My name is Alyson Murray, this all started for me in 2005. I was 13 years old and headed to the doctor with a bad cold. The doctor listened to my breathing; a pretty standard procedure, except this time he noticed that my lungs were vibrating differently, due to a twisted rib cage. He asked me to bend over and touch my toes, and he was the first to notice my Scoliosis. Little did we know at the time, that this appointment would turn into a series of visits to the Melbourne Royal Children’s Hospital and the end result would be major surgery.
It’s now 2020 and thinking back over the experience there are lots of themes of insecurity and self-worth surrounding my spinal fusion. I finally feel like I can own this scar proudly and move freely (for the most part) without worrying if people can tell.
Pre-surgery I wasn’t experiencing any physical pain but was becoming more self-conscious about having slanted shoulders and noticing my rib cage sticking out more on one side. This was not great for a body-conscious pubescent teen. Before the surgery I had a series of photos taken at the hospital, I had to strip down to my undies and stand in several different positions so they could see how everything was moving. These images were horrifying, I was disgusted by myself, I couldn’t even look at them. I was also shocked that nobody noticed how bad it was prior to the doctor. As a competitive swimmer, 5 days a week strutting around in Speedos, and NO-ONE noticed how skewed my body was!
The day of the surgery came and I wasn’t feeling scared or concerned about the procedure, I was more concerned about the surgeons seeing my pubic hair… It’s quite amusing to me now, what my concerns were at the age of 13! This also really highlights to me how important it is to have some support for the mental repercussions of having such a physically altering and invasive operation. It has taken me a long time to not be conscious and to give my spine and scar some self-love.
10 days in the hospital, 3 months recovering at home, 6 months wearing a back brace post-surgery, and a lifetime of feeling varying levels of discomfort. But I wouldn’t change a thing. This operation gave me strength, it took time but my level of self-love has been a push and pulled and intern I believe I have a deeper connection with myself than I would have without the surgery. If you’re reading this and you haven’t undergone spinal fusion yet, trust me, you set your limits! I competed in a triathlon 12 months after my surgery, I dance salsa, I perform on stage AND I wear backless dresses!