Getting Ready!

Scars, Stretch Marks, and Cancer

Oct 02, 2023Lacie Marsh-Carroll

The only thing I see when I look at these pictures, are scars. My husband and the Malicious Women tell me I am crazy. They tell me I am not seeing what other people see. I see scars. I scheduled this photo shoot in a Wonder Woman outfit to honor the battles my body has fought, and continues to fight. To try and learn to love the scars, the stretch marks, and the skin that keeps trying to kill me.

Before the shoot, I randomly selected this quote from the box. It was perfect.

 This shoot was terrifying and empowering for me. Sharing the pictures online is petrifying. I’ve never done anything like this. I’ve spent so many years hiding my scars, to see them up close, in a photograph…almost too much. I cried. I don’t often cry. It’s an odd feeling to feel brave and vulnerable at the same time. I am embracing my inner warrior as I share my story with you. The story of why I walk for breast health.

 Jezebel Vonzephyr - Getting Ready

In 2002, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Malignant Melanoma.  I was 7 months pregnant. My medical team decided it was safer to deliver James premature, with underdeveloped lungs and get me into surgery immediately, rather than wait. The cancer was spreading fast. The surgeons cut into me, removing half my labia and a massive amount of surrounding tissue and many, MANY lymph nodes. Who gets cancer on their lady bits? Me. I fought hard, right alongside my baby, who was in intensive care because of cancer. My cancer. He had to fight because I had to fight. It was the definition of unfair. How could he start his life this way? Watching him try and breathe, with both of us attached to hoses and drains. So much fear and guilt. We made it through, my husband and family right by both our sides. James is now 16, and 6’3”. He is a ball player and strong as steel. I am photographed and mapped annually, standing in front of a white wall, with someone mapping and photographing every inch of my skin, inside and out. It is humiliating every year. The cancer has returned twice since 2002. Each time, more scars. Each time, a victory.

In 2014, my breasts had become hard and lumpy and painful to the touch. Imaging showed numerous large, grape-like cluster cysts in both breasts. My surgeon said it was very rare to see such a severe case of cystic breast disease. We tried draining the cysts multiple times for over a year. And by draining, I mean sticking a long needle into each breast multiple times to drain the fluid out of each cyst. I cannot describe how painful it was and every time we drained one, the cyst became denser and more difficult to puncture the next time. I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Poly Fibro Cystic Breast Disease. There was no cure and the cysts were spreading to my armpits and lower chest area. The only option was a double mastectomy. More Scars.

Embracing the scars...

October is a very difficult month for me. There is Pink everywhere. Pink for breast cancer. During my year and a half recovery and breast reconstruction I was constantly reminded how lucky I was that I didn’t have cancer or having someone refer to my double mastectomy as “Preventive.”

“Preventive for what?” I would ask. There was nothing preventive about the hell I endured. The cysts were spreading and I had no other option. The 12 surgeries, the rejected reconstructions, the pain. I went for a year without breasts to try and strengthen the surrounding tissues. I had expanders and drain tubes and all the while, people telling me my pain was ‘less-than’ because it wasn’t cancer. "I was lucky" they would say. I didn’t feel lucky. Every morning, I saw the torn up flesh and the wide scars and I remember wishing they would find a tiny bit of cancer just so my pain would be taken seriously. I endured the same emotional trauma of having my breasts cut off, but didn’t feel worthy of my breast-grief because I was supposed to be feeling gratitude I didn’t have breast cancer. I wanted to wear pink. I wanted to find a place I belonged. I tried support groups but trying to explain Poly Fibro Cystic Breast Disease became exhausting. And in one particular group- I was told, “This is a group for people who have had cancer- you can’t relate to what they have gone through.”

Stretch Marks & Scar Warrior

I am a cancer survivor. I have already survived and continue to kick the ass of a really aggressive cancer, and even that is minimized. “Oh, was it a mole? I had a mole removed, too,” people would say. 

No, MotherF’r, it was STAGE 3 malignant melanoma that was rapidly spreading. The doctors took my baby out of my stomach at 7 ½ months, put him in the neo-natal unit and wheeled me off to surgery. Treatment began the next day.

The point of my rant is that I feel it is important to be clear about the fact that I did not have Breast Cancer. I have had cancer and I kicked its ass. My ribbon color is black. BLACK! Who’s brilliant idea was it to make a cancer ribbon black? The color of death. I want to wear pink! I want to talk about my story without having to explain that my double mastectomy was not preventative. To be honest, sometimes I just say “yeah” when people ask if I had cancer. I know they are assuming breast cancer, but I am tired of justifying my mastectomy experience.  

I want to bring a voice to breast disease as we continue to focus on breast health. I walk for a cure for all diseases of the breast, for hope for the future, and to honor my body with all its scars. I honor my body, my stretch marks, my misshaped & scarred breasts. I am a Wonder Woman. We all are…in our own way.

