Patient Stories

Stephanie Tam

My Scoliosis, My Perseverance, and My Family

By Stephanie Tam

The day that I found out that I had scoliosis was not the worst day of my life. Not what you were expecting, right? Likewise, the journey I had with my scoliosis was full of twists and turns. Instead, on the day I found out that I had scoliosis, I thought nothing of it. In fact, I thought it was quite amusing that my scoliosis was in the shape of a “S” and that my name started with the same letter. However, as time passed from my childish elementary school days, I began to experience an intense burning sensation in my right shoulder and inexplicable migraines. That was only the beginning.

As my curvature became worse, my family explored various options. We tried different exercises, a chiropractor, and a back brace to prevent my curvature from getting worse. Unfortunately, none of these measures prevented my curvature from deteriorating. The sleepless nights in the rigid back brace was unbearable and even worse in the heat of summer. I hated the idea of someone noticing the strange outline of my brace through my clothes, or how my right shoulder was raised higher than the other. On top of the brace, there were also painful chiropractor sessions with Dr. *Wu. Dr. Wu was an amazing doctor, and he always helped me through toughest sessions, but on some days, it seemed like nothing could help.

Every time I went through an endless night in the brace or went to the chiropractor sessions or did drills of pull ups to straighten my spine, I always thought, “I will get better. I will beat scoliosis, and I will get through this. I will not make my mother cry again.” I honestly believed that there was no way I could get worse, not after everything I tried. The days I dreaded most was going back to the hospital for checkups and hearing the same news that my curvature had become worse. Then the day came where my doctor said that we had run out of options and that there was only one solution left: surgery.

I had never felt more alone that day than when I heard the words, “she needs surgery” which was accompanied by my mother’s sobs. “What did I do to deserve this? Why me? I did everything I could.” These were the questions I kept asking myself. At the time, I felt like the world came crashing down and that there was nothing else I could do. I was always taught that if you try your best, you can always make something out of it. But now, surgery was the only option, which seemed like a consequence to me back then. Today, however, I realize that it was not a consequence but a life lesson about perseverance.

I am who I am today because of scoliosis. After surgery, there were countless nights of unbearable pain and sleepless nights yet again, but this time it was different. Now, I was on the road to recovery. Looking back, I realize that my situation could have been worse. Instead of a successful surgery, I could have been paralyzed. Instead of being able to resume Kung Fu, I could have been bed-ridden. Everything, in perspective, could always be worse. It is the power and perseverance that I have learned through scoliosis and my family’s unrelenting support that has taught me to look towards a better future. For me, that means giving back to doctors like Dr. Upasani, Dr. Wu, and my family who helped me through the worst parts of my life by remembering that there is always hope. There is hope that your family and friends will always be there and that you are not alone. No matter how far you fall or how alone you may feel, there is always a better tomorrow. It may be hard to see, but please believe me when I say that you are never alone and that there is always help.

I used to hate living with scoliosis, but now, I honestly believe that it was one of the best things that could have happened to me. Today, I can resume everything and more than I could before I had surgery. Because of scoliosis, I am a confident and strong individual who is not afraid of challenges. Because of scoliosis, I am on the road to becoming a doctor who can help others see second chances. Because of scoliosis, I am living their life to the fullest. Today, and from now on, I will always be grateful for my family and the doctors who gave me a second chance. Thank you.


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