Scars get a bad rap. They are often seen as ugly, dangerous, criminal and something to hide and be ashamed of. In popular culture, it’s the bad guys that have the scars.
It’s no wonder so many people feel self-conscious about them. Sophie Mayenne from London, England, is working to change these perceptions through her photography project ‘Behind The Scars,’ a series of poignant photographs of people, their scars and the stories behind them.
“As a photographer I have always been drawn to raw and un-retouched work, and what makes us different to one another - and this is where my interest in scars stems from,” Sophie told Bored Panda. “When I first started the project, I remember saying that if I could make a difference to at least one person, then I have succeeded. As the project has grown, I just hope it will reach more people, and continue to have a positive impact.”
Her subjects, often insecure and vulnerable after years of hiding away their scars, as well as the psychological trauma that they can carry with them, have embraced her project enthusiastically. “The response has been really positive - and seeing yourself through a photographer's eyes can be a powerful experience,” Sophie told us. “For some people the experience of the photoshoot can be very therapeutic - as they may have not shared their experiences before, and for others they are consolidating their new found love of their scars - and body.”
It seems that Sophie's project is certainly having the positive impact that she set out to achieve, as people are inspired to tell their stories and shed the burden of insecurity. “As more people find out about the project - more people come forward,” She told Bored Panda. “I hope in the future to be able to make a book of the series - that people past and present can relate to.”
“These, in my opinion are some of the best, and most honest images I have ever taken.”
Scroll down to check out some of the photos from Sophie's amazing and inspiring project, as well as short descriptions of the stories behind them. Let us know what you think in the comments!
The last few months have been extremely challenging as the condition of my skin as deteriorated massively. From 18 months old when I was diagnosed with epidermolysis bullosa to earlier this year I was able to live an almost normal life despite my skin, it was easy to hide and easy to manage. But earlier this year it started getting rapidly worse and I am now able to do less of the things I once could. My confidence and self esteem is almost non existent most of the time. So much of my day is spent managing my skin or being in pain from it. But now more than ever I need to remind myself that I am still the same old me. I am still beautiful and this condition that I will be lumbered with for the rest of my life, does not define me as a person. It will always be a huge part of my life but i will never let me take over my life. EB is so rare that there is so little awareness for it and in a lot of cases it is life threatening so I'm posting this not only for me but for everyone suffering. Because of the lack of awareness, the funding towards trials and research is so limited that I probably will never access to a cure, as much as that upsets me, I just hope that future children will get access to more treatment and a possible cure. If anyone cares enough to find out more about EB, google search "Debra eb".
“My scars are from a fire related to domestic abuse. I got burnt at the age of 29, and it’s been a difficult journey coming to terms with it. The comfort I take from my scars is they make me who I am today. I call them my most precious, and expensive piece of jewellery I own. I have survived and if having my picture taken, and exposing my scars can help anyone else then that’s good for me!.”
“My name’s Tracey. I’m a 45 year old mother of two. In 2012, my GP diagnosed me with a common cold which drastically got worse. I was given cold medication which made me feel awful. I called 999 and someone came out to see me. They said everything was fine. Everything was fine for 40 minutes or so. I asked my daughter to make dinner, and then I went upstairs to lay down - and didn’t wake up. My daughter called 999 and her and my friend Chyle got in an ambulance to Kings College Hospital. When I awoke, I was confused. I did not recognise my daughter or friend. They ran a CT scan and found out I had two types of meningitis. I was put in an induced coma for a month. When I was awoken, I could not speak. My daughter came to see me daily - I could hear her but couldn’t reply which annoyed me. I later found they’d put feeding tubes down my throat - I was told that I kept trying to pull all of the tubes out. I was kept in intensive care for a further two months before having a heart attack. Whilst I had my heart attack, Doctors found a growth on my heart valve and a whole in my heart. They replaced my valve with a titanium one - which ticks like a little clock. After the operation they moved me back to the ICU, but this time I was in an isolated room because of the meningitis and recovery. After a month I was given a tracheostomy which allowed me to talk and communicate with Doctors, nurses and my family. For a while, I couldn’t speak properly and could only manage basic communication and small talk. I found it hard to understand others, but tried through one word answers. In April I was moved to Lewisham hospital’s neuro ward where the Doctors taught me the basics of counting, talking, walking, eating, drinking, washing and dressing. For the first month I could not walk properly so I was given a wheelchair - and then a zimmer frame to walk around the ward called “Frank Cooksey”. The cooks on the ward kept feeding me as I was a size 2-4 at the time - after weeks of walking around the ward, they let me walk around the hospital with family, friends and hospital staff."
