Back in July I asked my GP if there was anything that could be done to help reduce my self harm scars, thinking at best she would offer camouflage makeup or silicone gel strips, but instead she referred me to a plastic surgeon, saying he might use laser treatment on them. I knew the referral would take months to go through, but getting a call last Friday to say I had an appointment the following Thursday was more than a little surprising.
Yesterday then, I met with the consultant and his junior doctor. I have scars on both thighs, my left lower leg, left arm, neck and a couple on my right arm and stomach, and while the doctor had to examine all these scars, I was interested in possible treatments for just my left arm and left lower leg.
It was quite exciting being at the ‘big hospital’ and wandering around it- the only other times I’ve ever been in one being as a young child, or more recently, being wheeled semi conscious from A&E to a ward. So as an aspiring NHS employee, I loved the hive of activity, seeing the nurses buzzing around, surgeons wandering the corridors in full scrubs, porters wheeling patients to other parts of the hospital, the signs indicating dozens of specialised departments, the old part of the hospital with its cordoned off wards, its white washed alls, sepia photos of sisters with their white caps, dating back to when the hospital first opened.
The waiting room at the plastic surgery clinic is less inspiring. Drab with thin, scratchy carpet (carpet), two magazines left carelessly on a rocky table; the room is heaving, patients crammed next to each other, not a spare seat in sight. We are early. I sigh. A busy waiting room, with spare time generally means I work myself up into a state, literally bouncing off the chair with anixety when I finally seat myself in front of the doctor. But no fear!- there is wifi! Plus, surprisingly, the clinic is running on time. At 2 on the dot, I am summoned.
The junior doctor was lovely and validating. He didn’t react when I said I was there to see about treatment for self harm scars- which was something I was concerned about, and he was reassuring when I said that I didn’t feel like I really deserved the consultation because I was the reason I had scars in the first place. He mentions a few times that I seem keyed up (the ol’ leg jigging and eyes darting round the room type stuff) and that I shouldn’t be- that he wasn’t here to judge, that we all have difficult things in our past, but we can leave them there.
He asked a few questions- what I used to self harm with, how long it had been since I last self harmed, if I was confident in my recovery (as obviously having my scars treated wouldn’t be appropriate if six months done the line there were more) if I’d ever self harmed in other ways, why I’d began self harming, for how long had I been doing it- things like that.
After he’d taken my history he asked to see the scars and went through each area on my body (with a chaperone present), feeling them/assessing them. After, he said he wasn’t sure if much could be done, but that the consultant had the final say, so after a few minutes waiting, he came back with the plastic surgeon.
At first the consultant said there was nothing he could do, given that:
- The scars are extensive- running from my bicep down to my wrist, which means that a skin graft would require a large piece of skin taken from my leg, and would end up leaving a large patch on my forearm, and a huge scar on my leg
- My skin is prone to creating keloid and hypertrophic scars- which rules out a few options
- The scars are mature- which rules out something like laser surgery as my scars are now longer red
He started to talk about the camouflage makeup, suggested I could get them tattooed over. I asked if there was anything that could make them less obvious (my skin is bumpy and uneven) and he said he really did want to help me. After a few moments he said he could try a new treatment called ‘fat grafting’, which would involve liposuction from my stomach and then injecting the harvested fat under the skin on my forearm- BUT it might not work at all, and I will likely need a few treatments. So he’s going to do it on my forearm only, leaving my calf and bicep scars alone, as these can be easier hidden.
Fat grafting. It sounds strange. I have visions of it not working, of deposits of yellow orange fat bubbling all over my arm, making it look even worse. I ask the doctor if it will be obvious if it doesn’t work- he tells me it won’t be, it will look exactly the same, and I’m reassured. He tells me we will discuss the procedure in detail when we get to the stage of signing consent forms. The waiting list is usually 6 months. He presents me with a form, we joke about our basic signatures and I am ushered out and sent off to medical photography.
Like the consultant and doctor, the medical photographer remains poker faced when I slide off my cardigan, batting not an eyelid, which makes me feel a little more at ease. I am positioned in front of a green screen, front, back and side photographed, click click click, lights flashing-turn round- click click click- move to the side a little- click click click- ok we’ll do some close ups now. In and out in 5 minutes. On my way out he asks me to confirm my date of birth, tells me I don’t look my age- long may it continue. I smile, laugh a little, bounce down the hallway, back out onto the old victorian link corridor.
So I’m on the waiting list for fat grafting. I’m hugely excited, extremely grateful, more than a little nervous. Sure, there’s a good chance it won’t work- but it MIGHT, and having been imprisoned by these illnesses for so long, I am ready to move on, to leave my scars in the past.
I am hoping that over the next few months/year as I find out more about this treatment and actually undergo it, that I’ll be able to blog a bit about it, and hopefully at the end of it all I’ll have a before and after comparison to show y’all!
NEXT POST– Surgery date and update!