My story begins in kindergarten. I was going to a well visit at my local pediatrician, and the doctor noticed a slight curvature in my spine…little did I know how many appointments and x-rays were to come after that visit! After this appointment, we went to the Institute for Spine and Scoliosis, where after an examination and series of x-rays, we received a formal diagnosis; I had Scoliosis with a curve of 18 degrees. While this was a difficult experience, and especially hard to understand at my age, it was comforting knowing that I was being taken care of by some of the best in the field. At the time, my parents had a more difficult time accepting the diagnosis; in fact, they panicked. My aunt had gone through life-changing spinal rod fusion as a teenager, and they feared the worst. Due to my family history, it was decided to move forward with treatment.
Before I knew it, I was being fitted for my first nighttime brace and picking out the design; I chose pink and purple hearts! The first few nights of wearing my brace were very rough, but my parents reinforced that I had to wear it to prevent surgery. I encourage kids, no matter the tears and fears, to keep fighting and wear the brace! Since then, I have had nine custom Boston braces, and the designs, shapes, and sizes have evolved as I have grown older. Looking back, I am amazed at how much my body changed every 6-12 months, and therefore, my braces transformed too. Additionally, bone age hand x-rays were added to my routine out-of-brace and in-brace x-rays. Now, I am proud to report that after years of wearing my brace diligently, despite feeling different, my curve has improved significantly, and I am hoping to be 6 months to a year away from saying goodbye to my brace. Although I am extremely lucky to perform everyday activities and avoid surgery, seeing children over the years, with more severe curves than mine, always breaks my heart. Many teens and children are affected by their Scoliosis in their everyday lives; therefore, I am a huge advocate for early detection, as it can change a life, when possible.
My diagnosis and treatment have empowered me in ways I never imagined. For one, I have learned that true friends do not laugh at you at sleepovers, they strap you in at bedtime! Also, in the past year, I have become involved in my local Miss America Organization, earning the title of Miss Metropolitan’s Outstanding Teen. A requirement for competing under the organization is representing and serving a Social Impact Initiative, which is something you are extremely passionate about and an advocate for. In the beginning of my journey with the Miss America Organization, I found it difficult to figure out what my Social Impact Initiative would be. I soon realized that it should be something you have experienced, can speak comfortably about, and want to support. Having Scoliosis has inspired me to share with my community not only the importance of Scoliosis Awareness, but the acceptance of any difference or deformity. These goals led me to get involved with Setting Scoliosis Straight.
The end may be in sight for wearing my brace, but supporting Setting Scoliosis Straight and spreading awareness continues after. In the future, I plan on sharing my story with as many audiences as possible and speak for those unheard. Awareness will support early diagnosis, as well advancements in the research and techniques that treat Scoliosis. I am ecstatic to work with Setting Scoliosis Straight to raise awareness, funds, and hope. Scoliosis does not make you inferior to others, it makes you stronger.