"In 1997 at the age of 7 i survived a gas explosion. I have undergone 27 reconstructive surgeries. I have always been comfortable with my scars, to me they are beautiful and they tell you different stories. They are special.”
“When I was 14 I rescued a stray horse called Fly, and I fell in love with him immediately. One morning, I was feeding the horses in the field (just like every other morning). Fly tried to kick another horse behind him, but missed and kicked me in the face, just below my left temple. At first I was shocked, I was young and alone in a field and covered in blood. However after a few trips to the hospital the scar is just a part of my face. Now it’s been 4 years since I was kicked, the scar has created an adhesion to my cheek bone which is why is is noticeable. Although being faced with an opportunity to remove the scar, I never would. I don’t think beauty has to be symmetrical!.
“When I was young, I pulled a cup of hot boiling tea off the counter. As a result, it burnt my left shoulder down to my left breast and stomach. My scar has been with me since I was 11 months old - it is all I know, I don’t even remember my body without a scar. I have my confident days where I say "It’s just a scar”. I’m sure everyone has a scar. I’ve definitely had my bad days, but only when I meet a new face and they stare at it in disgust. It makes me think OMG is there something on my body? And then I remember “the burn” lol. I wear this scar because it is a part of me. It’s just a scar."
“I played with a hand gun at age 14 and it gave me a lifetime in a wheelchair. But despite what you might think, I’ve never found a reason to be victimised by my condition. My spiritual and physical scars made me grow stronger, empowered. I wanted to be a tennis player, so I became a tennis player. I wanted to be a model, and guess what... I am a model. As a model of diversity, I work in the fashion industry representing people that have limitations but are not limited. They love, they fight, they win, they lose. They are real and my story helps them to see how beautiful and meaningful they are. All scars included.”
"Today I am a little angry at the world. I'm angry that it's been 2 years and 2 days and I still don't feel complete. I have been cut up and then stitched and stapled, but today I don't feel whole. I'm angry that my memories and dreams of what happened blend together with the present. It's 2 years and 2 days and today I don't feel okay. But I will. "
“I started self harming when I was 13 and have struggled with it ever since. The issue with self harming is it gets progressively worse and you end up doing more and more damage to yourself than you think is possible when you first start. It truly is an addiction and you get to a point where surgeons tell you that plastic surgery can’t fix the appearance of the scars, so the only thing you can do is love your scars so much that all the negative connections that come along with self harm slowly disappear - along with all the pain attached to the scars. My scars tell my story, and I’m never going to let anyone else’s thoughts or opinions change that. “
“I was born without both radius. When I was one I had my first surgery on my right hand. One year later doctors decided to operate on my left hand. Two different doctors operated on my hands. The first operation went well. During the second operation, there were some complications. Doctors didn’t know that bones in my left hand are different from the ones in my right hand. When I was 15, I noticed that there was something wrong with my left wrist. I had to have surgery once again. This disease is called hemimelia, and a case like mine happens for 1 in 100,000 people. I always had a big problem with my scars - I couldn’t accept myself because of them and other people also had a problem with my scars. Now I think that this is who I am. Finally I can feel that I don’t have to hide it, because this is the real me.”
“I was diagnosed with a rare and extremely aggressive form of cancer called Osteosarcoma when I was 27 years old. Doctor’s think that I had the tumour since I was 26. My right arm was aching whilst I was sleeping - everyone I would chop vegetables, and get dressed. I went to see a chiropractor - he moved my arm around and I screamed very loudly. He just said that I had damaged my muscle and said I was very dramatic. Unknown to him, what lay behind my “dramatic” scream was something quite sinister. I was living in South Africa, Cape Town and had recently received my visa to live there. I was working with ant-sex trafficking victims and supporting abused women and children. I had just started helping out at a support group, when one of the girls approached me and said “Hey, you don't know me very well, but I wanted to let you know that I’ve had 3 vivid dreams about you in a row now. In them you come to my house, and when I wake up I feel God’s presence, so I really feel that you need to come to my house.” I’m quite a spiritual person, and had dreams in my childhood that had come true, so I thought I'd go and see her. The day I went to her house she wasn’t actually in. as I was walking out of her courtyard, I had a sense that her dog was going to go for me. The dog looked chilled, so I just shut the gate and as I put my hand through the gate to lock it, I heart the dog bark, and jump up to bite m, so I gently jumped back and my arm completely snapped as I landed. My friend took me to the Doctors. I was sent for a scar and it showed that I had a very clean break. The Doctor’s face dropped when she saw my scan. she booked me in to see another Doctor the next morning. I was in so much pain I didn’t really question why I was seeing another Doctor. When I saw him the following morning he asked me a lot of the typical cancer questions - Have you lost weight, have you passed blood, and so on. He said something had been eroding my bone- my heart was pounding thinking of all the things it could possibly be. He then said those dreaded words that literally took my breath away - you most probably have cancer."
