As a Crohn’s disease patient living with a permanent ileostomy and severe fistulizing disease, I often look to music for solace. Listening to soulful songs isn’t just soothing, but it also helps me cope and move past the never-ending list of health issues that I face daily. One song that hit home the second I heard it was “Scars to Your Beautiful” by Alessia Cara — and it's been on repeat ever since.
But there's a hope that's waiting for you in the dark
You should know you're beautiful just the way you are
And you don't have to change a thing
The world could change its heart
No scars to your beautiful, we're stars and we're beautiful
What do these lyrics mean? Do they mean that no scars truly exist or that we can be beautiful despite our scars? For me, it is a little bit of both. Scars, whether physical or emotional, show life experience and resilience. They are the badges we wear to the battles we face. Why are we ashamed of these scars? Because they make us appear different? Because they’re ugly? Not "normal"? What is normal anyway? And what is beautiful?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but beautiful is what we define it to be. We create our own beauty in our attitude and in our uniqueness. I'd be lying if I said my scars don’t define me. They make us who we are and shouldn't ruin our lives. They will only if we let them. So why let them? Why not wear them like the badges they were meant to be? Why not let them make us beautiful?
As someone who has had over twenty surgeries and hundreds of invasive procedures (thanks to Crohn’s), I refuse to let my scars weigh me down. They are me and they have healed my body. They are my battle wounds, my own version of beautiful, and I show them with pride. While I haven’t been able to maintain a fulfilling career, these scars serve as my lifetime achievements. They are the medals I bring home each time I return from the operating room. They show courage in the face of tragedy. They show resilience and perseverance when all odds have been stacked against survival. They show survival in the face of near-death.
One of my deepest wounds both emotionally and physically has been my ileostomy. So what do Alessia Cara’s deeply powerful words mean to me as an ostomate? We are beautiful because of our ostomies. So what if the world judges us for wearing "bags” or having a stoma with a part of our intestines hanging out? Do our critics know what it feels like to have a surgery that is lifesaving? Ostomy surgery has saved my life over and over again and I wouldn't be here without it.
The life this ostomy breathes into me is more than a blessing. It is a work of art. It is a wound from which light emanates, a ray of light that exudes hope and positivity while giving us another chance at life. It is a scar that unveils a better version of ourselves, letting the diamonds within us shine. Because of our ostomies, we are able to rise from the ashes of our deep and dark struggles. And most of all, we are real soldiers because of our diseases and our scars are our prized possessions. That, in and of itself, resonates beauty, a beauty so profound that no one can take it away from us.
The reality is we really don’t have to change a thing other than our own attitude towards an ostomy. The world can and will change its heart but I believe change begins with us as patients and ostomates. Change begins with our attitude toward our own ostomies. If we view it as a positive, life-saving force, I think so will the world. So be bold, be beautiful and own your ostomy. Own your scars. Wear them proud. They are you and they make you unique, and that is true beauty. Let your scars open up your world and allow your beauty to radiate and permeate. And let me extend Alessia Cara’s mantra from my heart to yours: There are no scars to my beautiful.
Article credit: Own Your Crohn's