower Phobia

Tapman63's picture
Tapman63
Posts: 137
Joined: Dec 2017

Because (hopefully) some of you will understand.  Since my surgery, I completely HATE taking a shower and have to psyche myself up for a few minutes before I can take one.  My surgery was one month ago today (2.19) and, really, considering there was a complication, I've been healing really well.  But, because of that complication (an artery was nicked during the lapro surgery) I also have a footlong or so incision under my left ribs.  I feel the incision pretty much all the time now - I'm sure it's muscles and nerves healing and that's why....but I hate looking at myself.  I hate taking off my shirt and seeing that big scar.  I hate getting in the shower and knowing when the water hits it...that it doesn't feel 'right" (still kind of numb from the mid of my stomach to the side).  I've lost 15 lbs from surgery and I feel like I look frail and old.   I'm really not a vain person.  I didn't have a body to show off at the beach to start with (I'm 55 and not so muscular).  But this has really played with my head.  My girlfriend tries to help...she tells me that it will look better after some time (I know it will)...she tells me that things will start feeling 'right' after time (again, I know).  She just doesn't get it.  And I'm totally aware it's in my head...but has anyone else felt like this? 

donna_lee's picture
donna_lee
Posts: 1001
Joined: Feb 2009

Sorry about the additional repair.

My original scar was 14 inches long, just to get to all the cancer-kidney, liver, nodes; plus removal of bile duct and gall bladder that weren't working.

Only you can affect an attitude adjustment on what the scar looks like to YOU.  Wear a tank top when you are showering if you don't like the sensation of water hitting the scar. And don't look at yourself in the mirror.  It takes a long time for the numbness to go away. They knew mine was advanced when I went into surgery, and had only been given 5-7 months 2 live.  That was almost 12 years ago.

I went back into pool exercise at 6 weeks, and a woman in the dressing room recognized my hot pink scar because she'd had kidney cancer, too.  Wear that scar as a badge of honor...but don't show off your gall bladder removal like Pres. Lyndon Johnson did.

We do "get it."  You're alive to kvetch about it all, which makes you extremely lucky.

It takes time, and sometimes more time, and sometimes an antidepressant med to help things mellow out.  Talk to your PC about your concerns.

Hugs,

donna_lee

APny's picture
APny
Posts: 1998
Joined: Mar 2014

It will look better with time, be patient with yourself. One month is not a long time at all so there's still swelling and redness and numbness. They have special tops you wear if you're a surfer so you don't get sunburned out on the water all day. Get one of those and wear it until you feel better about yourself. Not to play psychologist but I think it's more about hating the reminder of what you went through than how it looks now. And yes, I get it too. I still get phobic going to the bathroom at airports since that's where I first peed blood before they found the RCC via a CT scan. This whole thing does do your head in and you don't bounce back to where you were as quickly as we'd like.

Wehavenotimeatall
Posts: 489
Joined: Aug 2017

i think its more to do with the mental shift. 

Not to downplay the scars .. it’s not nice.

I only had robotic scars and a  6.5 cm horizontal scar but they are added to my two  c sections and my breast lump( benign)  of 12 cm

i have no one looking at mine other than medical staff so they are not bothering me

the shower is a daily reminder of just what you went through

Are you ok when showing it to your girlfriend 

I think you still in shock after your drama and rightly so... it’s a lot to deal with

 

And no she won’t get it:

in time it will fade and just be a reminder of how it saved your life

Sorry probably none of this makes sense but I hope it gets easier as you start to feel stronger

Annie

 

CRashster's picture
CRashster
Posts: 239
Joined: Mar 2017

one day, before my surgery I totally freaked out. I think I had a dream about the scar I’d have. Became really anxious. But now that I have it, it isn’t so bad. Mines about 6 inches above my belly button then kinda circles it to the left. Like an upside down question mark. Battle scars. Be proud. You’re winnng.

Supersum's picture
Supersum
Posts: 103
Joined: Aug 2017

Is your glass half empty or is it half full?

You've been in a battle the likes of which you have never come close to experiencing. You've come out the other side and things are looking great. Four weeks after the operation and you are looking after yourself having showers.

We can measure how well you are doing using functional scaling systems such as the Karnofsky Performance Scale Index:

http://www.hospicepatients.org/karnofsky.html

Where are you on this? I would say you are in the top bracket on the left, close to 100 or not far away.

How about your ECOG Performance Status:

http://ecog-acrin.org/resources/ecog-performance-status

You might be a 1 here as you continue healing but that's okay for now and you will be a 0 soon enough.

