Saturday, 22 June 2013

Buying swimwear when you have a pacemaker and/or scars

I've never had a problem showing off my scars. I've had them since I was three and there as much a part of me as my personality. And I couldn't really hide them in the summer, even if I wanted to, without getting ridiculously hot. I have one scar from the top of my chest right down to my belly button from open heart surgery and surgery on my abdominal organs. I also have quite a wide horizontal scar just below my right shoulder and quite a big raised lump where my pacemaker is. Pacemakers are usually fitted on the left side but as my heart is a bit back to front they had to put it on my right side instead. I'm on my fourth so the scar has been done over four times and it's quite messy and wide. I also have a diagonal scar on my right side at breast height but as I can't see that one unless I look in a mirror and lift my arm it doesn't bother me at all and it's pretty thin and hardly noticeable. I got it when I pulled on my wires out after my first open heart surgery (a first according to the nursed, no one knows how I managed to do it!) and my lungs filled up with fluid they had to drain off. I have a few catheter scars on my neck and groin and some from blood tests on my wrists and ankles.

The pacemaker one and the heart surgery and abdominal surgery one are the most noticeable and I do get stared at quite a lot when I wear bikinis but so what? People walk around with tattoos on their foreheads and get stared at too. There's no reason to be embarrassed about your scars, or worried people will get offended by them. They're part of who you are. And I promise you no one is going to be thinking anything bad about you because you're showing your scars. It's more likely they'll be thinking "oh good for her, she's not hiding her scars" or most probably, "wonder what she did to get those scars". Hopefully they'll be thinking I've been attacked by a shark or something rather than the slightly boring reality.

It's natural to feel a little self conscious about scars, the same as you would if you went out without a certain bit of makeup that you always wear to a certain place or if you haven't washed you're hair that day. It's something you have to get over if you want to wear whatever clothes you want.

On a practical level, pacemakers get in the way when you're buying clothes, literally. Bikinis, bras and sometimes swimming costumes are the hardest to find when you have a pacemaker. The bandeau stye bikinis that sit just below the edge of the pacemaker can be quite painful, especially if you're quite skinny like me. Straps can sit awkwardly pushing at the side of the pacemaker which can uncomfortable and painful. Wide straps are the best choice and halter-necks are good for hiding and cushioning the pacemaker completely when they sit at the right angle. Adjustable straps or a halter-neck that's tied at the back of the neck are good as they can be made slightly looser on one side so as not to be too tight on the tender tissue around the pacemaker. 

This year I bought my swimwear from Marks and Spencer's (if you're not British and wondering what that is it's an upmarket store that sells everything from health and beauty stuff to clothes to food). The clothes are obviously aimed at women a little older than myself and I'm quite big breasted so the support they're swimwear provides is great for me. They're also good because the straps on their bikinis and swimming costumes are quite wide and both the bikini and the swimming costume I bought completely covers my pacemaker and as they're slightly padded they cushion it quite nicely and none of the seams are uncomfortable on the edges of my pacemaker. Marks and Spencer do some nice young clothes now too so they're not all really plain and boring. The bikini I bought as a black and white Aztec print on and the swimming costume is navy blue with white cherries all over and a little skirt at the hips. The bikini has a halter-neck and the swimming costume has nice wide straps. They've both got low necklines so they show off quite a lot of my central scar but as you've probably gathered that doesn't bother me at all. They were on the pricey side but they had a 20% promotion on when I bought them so it turned out to be quite a bargain. And they're going to last me a good few years as they're kind of things I could wear for ages without them going out of fashion or not suiting an older body. 

I hope this has been useful. I don't know very many girls with pacemakers but I'm sure other people must have the same problems I do with getting clothes that are comfortable around my pacemaker. If not I hope you found it enlightening and if you have scars I hope I've made you feel a bit better about them. 

Thanks for reading!


  1. I love that you show off your scars with pride! i was searching the internet for the best bikinis to wear for heart surgery scars.. i for sure don't hide mine at all, but I just had open heart surgery 5 months ago and have been advised to stay out direct sun for the first year.. anyways, i stumbled across your site, and I'm so glad to see women like you that show off their scars with pride..your right its just like a tattoo.. and i think they make us look tough.. after all we wouldn't be around with out them! great post ! - Katie

  2. Thank you! I've never felt the need to cover them up, they're our battle scars! Great to hear you feel the same. Thank you for your lovely comment and I hope you're recovering well from your surgery x



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