There are moments when I’ll look at myself in the mirror and, for a fraction of a second, a tiny gasp will still escape my breath. I look at what remains on my left side, the visible scars that wrap around my left stump like seaweed on a jagged stone, and I reach over to where my leg once used to be. As a hip disarticulation amputee, not much is there to feel. What’s left now is a small bump with coarse, darkened skin, grooved and dented, and numbed to the touch. I graze it gently and feel a slight tingle as I trace my pelvic bone stretching through its thin exterior. Before I know it, that light touch turns into an affectionate and warm caress, and I’m loving that scar for everything it is and everything it holds.
Last May, I was invited to participate in a special project called Cicatriciebaci (Scarkisses), led by a passionate woman named Barbara Tosti. Cicatriciebaci is a visual art series with the sole mission to create awareness. Providing a platform to those who have experienced physical or emotional trauma, it shows how these unique individuals have overcome their pain by doing exactly what we often try to avoid doing: by embracing it. Through photographs and collage-making, these images are weaved into a rich tapestry of colors and tell the intimate stories of the people behind the scars. As Barbara says on her website https://www.cicatriciebaci.com, “Every scar deserves its crown!”
I was asked to model for Barbara, sharing not only my physical scars but my personal story as well. Naturally, this meant exposing my amputations and posing for pictures without both my prosthetics on. We booked a small studio space at the View in Lugano one cool afternoon, and quickly settled into a familiar and steady pace of clicking, shuffling, and overhead lighting. This was my first photoshoot without the prosthetics, and oddly enough, it felt liberating. This was me, at my most natural and raw state. It’s almost like wearing pajamas in public and wishing you could do it more often.
I looked down at my prosthetics, carefully spread across the carpet like oversized silicone and foam Legos, and was filled with awe and reverence that I hadn’t felt before. And just as I have stroked my stump, I began to do the same to my artificial limbs. I pet them gently and lovingly, like one would a wailing child. I thanked these cantankerous, bulky objects for helping me to be me, for making sure my life could still function in a way that, for the most part, works. Sure, they often need a tune-up and have their occasional meltdowns – during the summer they feel hot and oppressive and have me rushing to the orthopedics lab (like ER for prosthetics) more often than I care to admit – but these prosthetics are a place I call home, and like my scars, they tell my story.
The photoshoot lasted a full hour with a few selected props being thrown in the mix. Once it was “a wrap” Barbara and I chatted and I got a greater sense of what Cicatriciebaci represents to her. As someone with battle scars of her own, Barbara and I quickly learned that we had more in common than we thought. Through Cicatriciebaci, Barbara hopes to create a community where your pain, while entirely your own, can be used as a conduit of change for others. And like any vital organ that keeps us alive, our scars feed the soul, reminding us every day of how far we’ve ventured off the beaten path and lived to tell about it. I’d like to think my scar is the lovechild of a beautiful coupling, a unique marriage between courage and vulnerability. The two simply can’t exist without each other. Together, they possess an infinite amount of purpose in a world where most things are thought to be devoid of it.
A scar is our personal carbon dating, a temperature gauge for our worldly experiences, the lives we’ve led, and the things we’ve seen. Just as rings on a tree trunk, our scars tell us how much we’ve weathered and faired through personal suffering. Whether you fell off your bike when you were 10, broke your ribs in a car crash, or lost a loved one, or like me, lost limbs in a train accident, you survived. What stays with you is hopefully a lifetime of lessons, resilience, self-belief, and the never-ending hope that all things are surmountable. And the more we embrace this idea, the better it is to welcome the next battle scar that is sure to come along.
Thank you, Cicatriciebaci, for your hard work and efforts, and for bringing light to a world that so often gets placed in the shadows of society. If you would like to share your scar and story, please contact Barbara at firstname.lastname@example.org.