Every time you step into the shower you can pump your fist in the air in victory and tell yourself you did it, you got through, you're getting better every day.

Cancer is a nasty, vicious fighter, springing on us unexpectedly after being free to eat us up unknown and undetected for who knows how long.

Not everyone gets to be having a shower four weeks after an operation to get rid of it, but happily you do.

The price you pay is a little wound healing into a scar. A battle scar. A scar of victory. A scar to be proud of.

Just think of all the people who want you in that shower. Your family, your girlfriend, your friends, friends of members of your family, all the medical personnel you encountered, your local doctor, the myriad of nurses who cared for you, the surgical team, the anaesthetic team, the post-op team, everyone here on the forum. Everyone wants you in that shower. It shows you've made it through. It is what all the care and support is for.

Are you going to let a little wound/scar get in the way of that?

Everyone has their own experience dealing with cancer and reacts to it in their own way. I was in a difficult situation for a fair while and then after the operation I had PTSD for a couple of months and slept with the kitchen light on and with the radio on for comfort. But I never stopped doing things to improve myself and get better, even just a little bit each day.    

Your experience is your own and your reaction to it is your own, but do you really want to be worried about a wound/scar and let it hinder your care and healing?

From what you say you have a girlfriend who has stood by you and supported you through all this. What a lucky guy you are.

But she can't do anything to get rid of your wound/scar, she just has to worry some more about you and your reaction to it after all the worrying she has done already.

Maybe you should tell her you have won this battle, the wound/scar is a battle scar it's the least that you could expect to end up with after what you have been through and it is a memento of your victory. If you can, give her a break from worrying about this. She's been through a hard time as well as you. She wants to see you positive and getting back to life.

PTSD and related stress and trauma reactions are very real when dealing with the aftermath of cancer. If you think you need help then seek out some counselling it can help focus your thoughts much better than forum posts can.

If the battle you just won is the only battle you will have then you might as well start to relax and be satisfied with a job well done.

If there is another battle ahead some time in the future then you need to be prepared both physically and mentally because with all the advances being made people are winning future battles as well, if they occur.

Recognise your wound/scar as a symbol of your victory in what will hopefully be your only encounter.

Pump your fist in the air when you are getting into the shower because nothing is holding you back now.

Get some professional help if there is anything you are having trouble coming to terms with by yourself. It's natural to get help it speeds up the process and gets you back to being the person everyone knows and loves.

Good luck.

hardo718's picture
hardo718
Posts: 853
Joined: Jan 2016

Although I don't have a big scar, I have many little ones that I now refer to as my 5 belly buttons.  And then there's the lowest one that's about 3 inches long.  I just ignore that one.  That's where Bob the Blob was dragged out....kickin & screamin.  I know what you're describing though regarding how it feels when the water hits, sort of a strange dead tissue feel?  That's how I described it.  As if it wasn't part of me in a weird way.  The nerves were cut and will mend, just takes time.  And sometimes, when they start to mend it'll feel like your skin is on fire.  I wish you the best, a speedy recovery and be patient with yourself, it's a process that takes time to adjust to.

Donna~

Cybball
Posts: 111
Joined: Nov 2017

I have the same scar that you do, but on the right.  Honestly, I went into the whole thing not caring about the surgery, pain or scars.  My cancer was removed and I have a new lease on life right now.  It does improve.  My surgery was on 1/26 and I'm feeling pretty darn good compared to a month ago.  Still numb near the incision, numb on my right thigh too, but I"m alive.  :)  I'm sure you feel the same way.  We all deal differently.  Your thing with the shower will subside as you heal more.  Stay strong and focus on the important stuff.  It helps me anyway.  Being able to share and see other people's stories on here saved me.

Bay Area Guy's picture
Bay Area Guy
Posts: 498
Joined: Jun 2016

I didn't have that kind of scar with my kidney lap surgery, but I had an even worse situation with an emergency abdominal surgery I had to have in 2010.  I had a sigmoid volvulous, which means that my sigmoid colon twisted 540 degrees and, for all intents and purposes, shut everything down.  I had surgery to remove 18 inches of that sigmoid colon, but because of all the inflammation, the surgeon decided to give the remaining parts of my colon time to heal, so I had to wear an ostomy bag for about 14 weeks while I got my strength back and got my weight back.  THAT was something that just depressed the hell out of me having to see and feel 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

I had my annual physical with my primary care physician on Monday and he had not seen the scars from my lap surgery before and he also took a look at the scars from the abdominal surgery and he was amazed that they had all faded.  The same will happen with your scar.

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