"In the summer of '15 I was in a house fire. My clothes and way of life up in flames. I spent my summer in a burns unit on Fulham Road. My scars and scar tissue continue to change, but I have never felt more beautiful."
“When I was in my 20s, I was taking a short cut through the local park when I realised the gate had been locked. I decided to climb up over the railings and my footing slipped, catching my face in two places. The spikes passed through my face. Luckily the park attendant noticed what happened and called an ambulance. I feel like my looks were ruined by the accident, but I carried on as normal. People often think I’ve been in a knife attack or fight, so believe I’m a bad person.”
“I was only 8 years old when I had a car accident. I was with my friend and her mother, sitting in the back seat of the car. I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. All of a sudden a car jumped out of nowhere, and came towards us. We crashed violently, the car flipping twice. Unfortunately I was the one who was injured badly - when the car was flipping, I broke the window by falling on it. I hit my head on the ground (losing part of my hair), and the car was on top of me with half of my body inside, and the other half outside. I was taken to the hospital by helicopter. The doctor put me into a medically induced coma and operated on my ruptured liver. I suffered a chest and head trauma. I was in a coma for 10 days, and on the 10th day the doctor told my mother that there was nothing else they could do, and that I wouldn’t survive the night. The day after I woke up with a 42c temperature because of the medicine I had been given. The doctor told my Mum that I was a miracle. I have been carrying this scar for the last 22 years of my life, and it has been like a tattoo with represents a new chapter.”
“In 2014, I was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma, a bone cancer. I had chemo for nearly a year and several surgeries for bone transplantations in my arm. They took pieces of bone from my leg and thigh. One time, my transplant broke, so I had a major surgery which took 8 hours. In two years I had 10 surgeries and I have one planned for November 2017.”
"In 2014 I was diagnosed with angiosarcoma of the breast, a rare and aggressive cancer. Three surgeries and two chemotherapy treatments later these are the scars I bear. My recent operation was an innovative surgery which involved removal of my sternum and four ribs, which were replaced by surgical cement, muscle from my back and a skin graft. It took me a long time to finally embrace my scars. They document my journey and the courage and strength I did not think I had. Recently I was told the cancer had returned. Surprisingly I feel at peace"
"My body is a merry-go-round of scars - new ones arrive, choose a pitch and nest amongst the constellation etched into my skin. In time, some will fade until I can’t even remember the first time I pressed my finger to puckered flesh and welcomed them to the gang. There are self-harm scars that go back further than I care to remember, some so faint I forget that they’re there until a fluorescent changing room light flickers them into view, others stark with mottled tissue. There are skin biopsy bubbles, surgery scars and a tapestry of tokens from happy drunken mishaps that I will never forget. It’s a canvas that, by and large, I have come to accept, laugh at and learn from. The deepest layer of scarring, however, always been the trickiest to tame. The scars that ripple across my body are an unexchangeable gift from an autoimmune disease called morphea. The nature of the disease means my skin will probably never stop acquiring these new buddies; instead, they’ll come and go in shades of “fuck you”. There are old bruises slowly fading into a web on my stomach from the first two bouts, calcified white patches that are reaching fever pitch and shiny lesions that have only just stirred. If they were static I’m sure I’d be further along in learning to love all of the skin I’m in, but their tempestuous nature makes them hard to ignore. Some days they are so sensitive a brush of fabric can send shivers down my spine and showering has turned into an odd dance I never fancied learning - jumping from sensitivity to hot water, then cold water and then to scrubbing. Although - with a little push and an attempt to see them from a true outsiders perspective - I am learning to love each one as they arrive. They are a part of me: each freckle, mole, scar, tattoo, bruise, and lesion is threaded into the rainbow suit of skin I’m in. So, I’m going to embrace each new stripe because they are a reminder of every battle I’ve fought in this body. As I collect new scars, I will learn to navigate each and every evolution as it arises."