Disclaimer: I know that Breast Cancer and EVERY cancer is serious, and please believe me that I know I was depressed when I was wishing the doctors would find cancer again, just so I could belong somewhere. That is not rational or logical thinking.  Please also know that ANYONE battling any type of cancer is a warrior and I in no way would ever want to trivialize their experience. To those that are no longer with us; my love goes out to the families that were shattered by cancer. My sincerest wish is that we find a cure for all cancer and continue to talk about breast health.

Photo Credit: My Sincerest appreciation to Sarah James Williams, owner and photographer of Jezabel Von Zepher Photography in Bothell, WA. Thank you for helping me see the beauty of my scars, the strength I didn’t know I had and the well-timed shot of whiskey I didn’t know I needed.

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Comments (23)

  • Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. I have thyroid cancer and just had surgery to have my thyroid removed. They found it when I was pregnant too but I was able to have surgery after the baby was born. I’m glad it wasn’t while pregnant, but surgery with a newborn is not something I would have wanted either. Even though it’s “cancer” I still get judged because it’s “the good cancer”. It’s like there’s no winning in this world of disease. There’s always a comparator and someone who’s had it worse. Your experience is valid as is mine.

    Jessica Weinberg
  • Hey, I’m in the middle of complicated reconstruction for my double mastectomy. I had full thickness necrosis, and sepsis in one expander. I’m lopsided and scheduled for at least two more surgeries. I know what you’re dealing with. I also had extremely dense, cystic breast tissue. I got lucky that my breast specialist didn’t make me wait an absurd amount of time to do the mastectomy. It’s hard to explain the situation to people who will never understand that it isn’t preventative, it is necessary. 🖤 We have no place to belong, but we can make our own tribe.

  • Thank you for sharing. I admire you for doing a photo shoot and you look amazing! I can’t imagine enduring twelve surgeries. Breast reconstruction is tricky. I probably wouldn’t have opted for an implant, if I knew that previously radiated tissue would cause so many problems. Cheers to you, fellow warrior!

    Patricia M Miller
  • Thanks for re-sharing. Such an important perspective. Keep on fighting and so happy your son is healthy and you have each other.

  • First and most important, thank you for sharing your story. Your emotions. The bad part of the process. I was diagnosed in 2021 with the “easy” cancer, papillary thyroid cancer. Partial thyroidectomy done in May, a total done in July. While I had no chemo or radiation, I live with the effects daily. Medications to regulate my hormones, my emotions, my hair loss, my weight, my bowel movements. Every day. But I had the easy cancer.
    There is no easy cancer.


    Tiffeny Wycoskie
  • All woman’s diseases need to be spoken about! Thank you for your honesty and bad ass truth. It will give power to more women to speak up and speak their own story because it’s ALL valid.

  • I’m going to shut up and buy a candle.

    Kris Gaiero
  • The scars and your black (bad ass) ribbon are your proof you are a warrior and a survivor. Nobody can take that from you and you should not let anyone diminish how you feel about any of it. I dodged a bullet many years ago when the breast tumor they found ended up being malignant. Just waiting to find out was scary as hell. I don’t wish it on anyone. Of course, my journey was short, and simple compared to others. I was lucky. I lost my dad to pancreatic cancer – the evil demon that form of it is… I watched as it took him away, and I watched how he fought to the end. Be proud or thankful or happy -or however you want to feel about being a survivor. It’s your story, your experience – shout it loud and proud. Sprinkle some pink glitter on your black ribbon! Stay strong – stay you!

    Denise Lynn Kato
  • As always, your words mean so much. Thank you for re-sharing this. I have not had cancer, knock on some wood for me! It runs in my family, so I am awaiting the day. However, mental health issues and chronic pain can result in similar feelings of frustration and hopelessness when people don’t believe you, or can’t “see for themselves “ that there IS a real problem. This is a great post! If there’s anything else you’ve hidden away because of what “people” thought, PLEASE bring them back out into the light. If “people” don’t like what you have to say, then “people” can go fuck themselves. You are brilliant and articulate, and your opinions are completely valid. Especially when YOU ARE TELLING YOUR OWN DAMN STORY! What the hell do they know?!
    All the love,

  • You are amazing!!! Don’t EVER let anyone tell oh be gratef it wasn’t worse or well look you survived that’s good. No one has the right to try to pacify or make you feel like what you went through and survive was somehow ok. I cannot speak to the horror, fear snd pain you experienced, I do know however what it’s like for people to say oh just get past it or it’s not really that bad keep a positive attitude. I suffer from serve anxiety and panic attacks. Some many people including ASR’s have told me it’s all in my head. Not until you have experienced a panic attack that feels like your heart is going to be ripped from you chest and everything is and you can’t recognize anyone or anything. Then tell me it’s all in my head. 15 years of this and still no real treatment. But I’ll be dammed if I’ll ever tell someone just be positive and it will all go away. We will stay strong but also honest.

    Kate casper

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