Like the small chip in my front tooth or the scar under my chin, my scoliosis is something only I would ever notice. The slight unevenness of my shoulders, my right rib jutting far out as I touch my toes, or the long pinkish scar tracing down my lower back have almost become somewhat of a party trick. My doctors didn’t even notice it either. Despite my mother’s diligence in scheduling my annual checkups, my curve somehow slipped through the cracks.
By the time I was diagnosed, in the 8th grade, my insides already looked like this. From this point on, X-rays served as the only documentation of my journey. I was not interested in taking pictures of my hot pink back brace, or the rolling cart I pushed by backpack in, along the halls of my middle school. While something unnoticeable to the untrained eye, this S-shape rocked my self-confidence — already minimal at that volatile age. In one of my most distinct memories of that year (post-diagnosis and pre-surgery), I trudged around the local mall’s Victoria Secret with tears streaming down my face. My mom had hoped to buy me something pink, comfortable, and cheery for Christmas, but each life-size poster of a perfectly sized and underwear-clad VS model chipped away further at my esteem.
Funnily enough, in my first meeting with the spinal doctor set to do my surgery (in the winter of my freshman year of HS), he tells me that HE in fact performed the surgery for our very own local VS supermodel, Martha Hunt. I was awestruck: the person who induced my pity tears had received spinal fusion for scoliosis as well. At the same age, by the same doctor.
While the cliche is as old as time, it rings true. Never judge a book by its cover. Martha Hunt only represented my idea of what an “ideal” body should look like, when, in fact, she had most likely cried over the same scoliosis woes only years before. Even since I underwent spinal fusion for the scoliosis, I’ve been happy to see society’s idea of the perfect physique deconstructed and grow more accepting of innate human flaws — especially in advocacy for girls with scoliosis.
Today, with the help and support of friends, family, doctors, and physical therapists, I love my body. I can walk, run, jump, swim, and dance as good as anybody (okay, maybe not the dance part) — without them ever even knowing about the metal rods that lie underneath. However, my scoliosis is not something I want to hide like the scar on my chin or the chip of my tooth. I am proud of the journey, through diagnoses, surgeries, tears, and triumphs, as my external appearance and the S of my spine has strengthened me from the inside out.