I was diagnosed with scoliosis in 6th grade during a routine annual check in the locker room during gym class. I didn’t know what was going on at the time or what the gym teacher was looking for, but when she tapped me on the shoulder and told me to come with her, I knew something was wrong. There were a few other girls that got tapped on the shoulder too, but we were taken to different rooms, and I never saw them again.
My parents took immediate action. My mom made an appointment to get an x-ray at Children’s Hospital in Boston. I still didn’t really understand what the visits up to Boston meant. We usually only went up there for special events, to eat clam chowder at Fanuel Hall, or that time we flew to Disney Land.
I didn’t understand why the doctor put a plastic photo with a squiggly line on the lit up board, or the constant need to wear that itchy backwards dress and bend forward to touch my toes. What I did understand was that while we were in Boston for these doctor visits, we always went to the Cheesecake Factory and at that age, I would pretty much do anything for a slice of cheesecake.
I stopped being excited about the post cheesecake slice when I was introduced to the brace. They told me the brace would fix my spine, or at least stop the curve from getting worse, while I finished my growth spurt. Even as this symbol of straightened hope, I quickly learned to hate the brace more then anything in the world. It was tight, hot and uncomfortable. I even started to not like cheesecake.
I was supposed to wear it as much as possible, to school, to bed, etc. I resisted full throttle and this caused friction between my parents and me, even more so then the typical adolescent/parent fights about makeup, clothes, bedtimes, and extra curricular activities. It even caused more friction between my parents.
They wanted me to wear it to school! I pleaded with them to not make me wear it to school. Did they not remember the opening scenes of Forest Gump?
I wore it to school one day. One day. A kid knocked into me. He literally knocked. I was so embarrassed about having to walk around like a zombie is a corset. I began to ditch it at the bus stop behind the “Welcome to Pine Ridge Estates” sign before getting on the bus to school and then putting it back one before I walked home from school.
I had no one to talk to about my dilemma. I felt like I was forced to lie to my parents. Didn’t they know how painful the brace was? How painful middle school was? Did they think I was just being a whiney brat and making it all up? I needed someone to help them understand what I was really going in my body, heart, and mind.
I wonder if the brace would have corrected my curve slightly, had I actually listened to the doctors, and my parents, and wore the brace for the recommended amount of time each day. I wonder if I had had someone to talk to, a confidant, or someone who had been through it before, if I would have resisted the brace less.
I didn’t want to have a crooked back, but I was a kid and this ‘curved back thing’ didn’t feel like something a kid should have to go through. I didn’t think about the long term. I just wanted to be accepted. To be cool. To ride my bike and play soccer. No one else seemed to need a brace. It felt like I was the only one going through adolescence with a spine issues.
We went to a physical therapist for alternatives to the brace. She gave me a list of exercises to do every day, including Cat/Cow, spinal flexion and extension, seated side stretches, or lateral extension. I usually did my exercises while watching reruns of Seinfeld with my Dad.
The results of doing the exercises were amazing. I slept better and had less back pain during day-to-day life. The brace didn’t work for me, but this did. It was like a miracle.
Since then I have devoted myself to yoga. The practice helps with my body’s compensation act for the curve that exists, resulting in less pain and better posture. Choosing yoga also creates inner awareness, empowerment, and acceptance that has improved my overall quality of life. I love sharing the gift of yoga with others and hope that by giving back to the community, I can give young girls everywhere hope that you can still lead an awesome, fulfilling and happy life with a curved spine.
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