“I’ve become the strong and independent woman I am today because of my Mum, and because of what happened. It has all been a part of my journey. It started when I was 5 months old - whilst taking a nap, a fire started next to my bed and I lost two fingers. It took one year of recovery at the hospital, and 25 years to accept it. I went through awkward handshakes and looks, children’s whispers and hiding it at all costs - which meant always using my other hand. Because of what happened, my Mum raised a fighter who is not afraid of who she is anymore. I am not going to hide it, although it still hurts when I move my hand and it is sometimes a mental struggle to fully accept it."
“I managed to make it from 1993 - 2014, to 21 years old having no health issues whatsoever. No broken bones, no serious illnesses - then suddenly, I was having brain surgery. I was so stupidly happy not to lose that much hair when I had my 2 operations, a year a part. I didn’t even lose much during radiotherapy. I do have this line now, all the way around the side of my head that will never grow hair. I love it. Every day I see it, and the dent in my head beneath it, and the lump where muscle has slipped and gathered. It reminds me what I’ve been through - and how I didn’t just survive, I smashed it. I will be having the scar on my head “re-opened” early next year (2018) - they’re reconstructing my dented face. I am hoping for the best resulted, but also that I get to keep this pronounced, near perfect line. My tummy scar is newer. That’s been harder to come to terms with - but i’m trying not to give it too much power. I’m owning it. My body is a collection of markings, and memories. It’s a map of me. Someday I’ll leave this world, I will escape my skin, and I will leave behind a form of myself that was loved - so loved - by myself and others - and it will have been lived in!”
Scars on my left arm are from self harm over the past 7 years. Scar on the top right abdomen is the result of surgery to extract rib cartilage to reconstruct my left ear"
"I've had 15 surgeries, a brain tumour, a punctured intestine, an obstructed bowel, a cyst in my brain and a condition called Hydrocephalus. I grew up without realising my body was different until one day I wore a bikini and was met with looks of pity and shock. I thought the solution was to hide them and never talk about them, but in fact, what helped me was the exact opposite. When I was 21, I finally started embracing my scars and accepting my body for what it does. In celebration of that I launched a campaign called #scarrednotscared because I knew I couldn't be alone. I didn't want anyone to feel isolated in their struggles with physical illness and chronic pain, and it became the perfect platform to remove the shame around our scars and our bodies in general."
"My first scars arrived at 14, whilst playing a chasing game with friends. I jumped over the wall, but the wall moved and I ended up scarring both of my legs. For years I've been paranoid about showing them and only wore trousers. The scars on my left arm and face were given to me by a deranged person out for revenge, the worst part it was not meant for me. I got caught up in a fight where the person had a glass in her hand whilst punching me. I was only aware of it when blood was pouring from my face. I didn't notice my arm until I looked down to see my arm opened up like a butterfly chicken. I now love me for me, ever since I started Focusing On Creating my Ultimate Self."
"I was born at 24 weeks, weighing 1 pound 11 ounces. The big scars across my stomach is where where my bowel had not fully developed properly resulting in tiny little holes across my intestine which caused septicaemia. The doctors described it as operating on a piece of spaghetti. The scar below it is a result of having an ileostomy bag. The star shaped scar under my armpit is where a tube was placed in order to help feed me. The scar across my neck is where a tube was placed in order to receive medication. My mother always reminds me that my scar were supposedly meant to shrink as I grew, but instead they grew with me as reminder to always appreciate my life"
"At 18 I was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer that predominately affects young people. Before my diagnosis I had never heard of Ewings and had no idea how much it would impact my life. Part of the treatment process involved having my femur replaced with titanium which resulted in a scar the length of my thigh. I often felt as if the scar would remain a constant trigger of the times I spent sick to my stomach in hospital, but I'm gradually learning to view them as symbols of health, recovery and a chance at a long life. I can now zoom out and see more than a sick body, but a person even more motivated in life than before."
“I was born with five holes in my heart and have been wearing my zipper since I was 2 weeks old. I had my second lot of open heart surgery at 2 years old and my third lot at 26 (6 months ago!) because my heart was too big. Oh the irony of having a big heart - physically and metaphorically! I have truly been on a heart journey my whole life, and my scars are a reminder that I am strong and can do anything. When I was little my parents did the worrying for me, but having my 3rd lot of surgery this year, I have really understood the strength and beauty of my scar. It’s me! To have an open heart is a true gift in life, and I’m lucky enough to have been opened 3 times. I used to not even be able to say the word scar- as if it was something evil and ugly, but now I see it as a beautiful word. The older I get, the more honoured I feel to be a part of the exclusive “zipper club” and yes, as a woman, it has been hard wearing a scar down the middle of my chest, by my breasts. (one of the sexiest parts of your body!) - but the way I see it is that I’m so abstract, Picasso would want to paint me!”
