As a kid, I never fit in very well and in some ways that hasn’t changed since becoming an adult.
I will always remember grade 10 Physical Education class when I tried to show off and instead of getting praised I got sympathy because of how I’d hurt myself in the process.
It was a simple, playful challenge to jump up and hit the top of the door frame in the gymnasium which wouldn’t have been a problem it’s just that I’d had surgery a couple weeks beforehand and it stretched my brand new underarm scars more than I could take.
I came face to face with a new limitation that I’d chose without realizing it.
I hadn’t given it much thought when I did it, I just wanted to show off and prove my enoughness. Instead I was sent into fetal position cradling my arms below the door frame.
I was 15 when I had my underarm sweat glands removed and while I wouldn’t have got it done if I’d known what was really going to happen, getting it done was part of my growth process.
My cousin and I were really close growing up and despite the 10 year gap both shared at least one insecurity around how much we sweat he was just aware of more options than I was at the time.
One day while complaining about the sweat rings under my arms he told me his friend had got her sweatglands removed and if I spoke with my Doctor about how my ‘condition’ was affecting me I could get the procedure too. On top of that, if I had the surgery to correct my issue before my 16th birthday Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) would cover it for me and I knew that was my only option.
As someone that moves quickly once I know where I’m going and what I’m supposed to be doing, I booked the Doctor’s appointment, then the Specialist’s appointment, and then the surgery. My cousin, in retrospect, says he didn’t even realize I’d followed through on his advice until it was too late.
The Specialist told me I was going to have big scars from it but my naiveté made an assumption about what that would look like based on what I thought needed to happen. You know what they say about assumptions…
What I failed to do was ask enough questions and I’ve lived with the scars ever since.
I thought I just had two oversized glands under my arms which was what needed to be removed, but it’s not quite so simple as that. I didn’t realize that our glands are all the pores on our body so instead of going in for two oversized glands and leaving a hole only big enough to get them each out, the surgeon cut out two spade shaped pieces of skin and then stitched the sides back together.
The healing process hurt and the scars became my next insecurity until I accepted the fact we’re made to sweat and it’s good for us. That attitude makes it easier to accept that I can still make embarrassing rings underneath of my armpits, despite the large scars I now wear there to prevent exactly that from happening.
It didn’t go the way I had hoped because I went for the first solution I was recommended by someone who hadn’t experienced the procedure himself, and who would have recommended a specific specialist to complete the operation if he’d known I was serious about going forward with it. I should have also researched alternatives and the effectiveness of the procedure before making my decision but I didn’t and now I get to live with my choice, as we always do.
I don’t know it’s really meant to work, to be honest.
Our bodies have pores to detox and to regulate our body temperature with. Once I had a patch of skin under each arm removed I noticed I wasn’t able to regulate my temperature as effectively and the scars became an added insecurity that I still managed to sweat around to much the same degree.
It was an epic failure and yet it has allowed me to dissuade at least two younge ladies who were considering the procedure from enduring the scarring and pain unnecessarily.
Over time I stopped sweating quite so excessively which just comes naturally with age and hormonal regulation.
Nature has a way of balancing things out and our efforts to interfere often just slow the process of transformation down.
These scars remind me to do my research before making investments that have the potential to change my life and even the lives of others because my experience taught me we just need to love ourselves through our ‘hyperhydrosis’ (excessive sweating) or whatever our insecurity is, and know that “this too shall pass” eventually.
You are loved, you are significant, and you matter.
Your scars are reminders of lessons you learned the hard way so love them, and share your wisdom with others to prevent them from learning the hard way too.
Laura JE Hamilton