Jayne, Emily and Laura have one thing in common – they all have scars. Aimee, for her part, has flare-ups of psoriasis that can leave her face covered in red patches. But all four have come to feel comfortable in their own skin.
‘My legs looked like I’d come straight from The Walking Dead’
Following surgery, I got a flesh-eating bug (necrotising fasciitis) which ate away at my legs from my mid-thigh down to my feet. Initially, there was no flesh on my bones from my leg down. They took skin from my back, my bottom, and my stomach and they’ve replaced all the skin from my thigh down, which looks a bit like reptilian skin. To get the amount of skin they needed, they had to stretch it like a web to make the skin bigger – like through a pasta machine.
I had a condition called lipoedema. It’s predominantly women that get it and it’s abnormal fat cells from the waist down. I was on top about a size eight to 10 and then on the bottom an 18 at one time. I lost a lot of weight, but it doesn’t diet or exercise away and it’s very painful. I started going back and forth to the GP about eight years ago, and then was told that this condition wasn’t treatable on the NHS. In 2017 I got the courage to go and have some surgery on it.
I’d gone into it so excited about having this great life, being able to just wear normal clothes, which I hadn’t been able to before, and then about five days after I had the second surgery, I became very, very ill. The next thing I remember, I woke up to find that I’d been in a coma and I was totally delirious and I had psychosis and I thought everybody was robots. I thought I was in the hospital for medical experiments and it was just absolutely terrifying. My family had been there, they didn’t think I was going to survive the night, and they’d had to sign a consent, because they thought they were going to have to amputate both of my legs. It was a very scary time.
It was about six-seven weeks in before I actually saw what my legs looked like and it was a huge shock. They just looked like two pipe cleaners. For somebody that wanted to have slim legs, my legs looked like I’d come straight from The Walking Dead. In some ways, mentally, it’s been really tough because I’ve got PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), especially to do with anything medical.
But actually what it has done is it’s really made me appreciate my life more. I’ve gone through a spell of trying really hard to do lots of things in case one day something happens and I’m not here any more. I want to tick as many things off that bucket list as I can. I haven’t been to the Moulin Rouge in Paris, or the Orient Express. I want to visit Petra, want to go to Amsterdam. I’m not sure about the mile-high club, if [my partner] Carl’s up for that one, but it’s on there regardless.
It isn’t always easy. I’m not always happy and it’s changed my personality. Then I just dust myself off and I go into the next day with a “Right that’s it, we’re going to do this.”
Jayne, 49, from Shropshire
‘It represents a lot of pain, but also a lot of overcoming’
My scar’s on my right hand, quite close to my wrist. It’s a bit raised off my skin. To the touch, it feels a bit hard, a bit lumpy in some areas, soft in areas, and in terms of its colour, it’s a bit darker than my shade. In my life I have self-harmed three times on my arm and it’s all been on the same area. It’s because I didn’t want to get any more scars on a different part of my body.