“My scars were made whilst I was in a coma for 90 days. The scars on my face, neck and groin are there because I was on life support known as ECMO - my lungs had been devastated by a necrotising pneumonia and they had to stop me breathing - the ECMO oxygenated my blood and kept me alive for 66 days. The other round scars on my body are from chest drains because both my lungs had collapsed and infection and air was trapped in my chest cavity. The scar on my back is from surgery I had because my chest had filled with so much blood that it was impacting my heart. All this began when I went on a school trip to the Ardeche in France. I left on the 26th June with the school and came home on the 24th October. I was in a French hospital in Montpellier, in Intensive care all that time. They never gave up on me and fought with me. My scars are the map of my survival and I’m very proud of them. They give me strength and individuality. It’s very rare for people to survive this infection - and in actual fact I survived two, because after the first pneumonia, I suffered a second infection - hospital born MRSA and went into multiple organ failure. We all fought on. I have a small scar on my throat where I had a tracheostomy - it was strange to have no voice when I woke up, but I wasn’t afraid - I only believed.”
“I had surgery to correct my scoliosis last year. The experience of being in hospital and the recovery process was incredibly humbling. I have a new found respect for my body. It’s a practical body, it functions. I can run, dance, jump and I’m no longer preoccupied by “problem areas” like I used to be. I feel so liberated and lucky to have realised how great and capable my body is.”
“I collapsed one day after graduating University and was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect (a hole in the heart). This was later repaired by open heart surgery in 2015, leaving me with this big “zipper” and 3 chest drain scars. In October 2016, after a successful recovery I suffered an unexplained heart malfunction that caused multiple blood clots and resulted with me struggling to walk, permanent damage to several organs, a 3 week hospital stay and emergency surgery on my legs. From this I have 2 more scars where they entered the femoral arteries by my hips. I’m really proud of all of my scars, but feeling proud and accepting what has happened to my body are two separate things that have taken a while to come to terms with. All of these hurdles have made me a better person, and I refuse to let my circumstances define how I live my life. I hope that other people who may be living with heart problems, or going through similar experiences will look at me, or my scars and think “If she can get through this, then so can I.”
Hello my name is Lamissah La-Shontae and I’m a 10 year old U.K Model and Actress Life isn’t about what colour hair or eyes you have .. or the shape of your body .. height or weight .. nor is it about the colour of your skin. Beauty is inside out.. we are all beautiful.. you just have to look deep inside to see and feel it... the eyes are the window to your soul and tell a thousand stories. I was born with several different marks and birthmarks .. most of which faded or disappeared with age, the Drs said it's a common thing in mixed babies. Last year a brown mark I had on my arm seemed to get darker, so I was referred to a specialist dermatologist. We were reassured it was nothing to worry about. Things carried on as normal. I was following my dreams - travelling the world, modelling and filming lots of amazing film productions. I was working very hard… until earlier this year when the mark on my arm seemed to grow rapidly bigger and darker - spreading into my armpit and slightly down my arm. My GP saw me at the clinic and rang immediately for me to be seen and referred to a specialist. 2 days later I received a call from the hospital - an emergency appointment had been made for me the following morning to see a specialist dermatologist again. The morning was such a whirlwind- everything happened so fast! We arrived at the hospital and I was seen by the specialist who said he wasn’t happy, and diagnosed it as a form of melanoma which was growing rapidly. It had infact grown another CM from the day the GP had referred me. He wanted me to be seen immediately by a plastic surgeon."
“I did not see myself before my scar - I have had it for as long as I can remember. I was 4 months old when I had a surgery to remove one of my spare kidneys. Yes, I was born with an extra one which was making me very ill. My mum says my scar was very tiny after they operated - probably because I was tiny over all. As I grew, my scar grew with me - and so did my discomfort and embarrassment over it. It’s very much a personal journey, but I am fortunate to have support from special people. It’s taken me 34 years to come to terms with it - I haven’t got to the point where I can confidently wear a saree, or a two piece bikini without a care in the world, but hopefully - one day - I will get there soon!"
