DEAR ABBY: You printed a letter from "Self-Conscious in Georgia" (May 15), a young man who is insecure about the scar from his heart surgery. I have had three surgeries for congenital defects, my first at 2 years old. Because many women's fashions expose the upper chest, I applied anti-scar products, which greatly reduced the size and color of my scars.
Swimwear lines have sun-blocking swim shirts that are quick-drying and comfortable. At the beach, "Self-Conscious" could wear a beach-themed T-shirt and say he is reducing his sun exposure, which is a good idea these days.
As to anyone protesting his not going shirtless, true friends accept your choices, no matter the circumstances. They won't call you out for not following the herd.
And another thing: The young man might benefit from a cardiac support group to lessen his feelings of isolation or inadequacy. He suffered trauma that led to and created that scar. Now he deserves to be happy on his own terms. -- WAS THERE ONCE AND I'M STILL HERE
DEAR STILL HERE: Thank you for your comments. Readers were quick to offer messages of support to "Self-Conscious":
DEAR ABBY: I am a registered nurse. That scar can be faded by using pure cocoa butter (in stick form, not lotion). It can be purchased at the pharmacy.
I would also like to let him know that in this part of the country, survivors are known as members of the "Zipper Club." When I see patients with this scar, I know they have had open heart surgery. It alerts me to a whole realm of information before anything is said and directs how care is given in case of emergency. Please let "Self-Conscious" know his scar is not an eyesore, but a gift of life. -- PROUD R.N. IN WEST VIRGINIA
DEAR ABBY: "Self-Conscious" might benefit from getting a tattoo. A recent TV program aired a segment showing women with mastectomies receiving amazing designs to cover or beautify their scars. With a good tattoo artist, these pieces can be life-altering and the artwork stunning. -- JANET IN ANNAPOLIS, MD.
DEAR ABBY: I broke my ankle a few years ago. A wonderful surgeon and a fantastic physical therapist got me walking again, but I was left with several large, raised scars. I put wheat germ oil (full of vitamin E) on them in the morning and evening, and they are barely visible now. -- ONLINE READER IN ISRAEL
DEAR ABBY: For many years I dated a young man with a similar scar, and it was something I found endearing. To me, it was no different than freckles or a birthmark. It was part of what made him unique. We all have our stories and history. His scar is an opening to share his. -- ROSE IN NORTHAMPTON, MASS.
DEAR ABBY: I have a young friend who had open-heart surgery when she was a high school senior. On the night of her prom, she wore a strapless dress with her "red badge of courage" on full display. -- SANDRA IN ROCHESTER, N.H.
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