“My body is littered with scars from troubles times. For a long time it felt like a battleground. My relationship with my body and it’s scars hasn’t been an easy one. Yes as I have grown older I have become less inclined to give a shit what people think. I have come to see my body as a wonderful gift - it is uniquely mine, it has taught me things nothing else could, it is resilient and it is beautiful. My body and I are now an army and my scars an exquisite reminder of my strength. Being a part of Behind The Scars feels like being in a safe space where Sophie allows all our stories and scars merge to create something empowering, joyful and deeply healing. Today I feel like I can show myself…”
“I was diagnosed with scoliosis at 9. By then it was already classed as “severe” with a curve of 40 degrees. I knew walking out of that consultation that I’d never be able to be a ballet dancer. Since being diagnosed it has been hard for any dance teacher to want to teach me, or take me seriously. My spine got so bad, it caved in on itself, with a degree of 90 at the top and 60 on the bottom. I had to have spinal fusion surgery at 13. I was really lucky to go to a dance school at 15 where the teachers saw my love of ballet and focused on that, not my spine. I’m also really grateful to go to a performing arts college where my tutors treat me the same, and see me as someone with a passion, not a disability. I’m still coming to terms with my back. After six years I still don’t feel like “me”, but I have to remind myself if I didn’t have surgery I would be in a wheelchair.”
“When I was 9, I broke my arm riding my bike on a rainy day, and as my arm broke when I fell, my appendix burst. All the focus was on my broken arm being at school, until I suddenly couldn’t walk or move. I was constantly throwing up, I went to the doctors and they didn't know until the very last visit. They told me and my family I had to be rushed into hospital ASAP in an ambulance. They later found out I had developed “pentinitis” where all the poison from the appendix had leaked into my bloodstream, so it needed removing immediately. I was in intensive care for months on bedrest, and had to learn how to walk again. I missed a lot of school, but later found out that If I had come in a day later, I would have died. So the scar represents that I have to really live everyday.”
"I was told I had breast cancer in April 2016. After various tests and biopsies (from which I have a few tiny scars), I had surgery a week before my 27th birthday. I don’t remember much about those first few days, expect I watched a lot of The Sopranos and I was in a lot of pain. The first time I saw my wound I was inconsolable. I had a lot of issues over the next few months - my nurses said I’d broken the record for longest time taken to heal after a lumpectomy. My body rejected the dissolvable stitches, and I had a couple of infections. One day I was out with friends, and my wound opened up on one side, by the time I got to A+E blood was pouring out and my shirt was drenched. So the scar is much thicker than the original incision. It’s difficult to talk about still, and I’m definitely not totally liking my scar yet, but I’m getting there. It’s not easy having a scar on a part of your body that’s “Sexy” - I don’t have that relationship with my breasts anymore. This journey with cancer has taught me a lot, and I appreciate my body for doing it’s best and keeping me alive. I know that soon I’ll appreciate this scar too, as a reminder of how I had the strength to get through. The scar under my armpit is from the same surgery, where they removed a few lymph nodes to check if the cancer had spread - it hadn’t. I’ve had a lot of issues with movement in my arm and tightness in my armpit from it - who knew being able to put your arm above your head would be such a lovely, joyous achievement.”
“My tumour changed my life in so many ways. A life changing operation to remove the tumour, the size of a grapefruit gave me self acceptance on a level that was truly unconditional. In 2012 I was diagnosed with non Hodgkin's lymphoma. Cancer wasn’t an issue, what was was the discovery of a huge tumour. It was benign, but sizeable. Attached to my liver, a bunch of nerves and my main artery to my leg. Five hours of surgery, a deflated hung, my diaphragm put on halt, a bypass with my insides out on a table. My fear going into surgery was the long term affects and how my body would recover. Will my boyfriend still love me, will he still find me attractive, will any man find me acceptable to look at? The truth was, it taught me to love myself hard, without compromise. Inside and out, there was a journey of total acceptance. My amazing body had not failed me yet, so who was I to not love it back for keeping me alive? The message is simple - we are provided with a beautiful vessel to carry our soul. It works so hard to support us daily - the love I have for my body is insurmountable. It allows me to be my glorious self - I am a very lucky girl.”
"I have scarring and stretch marks on my left leg due to the condition Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency (PFFD), a condition I was born with. This meant going through multiple operations at a young age. I have started to feel confident about my scars in the last few years, accepting them and embracing them."
“I was in a motorcycle accident 10 years ago with my dad whilst on holiday in Thailand. It was around 9pm and we were driving back from dinner, and a car coming from the opposite direction over took another care and came into our lane. My dad veered off to the left, so the car just hit us on our right sides. I broke my femur, which they say is as hard as concrete. I suffered cuts and grazes all over my skin, but luckily those didn’t scar - but my broken leg meant a long scar on my outer thigh. A couple of years later they also realised I had torn a knee ligament - I had surgery and came out with six new scars. Several years later they found yet another torn ligament on the side of my knee, so there was more surgery. I now have 8 scars along my leg, which I love, but since I have hypertonic scarring they’re all quite wide and evident. I remember the first time I wore a skirt after the accident, about 2cm of my scar was showing, and because of that, I didn’t even dare to wear it out. It took a couple of years to get used to the scars, for them to fade enough for me to forget about them. It doesn’t help much when people ask to feel them and then react with a grimace, and say “ew, that feels so gross.”. Slowly I’m starting to realise that they’re not there to make me hate what happened to me. The accident taught me a lot about patience and being thankful for what I have. I really thought I owed it to myself to fall in love with my scar just a little bit more. 10 years and 5 surgeries later, I do still feel the psychological and physical effects of the accident, but I don’t think I would change a thing.”
“Funnily enough I came to the shoot to showcase a different scar, but then changed my mind and thought I’d show the scars that really affect me. My acne scars. I suffered from I guess what you would call mild acne since I was a teenager, and although it’s cleared up since, I’ve been left with all the marks. I know some people may look at my skin and think “what’s the big deal, I’ve seen worse.”. So many people would always say that “It’ll clear up in time” or that “it’s just your age” or imply that I should “get over it” - but to anyone that’s suffered with bad skin, you know it’s not that easy. It’s difficult to understand the physcological effects that acne scars can have. For the longest time, I was so conscious of my skin that I wouldn’t go out without makeup and would literally spend tonnes on remedy beauty buys. Only now that my skin has improved have I gained my self confidence back, and begun to love and accept the skin I am in. It’s not perfect, and it may never be, but it can only get better, and most importantly I’ve got over it! The scar you see in the middle of my forehead is known as my Harry Potter scar, which, to be honest doesn’t really bother me at all. Maybe it’s because it has been dubbed with a cool name, or because I’ve had it for so long that it’s just become a part of me.”
"When I was 9 I fell off a swing on holiday and broke my arm quite badly. Being in hospital on holiday was a pain, but I made friends with the other kids on my ward and we remained pen pals for sometime after. My scar doesn't bother me at all, I forget it is there until someone else brings it up. "
“I started self harming at 11, and it got serious when I was 14. I managed to stop for a long time until last year when I lost most of the feeling in my left arm. I’ve been struggling with being confident with them, as the smallest recent mark can take you so far back in terms of recovery.”
“I have experienced mental health problems since my early teens. I have used unhealthy coping strategies including self harm, but I do not feel ashamed of the marks I have been left with anymore. They are not ugly or beautiful, they are just part of my body and should be able to exist, and move around the world without intrusive stares or questions. I know I have reached my lowest, and I guess my scars are a reminder of that, but they don’t make me feel sad. I don’t think I am damaged, I don’t want people to see me as damaged. I hope to fully recover and live a happy life. One day I want to be a Mum.”
“My body is, and has always been scattered with freckles and moles. Too many to keep track of. Last year I noticed one had changed and seemed darker and more misshapen than before. I saw several doctors, all of whom said it was nothing to worry about - but I pushed to get tested and was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma insitu. Luckily this is the very early stage of skin cancer, so it was caught with plenty of time. It was treated by removing 5mm of skin from the area. At the time I just felt so relieved. However, this summer I again noticed a mole looked darker and misshapen. This time round I was more anxious, stressed and very scared. Again I was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma. This time it was further along in its growth, meaning I had to have 1cm of skin removed. It’s very rare to be diagnosed twice at such a young age, and hearing the world “melanoma” and “cancer” really shook me. I’m so grateful that my skin cancer was caught early - the scars are a small price to pay. They will always be a reminder of how lucky I am, and how short life can potentially be. I would rather have a body adorned with scars, and the hope of a future - than an early death and a flawless corpse.”
“In December 2014 I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition. Later in 2015 I was also diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. Both conditions didn’t agree well with my passion for dancing - as my joints and muscles were badly affected. As my condition got worse, my IT band tightened and no longer supported my hip joint properly. Everytime I walked I could easily dislocated my hip as the socket wasn’t closed. Eventually on the 1st February 2017 I had an operation to lengthen the IT band which allowed me to walk and dance again pain free. I have gathered many other scars over the years, including injections - but my hip scar is the one I show with pride!”
“I got my scars from surgery repairing a damaged nerve. I snapped a wineglass at my waitressing job, the stem went through my hand and I had to go to A&E. I had to quit my job as I wasn’t able to lift anything for a few months, but I’m pretty much back to normal now asides from the visual reminder. I think they’re quite pretty, they look like a crescent moon and a lightning bolt to me - but that’s probably a bit optimistic!”
“When I was three years old I was diagnosed with a Stage 2 Wilms Tumour, which is a form of childhood cancer that grows in the kidneys. I had chemo to shrink the size of the tumour and then an operation to remove my right kidney. Today I have a scar across my stomach that I have learnt to accept as part of me. Through my teens, this was hard. I have a smaller scar above my right breast, from where they dispensed the chemo.”
"In the summer of '15 I was in a house fire. My clothes and way of life up in flames. I spent my summer in London in a burns unit on Fulham Road. My scars and scar tissue continue to change, but I have never felt more beautiful."
"I've struggled with self harm since I was 8. For as long as I can remember, my emotions have been very intense, this was one of the ways I learnt to cope. I have been stuck wearing long sleeves regardless of the weather. The appearance of my arms is one of my biggest secrets. Learning to embrace my scars and accept them as part of me is a major step. I also feel that hiding them away perpetuates the feeling of guilt/shame. "
"I've always had scars for as long as I can remember. Acne scars. As I went through puberty I had irregular periods which made me decide to go to the doctors and they found a 12cm cyst on my ovaries. They did emergency key hole surgery, and when I saw the scars I was horrified. I thought I’d never be able to wear a bikini and at the age of 18, that felt like a big thing. Now I’m 22, I’ve over it and I’m quite open about the fact I have PCOS and I feel like it’s just become a part of who I am rather than a secret. I am more open to showing my scars to people now, and they definitely don’t stop me going to the beach in a bikini anymore. I decided it would be good to be a part of this series, as every one has scars, and a story behind them.”
"I am an enthusiastic amateur dancer and have been all my life. I regularly attend classes at Pineapple studios. I was dancing to a routine we had just learned and decided to "go for it" and really energised my performance. Unfortunately I landed badly after a "hitch kick" on to my left leg and it buckled underneath me and I collapsed on the floor. An MRI scan revealed that I had ruptured my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). This ligament will not repair itself so you either have to learn to live without it or have ACL reconstruction surgery. The surgery requires keyhole work to repair the knee. A new ligament is made from a graft taken from your hamstring. This is threaded and stapled to the bone. The surgery is straight forward, but the recovery is very hard work, requiring 9 months to a year of physio to get strong again. The scar is fairly modest, but recognisable to anyone who has had the surgery. We give each other a nod of recognition in the gym because we know what we have been through. "
“I was born without a right pectoral muscle, meaning no breast tissue could form on the right side of my body. When I was 11, surgeons took a slice of muscle from my back, and put it into my chest. They also put an implant on top. At 15, another surgeon to decided to remove the implant, which is the scar under my right breast. The little scars on my right hand are from an operation I had when I was 3 to correct the tendons in my thumb. It didn’t work.”
“The first time I realised I was one of the small proportion of the population prone to keloid scarring, I was 5 and I got my ears pierced. My body didn’t stop healing- it grew along the gold hoops, trying to enclose them. Of the 16 or so piercings (including DIY ones) I’ve had since then, only my tongue and my nose have healed properly. I’ve had plastic surgery on my upper ear to remove scar tissue after my cartilage piercing got ripped out in a mosh pit. I have more than my fair share of wild nights out, leaving me with lifelong memories.. I’ve had tattoos around my scars to embellish them, which is a much better way than the painful steroid injections to reduce them. I turned the one on my shoulder into a clitoris - in a suggestive orchid/ lily flower. The one on my chest is the one I get asked about the most I think, and sometimes it’s a bit awkward to tell. Sometimes people don’t believe me. When I was 19, me and my ex used to play a lot of S&M games, we tied each other to the bed and carved our names into each other and had sex with the blood running between us. It was a J but it has spread over time. I think breastfeeding stopped me being embarrassed by it. I used to self harm, and hide all my imperfections, but now I accept and love myself. Some people might argue being addicted to collecting tattoos is a legitimised form of self harm - but it comes from a different place, a creative, happy and strong place."
“I suppose I don’t really remember a scar forming, it just appeared, but I quite like it because it gives my back some personality and somehow it’s different. It’s a shingles scar from my childhood, and has grown with me since. Obviously I’ve never really seen it - only in reflections, and photos, which Is quite cool because I see people react to it in different ways. I’d never wish that it wasn’t there, it’s a little bit of history on my back, you know?"
I had surgery to correct my scoliosis last year. The experience of being in hospital and the recovery process was incredibly humbling. I have a new found respect for my body. It’s a practical body, it functions. I can run, dance, jump and I’m no longer preoccupied by “problem areas” like I used to be. I feel so liberated and lucky to have realised how great and capable my body is.”